" I have worked with a lot of different equipment and really been able to delve into their construction and operation": meet Ellen, electromechanical technician at CERN.
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Hi Ellen, tell us about yourself and what brought you to CERN.
Hi! My name is Ellen Milne, and I am from sunny Scotland! I worked in the Oil and Gas Industry in Scotland before joining CERN. I completed my apprenticeship straight out of school and then became a qualified Instrument and Electrical Technician for 4 years. This is always what I have done since I left school!
I never seen myself working at CERN, although I always dreamed of it! I never thought my experience was relevant and that it was mainly people with Physics backgrounds that were employed here. However, I took the plunge and realised that a lot of my skills were transferable and sought after. Now, I utilise my skills and focus on developing my knowledge of the theory behind the equipment and what is going on here.
I am also a strong believer in promoting Women in STEM subjects and have been actively involved in various projects in Scotland to develop this. Coming here, I was not sure if I would be able to continue but was pleasantly surprised to find Women in Technology which enables me to continue with my passion!
What do you do at CERN today?
At CERN, I am an electromechanical technician within the Amplifiers and Couplers section. We are responsible for operating and maintaining high power RF systems across the complex. We receive RF signals and amplify them, sending them down to cavities in the tunnels. From here the RF accelerates the beam.
I have been focused on bringing the equipment into operation for the end of the second "Long Shutdown", or LS2. This has been good for me as I have worked with a lot of different equipment and really been able to delve into their construction and operation. After this, I will focus on maintenance plans for the following years and any side projects that come along.
What is working at CERN like for you?
Although I started working here during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have really enjoyed myself. Even though I have not been able to experience the true CERN culture, which is usually a buzzing hive of activity, I have still met lots of different people. And I cannot wait to see what it is like with full socialisation again...
I have also felt as though I can express myself freely. I have been supported with any struggles I have had and have always had someone to help, which is actually a really nice aspect to have in the workplace.
What have been the main hurdles or challenges you encountered along the way?
Definitely COVID-19, as expected. It delayed my start date, but I was still able to work remotely and given all the resources I required to integrate into the team. The language barrier was difficult at first, but after participating in the training courses provided by CERN, I quickly learned and realised no one expects you to be fluent with in a month! I think it has been completely different socially because of COVID-19 as well. If it were not for the restrictions, I would have been able to visit home more which has been a bit of a struggle for me personally.
What advice would you give potential applicants?
Go for it: ignore your inner self-doubt and apply! If you have any questions regarding the process or the job, contact someone at CERN. Everyone is always willing to help. Oh and if you are offered a contract, practice French before coming...