Meet the Team | Sophia

January 29, 2024

At nZero Group, our people at Orbital and Thyson are the best. We’re on a mission to help you meet them. This time it’s Orbital’s Sophia Rushton, Lead Mechanical and Process Engineer

Come and meet her!

1. Who are you and what do you do for the business? How long have you worked here?

I’m Sophia Rushton, Lead Mechanical Process Engineer. I’ve been here more than seven years, starting off as a Junior Mechanical Engineer, and worked my way up in a variety of roles from design to project engineering. I currently lead the mechanical and process discipline under Chris Williams, Engineering Manager, and I am line management for my team. I also help train up the junior engineers as their mentor, have in-depth involvement in new designs and act as a technical support for the team as a go-to person, particularly for technical issues, and to help other members of the business where needed.

2. Why do you think your role in what the nZero Group does – process engineering and the solutions they provide – is so important?

I think it’s definitely the core of the business, the engineering side of things. We’re responsible for looking after a lot of activities: design, build, installation, every part of a project, and we interact with pretty much every part of the business. It’s the central part of what Orbital and nZero Group is about: we’re an engineering business, delivering engineering solutions.

For my role, I am an advocate for knowledge transfer and take pride in helping Engineers develop in their careers, ultimately supporting the business to deliver their goals. It’s an incredibly important role to play within society itself, being an Engineer, even more so in the energy sector – so creating an environment for my team to thrive and for me to be able to provide a reliably sound, technical influence is vital.

The opportunities for engineers here are brilliant. At university, I did Mechanical Engineering and went into the automotive manufacturing industry, where I did my master’s in parallel. At Orbital I’ve done everything from mechanical design, to process design, to project engineering and now I’ve transitioned back into design, into the senior position I am in. That experience and those insights benefit my ability to carry out my role because I’ve seen that bigger picture; I understand the differences my discipline makes within the Engineering department, and overall business – and with the other disciplines of how we interact together, which is extremely helpful.

3. What do you enjoy about the job?

I enjoy the design challenges customers bring us, and because we have a lot of bespoke projects, each one is different. To some extent, there’s a new design challenge each time, something new to integrate or something we have to integrate with. Each time, there’s something new and can have technical quirks involved, it’s not just copy and paste, which keeps it interesting.

Another aspect I particularly like is that we also build and install the systems we design here, so we get the opportunity to see what we’ve designed running and working in real life. You can see in person what you’re doing is working correctly, efficiently and to standard and where possible surpass customer expectation. Some engineering businesses are a design house only or the role is for design only and you never get to see it off the paper you have put it on. Here [Orbital] you get to see all of it and that improves you as an engineer, you can learn from every stage, as well as give you that great sense of achievement as well.

A good team can help make a positive working environment and there’s a fantastic team here – the whole Engineering department, and the support is brilliant. Being a woman in engineering, it can be a struggle at times, there can be a pressure to validate yourself in the industry, to show you know the technical aspects of your role as an Engineer. Although, I’ve never, ever felt like that here at Orbital. I’ve always been treated as an engineer first, which has given me a sense of loyalty to the company – because of how the team are – and it’s rare. I am fortunate and thankful to the business and team. There’s been instances elsewhere, in my previous role, I’ve come across characters where you do have to go that extra mile to justify your point or to be taken seriously, it unfortunately happens, which is a shame. There are more women coming into the industry because of the promotion of STEM and that will inevitably address the uneven balance, which I actively support, and I take inclusivity and diversity seriously for all people who strive to work as an Engineer. 

4. What are the next challenges you’re looking forward to?

We’re branching into hydrogen and that’s really exciting and also site upgrades to the new generations of gas quality and metering. I’m fortunate in my position within engineering that I am getting involved in these. I get to see more of the innovative aspects as a senior engineer, the FEED studies, the concept designs; it’s great to be involved in setting precedents for other engineers to take on. It’s putting a new stamp on the designs and systems we provide. How the industry is going, there’s a significant number of new technologies emerging, new considerations to put in place, as we’re all going towards carbon neutral, which is really interesting to learn and how we can implement them into what we offer. It all helps work towards the next generation of design and integrated systems.  

Another challenge I am looking forward to is that because the company is growing, it’s exciting having more engineers coming into the business that I can help progress in their own careers – and get the passion I’d like to think I’ve got – and hopefully impart some of that to them.

5. Why are nZero Group’s values important to you?

The five values [Safety, Sustainability, Strength, Service and Success] resonate with me as I feel that they’re quite broad and can have multiple meanings to different people. For me, they give a good standpoint for the integrity that you should hold yourself to as an engineer. Whether here or within the industry, safety, and strength are all vital that you should always consider in your professional conduct, regardless and they’re important values to follow in yourself. Safety should always be at the forefront, more so being an Engineer and in the energy section, it is crucial in everything that we do. Different values will be higher up for others across the business, depending on their job; Sustainability, Safety, Strength are more prudent ones to me because they’re more vital to my role as an Engineer.

6. What would you like to see happen in the future for you?

My next personal career step is to become a Chartered Engineer, I’ve set out to become one since going to university, and it’s in motion now. I’m thankful Orbital has other chartered engineers to help me reach that goal and are very supportive towards that journey. After I have [hopefully] reached Chartered Engineer status, I plan to broaden my technical knowledge so that I can become an Approver/Appraiser for the gas networks and progress further through the business in terms of technical leadership.