Interview with Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CBE

Dr Hayaatun Sillem says the value of education and the self-coaching mindset her parents instilled in her as she grew up in west London has been a guiding principle all her life. The desire to make a positive contribution to society has been another key goal.

 Both are values she is pursuing at the Royal Academy of Engineering, where she has been Chief Executive since 2018, leading a team of some 140 staff, and overseeing a budget of more than £50m.

In 2019, the Financial Times named Dr Sillem the 4th most influential woman in UK engineering, and this year Computer Weekly ranked her the 7th most influential woman in tech.

But with a mixed race background, and parents of modest means, her proudest achievement is having stuck with an internal voice of doubt and a sense of differentness. She is a leading voice on diversity and inclusion in and beyond engineering, and co-chaired the Hamilton Commission on improving representation of black people in UK motorsport with Sir Lewis Hamilton.

There is a “massive diversity deficit in engineering,” she says “And this really matters because engineering and technology are everywhere in our lives. The people who develop deliver, maintain and upgrade the products and services we all rely on every day are currently way too unrepresentative of the society they serve. And that is not good for us as a profession.” It is a balance she is striving to redress.


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