Breaking barriers and building futures

The theme of this month’s International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), on June 23, was to celebrate the vital contributions women engineers make to enrich lives and livelihoods globally. Here, Sylvana van de Scheur, product designer at Ovarro shares her experiences as a woman engineer, which includes helping develop such innovative products as Ovarro’s StreamWebscada, a modern web enabled SCADA platform that has enriched lives around the world — including, as she explains, 5.6 million Dutch water customers.

Q: Can you tell us about your journey into engineering? What inspired you to pursue this career path?

Sylvana: As a child, I was always very curious when something was broken, and would pull things apart to try and fix it — sometimes they would work and soetimes they wouldn’t! As I got older, I would build and repair PCs. My father was also very technical, and into woodworking, so this also inspired me. These influences led me to study electrical engineering, which is a wide field, after which I worked with medical engineering systems.

Eventually, I joined Datawatt, since acquired by Ovarro, in 2019. Today, I am most closely involved with Ovarro’s StreamWebscada, a modern web enabled SCADA platform which gives customers real-time insight to process information and the ability to control connected field equipment, such as remote telemetry units (RTUs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Q: What challenges have you faced as a woman in engineering, and what role do you believe diversity and inclusion play in the field of engineering?

Sylvana: When I studied engineering, I was one of only three young women on a course of 60 students. When I first joined Datawatt, I was the sole woman on the engineering team. Today, I'm delighted to work alongside eight women engineers at Ovarro, part of a larger team of around 40 engineers — a positive trend towards greater diversity. There are still a lot of men in engineering, but more and more women are coming through. I understand that, today, some countries have 50 per cent female engineers — such as Norway and Latvia. So, it depends on the country you live in.

I believe diversity in teams enriches innovation and enhances our problem-solving capabilities — and there are . My Ovarro colleagues are from Italy, Belgium, Malaysia and Australia. This multicultural environment brings a wealth of unique perspectives to the table, enriching our engineering processes and outcomes. The varied colleagues backgrounds and experiences of my colleagues foster a collaborative atmosphere where different viewpoints are valued, leading to more comprehensive and innovative solutions.

Q: In your opinion, what are the most critical skills and qualities for a successful engineer?

Sylvana: You can do what the customer has asked you to do, but sometimes you need to take a step back and consider how best to solve the problem before you. Ovarro’s clients include Thames Water, Heathrow Airport and other leaders in their fields — there may be instances where the customer knows what it wants, but needs Ovarro’s expertise in leak detection or remote telemetry systems to help them get there. That’s when we can make suggestions.

For instance, Ovarro’s StreamWebscada is very customisable to meeting changing technology's needs. Necessary changes might include updating the reporting dashboard, so it is easier to use. In addition, we are developing new protocols so StreamWebscada can work with an even wider variety of IoT systems — as engineers, we are always keeping up to date with new technologies to ensure our systems are compatible.

Q: What is Ovarro doing to encourage young women and girls to pursue a career in engineering?

Sylvana: Moving forward, the engineering industry must continue to champion and support women. Celebrations like INWED are crucial for promoting opportunities and dispelling stereotypes. Equally important is sharing stories that highlight the achievements of women engineers, inspiring future generations.


At Ovarro, diversity and inclusion are integral to our ethos. As a Real Living Wage and Disability Confident employer, we embed diversity in our core networks and recruitment processes to eliminate unconscious biases. Ovarro works closely with educational institutions such as Huddersfield and Sheffield Universities in the UK, as well as local schools like Wales High School. We engage in various initiatives, including career talks and employability events, to promote the company's values and opportunities to students.

Q: This year's INWED theme celebrates women engineers who enhance lives and livelihoods. Can you share a project you've worked on that you feel has had a significant positive impact on people's everyday lives?

Sylvana: Yes, a favourite project of mine is Ovarro’s development of telemetry systems for water management in my home country, the Netherlands. The Dutch Drinking Water Company Vitens used StreamWebscada to monitor and control its water distribution network in real-time, reducing costs and improving operational efficiency.  The StreamWebscada solution has helped Vitens to improve its service level and customer satisfaction while reducing costs and increasing operational efficiency. What’s more, Vitens’ 5.6 million Dutch customers have access to better quality drinking water — around 352 million cubic metres of drinking water annually — enriching their lives in the process.

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