An interview with Officer Cadet Abby Semple

In celebration of (INWED) International Women in Engineering Day 2021, we are delighted to share Officer Cadet Abby Semple’s story as a fantastic example of young women achieving amazing things in engineering and demonstrating how motherhood and an enriching career can indeed go hand in hand. This article has been provided courtesy of Lowland Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association.


Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?

My name is Abby Semple, I’m 22 and I live in Carluke. I’ve got a two-year-old son, I have just graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and I am a Reservist with 153 Recovery Company REME (Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers). This summer I’ll be starting my teacher training to become a Physics and Maths teacher. Life is a bit of a juggling act but it is also really fun.


Why did you want to become a Reservist?

I wanted to join the Army since I was young. I had always found studying easy and was not stressed about getting into university. However, I was very shy and figured I needed to challenge the other side of me, to stretch myself physically. So I decided that after university I would join the Regulars. However, life changed quite dramatically when I had my son two years ago and I did not want to be away from him for long periods of time. So when I saw there was a Reserve unit nearby (153 Rec Coy), I rang them up, went for an interview, had a tour and I knew instantly it was for me.


What has your Army Reserve experience been like so far?

My Reservist experience has only been during COVID-19 times which has been a bit strange and has definitely made it harder to get to know people. Having said that, I have completed my Alpha training at Redford Barracks and I have just returned from doing my Main Board at Westbury – Officer selection process.


How do you balance being a mum and a Reservist?

Perhaps surprisingly being a Reservist is a great accompaniment to being a mum. Of course, when I am away on training it feels like a real sacrifice. However, I enjoy it so much it feels worth it and it makes you appreciate what you have all the more. It also gives me something which is just for me, a chance to focus on myself and my development.


Will your Reserve experience benefit your civilian career?

Without a shadow of a doubt! As a teacher I’m going to meet all sorts of people. Being in the Reserves has taught me to get on with everyone, whatever their background. Going down the Officer route will also provide me with world-class leadership training at Sandhurst – I would imagine this will come in very useful in the classroom and the workplace.


Today (23/6/21) is International Women in Engineering Day. Tell us a bit about your degree.

I found my degree really interesting, it was really varied and included a lot of problem-solving. Essentially that is what engineering is, finding the simplest solution to complex problems. My final year project involved trying to find sustainable energy solutions in third-world countries. Our focus was on power solutions for African healthcare providers in light of COVID-19. Vaccine centres need constant access to electricity for fridges and other equipment and it’s a bit disastrous if the power cuts out. Our solution was to install mini-grids across Africa which would provide solar energy. It was a really challenging problem and a really interesting project.


What’s it like being a woman in engineering?

You are definitely outnumbered. It was the same at school though. In my computing class there were 30 guys and I was the only girl.

Whilst you are in the minority, I’ve never felt out of place and the guys I studied alongside were always really friendly. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat and we all want to get through it together.


Lowland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association (RFCA) is a Government agency that seeks to connect and promote Defence to the people of the Lowlands of Scotland. If you would like to find out more, please visit their website.


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