Engineering profile: Michelle Bulless

Michelle Bulless started out with us as a graduate electrical engineer and is now Site Planning Engineer at our Scunthorpe site. Find out more about Michelle's career path and what she's enjoyed about her experiences so far...

Please provide a brief overview of your first role with British Steel and the journey you’ve taken to your current role

I joined British Steel as a graduate electrical engineer back in 2005, which feels such a long time ago. I was 21, had moved from Aberdeen to start my engineering career on the Steelworks and didn’t really know what to expect, but at the same time was excited to join a fascinating business.

Coming from university into the Steelworks without an apprenticeship was a challenge, I didn’t have the practical experience that many other engineers had who had worked their way up from an apprentice.

However, I did bring passion, enthusiasm, engineering knowledge and probably my best skills - organisation, determination and structure.

I had various placements during the graduate scheme, starting within Engineering Support at the time, moving to the Plate Mill, then on to the Blast Furnaces before being seconded to the Bloom 750 Caster as Maintenance Engineer. I spent a year at the Continuous Casting (Concast) plant, and it was probably one of my favourite departments. It was certainly a steep learning curve for me, but the Engineering team was supportive, and I learned a lot about the operational and maintenance requirements of the caster.

From Concast, I continued onto my first substantive position as Shift Engineer at Scunthorpe Rail & Section Mill (SRSM) Area 3 for about a year-and-a-half before becoming Departmental Planning Engineer at Area 3 and then latterly at SRSM Areas 1 and 2. 

I then moved into an Asset Improvement Engineer position within the Central Team primarily focused on delivering maintenance concepts workshops across the Scunthorpe mills and the Energy Operations team. I really enjoyed this role, it allowed me to fully understand how some of our assets work, what is expected of them and, most importantly, help the Engineering team ensure they have the right maintenance strategies in place to keep our assets reliable. During this time, I was seconded to the Ore Preparation Plant in 2016 to assist them in improving their maintenance process and organisation around shutdowns.

Finally, in 2018 I took on the role of Site Planning Engineer, which takes me to where I am today. I have certainly been around quite a lot of the business in various roles.

How long have you been with the business?

In September 2022 it will be 17 years.

What does your day-to-day role involve?

My role now is quite diverse and probably unique within the business. I am currently focused on developing the new hire desk and resolving invoice queries with one of our key vendors. I have a lot of involvement with key site contracts, such as hire and engineering labour, liaising with plant to understand requirements and the vendors to ensure the contracts deliver.

My main area of focus though is maintenance best practice aligned to our asset management framework. I am working closely with our Engineering Director to deliver training and development across our engineering teams as part of the Maintenance Transformation programme. So far, this has involved training on maintenance strategies and plans. I also facilitate our process for planned maintenance outages and our main site outages.

To summarise though, I try to be as helpful as I can be to anyone I work with. If something needs doing, I’ll ensure it’s done. I’m also always on the lookout for how we can make work smarter, easier, more efficient and cost effective, which means we continuously improve.

Why do you enjoy working for British Steel?

What I have enjoyed the most is the variety of work I have been involved in. Engineering is a diverse role, it’s not always about saving the day and fixing things, engineering is about problem solving and making things better - and that’s not always equipment, it can be processes, systems and development of people. We’re all here to improve in line with the business requirements. Engineering requires knowledge of legislation, maintenance practices, new technology, leading people, communicating amongst functions, being organised, planning, understanding budgets, the list goes on.

What advice would you give to other people considering a career at British Steel?

I would say if you are up for the challenge go for it. We always need engineers, people to bring new ideas, new ways of thinking, technology, experience for other industries. At the same time for those starting out on their careers, it’s a great business to develop in, so if you have a desire to learn, work hard and help our business improve, apply now.

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