From Theory to Reality: Insights From Tallarna’s Engineering Intern

Over the past few months, Tallarna has had the pleasure of working with a fantastic intern! Milena Tomaszewska, an energy and environmental engineering student from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), joined us for eight weeks as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. During her time, she explored Welsh building archetypes and the retrofit landscape in Wales. 

Read her perspective on her internship below – from why industry experience matters to increasing female representation. 

Bringing Theory to Life

How would you describe your internship?

Working at Tallarna opened up a whole new branch of engineering to me. When I started, I didn’t know what a building archetype was (it’s a way of grouping buildings based their physical characteristics), I hadn’t created a database before, and I didn’t understand the driving factors of building energy consumption. But over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to explore the intricacies of Welsh housing stock and understand how slight differences in building characteristics affect real people’s lives. 

What are your 3 key takeaways from this experience?

My three key takeaways are the value of hands-on experience, the importance of collaboration, and a whole new set of technical skills!

Working on client projects gave me the chance to apply the engineering theories I’d learnt to their lived context. Knowing that my work would go towards combatting the energy crisis in Wales was hugely motivating. 

The collaborative work I did with the Tallarna team was fundamental to translating my university knowledge into actionable insights. I worked closely with Joe, Tallarna’s Research Engineer. He guided me every step of the way, explaining engineering processes, and nudging me onto the right path when needed! 

Doing an internship massively expanded my technical and research skills. I learnt how to work with database management tools, which I used to create an information storage and retrieval system for the Welsh archetypes I was exploring. 

What are you most proud of achieving at Tallarna?

View of different building archetypes across Swansea.

I’m most proud of the archetype database I made. This involved grouping Welsh residential buildings into archetypes based on characteristics that affect retrofit strategies. To achieve this, I analysed existing literature and data on construction methods, typical energy usage, and heating methodologies. 

During my internship, I identified 14 key Welsh archetypes. These have now been integrated into Tallarna’s inference library, which is hosted on their AI platform, KESTREL. This means that when KESTREL is faced with missing data or anomalies in client portfolios, my work will be used bridge the information gap and supply actionable, relevant insights.

Demystifying the Corporate World

What drove you to do an internship?

I heard from friends that the best thing to put on your CV is not what you know but how you know it. Tallarna advertised for an engineering intern through my university’s student liaison officer, and I felt that the role had a great cross-over with my course.

The importance of team collaboration.

What would you say to someone considering an internship?

I’d say don’t be put off by your preconceptions. Before I started, I was daunted by the corporate world. I thought I’d feel like an outsider looking in. I’m glad to say my experience was nothing like that! Everyone I met was down-to-earth and wanted to know my perspective on things. That taught me that the corporate world doesn’t have to be this exclusive network, it’s something that anyone can be part of given the right company culture. 

The Power of Representation

How did you become interested in engineering?

I actually started off doing accounting at UWTSD. The reason I got into engineering was that all my male housemates were engineers and kept talking about their course! I found it fascinating. Given my love and aptitude for maths, I thought I might be good at it; so, I swapped degrees. It did take me a while to take the plunge though as I found not knowing any female engineers off-putting.

How does the engineering industry need to evolve?

Female engineer in a robotics laboratory.

There needs to be more female engineers. Too often, I walk into a room, and I’m outnumbered. While some steps are being taken to redress the gender imbalance, it’s not happening fast enough. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s latest research puts the sector’s gender pay gap at 11% while a staggering 91% of those in the top career grade are men. 

To address this gap, we need to combine a bottom-up and top-down approach. There needs to be a greater focus on encouraging female secondary school pupils to apply for engineering at university and more opportunities need to be created for women in senior roles. Business innovation comes when we open the door to diverse viewpoints, talents, and ideas. Increasing female representation is a key part of this success.

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