All heroes need help from time to time and this is where our International Alliance comes in. The people in our International Alliance are just a few of the huge international alliance we work with every day. Often, problems or opportunities are complicated. It can be hard to find solutions. Universities and businesses work together to help each other with ideas, time, equipment, and resources, to help solve problems together and come up with great ideas as a result.

Meet some of our friends who help us and perhaps they could help you too?

International Alliance heroes

Emma Cuddy
Dr Abi Hird
Janet Manning
Emma McCreesh
Anne McIlveen
Naomi Sandford-deQuincey

Hi! I’m Emma Cuddy

I make sure airlines are keeping the aircraft safe to fly. I work with the rules/law set out by government to ensure people are fixing the aircraft in the right way so that the passengers are safe.

My superpower is engineering! In my job this is important because being a trained engineer helps me know if the engineers fixing the aeroplanes have done it correctly.

My STEM strengths are electric/avionic engineering, maths, fixing things, good working with tools, and seeing how puzzles fit together (problem solving). I need these strengths to make sure I can fix aeroplanes, by working out what is wrong with them, and make sure other engineers are fixing them properly. Being a good listener, a problem solver, and detective skills are my teamwork strengths. Being a problem solver helps me in my job because when the aeroplane has something wrong with it I can work out what is wrong. Detective skills are useful in my current job, where I go and check things are done properly. Being a good listener also helps in my job, as I listen to the engineers and the problems they may face with the rules/law, and I might be able to help them.

My challenge is that I lack self-confidence. I always have, so it is a challenge for me to recognise my strengths and believe in myself. I am dyslexic, so really struggled with exams (and there were a lot to take to becoming a licensed engineer). I also found physics difficult at school and at 'A' level. I struggled to see how things worked on paper, I have to see them working physically to 'get' the concept. For my self-confidence, I gain self-belief from having people I trust around me who recognise and tell me my strengths and push me to achieve what I can. For dyslexia, I have learnt ways around it, and have found some things that I excel at, but recognise the things I do not and allow myself extra time where needed. One area is spelling, I always try to take my time after typing something to check it’s correct, as sometimes it’s so bad spellcheck doesn't see it. For physics, I studied beyond hard for my ‘A’ levels and at degree level, until I found out the best way for me to learn and revise.

I have been busy working on the EU Exit for the CAA and aviation engineering industry. I assisted with re-writing regulation for the UK, and then worked on explaining how this works at industry level. I needed technical expertise to do that, as well as knowledge of how industry works, and the laws in place. I also had to problem solve where the answers for industry were not straight forward.

I didn't do well with my 'A' levels and failed many exams throughout my time in education. But in the end, I got a degree and got my licence to certify aircraft as safe to fly after maintenance. My advice is always: whatever it is you want to study, and do after education, never give up, and believe that you can be whatever you want to be. I didn't give up and I have the best job. I have been lucky enough to have a career and a family.

If you would like to find out more about the work they do please visit www.caa.co.uk/stem


Hi everyone, I’m Abi Hird

I help product developers navigate the design to manufacture journey. My job involves helping people understand what is required to get from a product concept to a scaled-up, volume manufactured product. People tend to focus on just the technical bit of the idea but understanding the market, finding finances, communicating your story, working out how to design for manufacture, finding the right partners and negotiating contracts are all equally as tough. I listen to ideas, develop policy, create resources such as guidebooks, run networking events, build my own relationships, and make powerful connections to help people deliver their products.

My superpower is listening! Listening is so underrated! We are all taught, from such an early age, that projecting ourselves is the basis of communication. Actually, it’s a two-way thing. To listen to people is to give them a gift. It's an honour to be listened to, people appreciate proper active attentive listening. But listening is more than just 'nice' – when people are listened to they open up. By listening well it's possible to gain insights and understanding that lots of people miss. When I deploy this superpower consistently, I'm at an advantage, because I am able to see things in a way that other people (who haven't listened to the same extent) can't.

I'm a Systems Engineer – spotting connections and understanding relationships and emerging behaviours is my forte, those are my STEM strengths. Innovation requires joining the dots. It helps to be able to connect between different requirements, different parts of the process, different outcomes and scenarios – making links to competitor’s products, alternative funding streams or markets. My job is based on networking – being able to connect people and see the links between ideas and opportunities is also key.

Being a good listener is my superpower. In a team, being able to focus on finding the best route to solving a problem also helps – sometimes that involves encouraging other people or being calm in a crisis – and sometimes it just involves rolling up your sleeves and focusing on getting the job done. Teamwork skills are integral to networking and innovation. Teamwork, collaboration, and partnerships are how really exciting stuff happens. Understanding how to get the best from people is key.

I struggle with finalising the details of reports – checking spelling, making sure there are no typos. I know it is valuable to get the details right but really struggle to make it happen on my own – especially if I've just written the report. Once I know the shape and message that is being conveyed works, I do my best to finish things off but will always get someone to double check by proofreading.

I've recently developed a guidebook, in partnership with over 40 other organisations, to support innovators navigating the design to manufacture journey. Listening carefully to the challenges of innovators as well as understanding what worked well for successful innovators was key. Pulling together the community and shaping the document drew upon my systems thinking skills. I left the proof reading to others in my team.

My top tip? Find a subject you love and focus on it. Don't worry about being good at everything that is technical – one thing is enough. More importantly, don't forget about softer skills and building a network. Invest time in learning to listen well, communicating with confidence and negotiating. The softer skills will help you leverage your technical expertise. Without soft skills your technical brilliance won't deliver the impact it should (or, if it does, you won't be given credit for it).

If you would like to find out more about the work they do please visit www.ktn-uk.org


Hello! I’m Janet Manning…

I help gardeners find ways to manage water in their gardens: I look for ways to make the best use of water in gardens, but still grow great plants, so that there is less demand on freshwater resources in dry spells, and a reduced risk of surface runoff when it rains heavily.

My superpower is that I'm an all-rounder – with a mix of engineering, physics, chemistry and microbiology along with horticulture. Having a mix of skills means that I stay grounded, allowing my practical knowledge of the natural world to drive what I do, and ask the broader questions rather than focused on just one topic, because that's how the natural world works, it’s a complex web.

My STEM strengths are in chemical process engineering which is really important: conflicting and complementing processes are happening all the time in the natural world. There are usually lots of processes happening at the same time in horticulture, in all three phases (atmosphere, water and soil), often with different outcomes and at different rates of change, all very much influenced by the weather, lots of variables and lots of opportunity for errors in measurements. Someone who is described as having 'green fingers' and can grow anything, is one of those people that has mastered the art of controlling the complex web of processes without the measurements!

My teamwork skills are drawing on the skills of others in the team and always looking for the 'win, win' opportunities, so everyone is working towards the same goals. Teams in large organisations will always have differing priorities, finding the common goals means everyone is working together towards the same outcome. This relies on leadership skills to keep those goals visible.

My challenge is that I really don't like admin, it’s really boring, which means I'm not very good at it, but being organised shouldn't mean lots of admin. Design your own system that works for you and accept that some things that are essential will be boring. Don't be afraid to admit there is something you are not good at – it may mean you get some extra training or mentoring. There is a niche for everyone, and if you really haven't found the right one, don't be afraid to move on and try a new one.

Growing great plants needs an understanding of plant biology, chemistry and microbiology in the soil, physics in the atmosphere, movement of water though the soil and process engineering to understand how it all happens at the right time, in the right place. Although my work is focused on watering plants (sounds really simple, doesn't it!) all of these other factors influence or are influenced by water, hence the need for a broad understanding of all of them.

My top tip? Whatever you choose to do, strive to be the very best that you can be at it. Choose to do what you enjoy, if you have enthusiasm for a subject, that will take you wherever you want to go.


Hello! I’m Emma McCreesh

I review reports from the aviation industry to ensure aircraft remain safe to fly. This involves reviewing Mandatory Occurrence Reports (MORs) which have been submitted from organisations such as airlines or maintenance organisations.

MORs are reports of safety-related events which endanger or could endanger an aircraft, its occupants, or any other person. The purpose of occurrence reporting is to improve aviation safety by ensuring that relevant safety information is reported, collected, stored and analysed.

I also help create Airworthiness Directives, which are mandatory instructions which must be completed to fix or help find an issue that has been discovered since the aircraft has been flying.

My superpower is data analysis! I review many reports relating to the safety of aircraft. It is very important that I can find and highlight trends and present these in a clear way.

My set of STEM strengths are problem solving and root cause, technical presentation/reports, aviation maintenance, and maths. These strengths are all important in my job.

Problem solving and root cause are important because I need to read reports to piece together how a problem has occurred and identify the cause.

Technical presentation/reports matter because I need to show the data that I have analysed in a clear way so everyone can understand it.

Aviation maintenance is important because I have previously developed maintenance plans for new aircraft which helps me to understand what has been written in the reports I review.

Maths matters as there are some calculations that must be performed to determine the time allowed for an Airworthiness Directive (AD) to be completed.

Detective skills, being a problem-solver, and being friendly are my teamwork skills. Detective skills help because my main job role involves identifying issues which may become a greater problem. Having detective skills are really important as I may need to read through documents to extract the information I need to gain a full 'picture' of the problem.

Being a problem-solver is important as I need piece together how a problem has occurred.

Being friendly helps in my job – I interact with a lot of people, both inside the CAA (in areas inside and outside of airworthiness) and outside of the CAA. Being friendly helps me and my team to get the information we need and make people more willing to help me.

My challenges are running late, balancing lots of tasks and knowing when to take a break.

Running late – I always seem to be running late, ever since school. To combat this, I try to organise what I need for a meeting at the beginning of the day or at lunch (if it is in the afternoon). I also think it is good to set alerts, maybe more than one, as reminders either on my phone or computer.

Balancing lots of tasks – I often have many things to do at once, I find it helpful to set a list of priorities and work through it.

Knowing when to take a break – I sometimes feel like I have so much to do that I can't take a break. But this just leads to me not doing my job as well as I could. I try to take some 10-minute tea breaks throughout the day and make sure I take an hour off for lunch.

A group of helicopter organisation inspectors meets every three months, I have been invited to this meeting for the past year. I have been invited to help share some of the types of reports that I review weekly, so the inspectors are aware of them when talking to the helicopter companies. I create a report to gather the data for the helicopters for the last three months and then try and sort the data. I look at the types of things that have gone wrong and on what kind of helicopter. I then create graphs to help explain what I have found in the reports.

This project involves me performing data analysis to create a report which is easy to understand. I also use my problem solving and detective skills to see if there is an issue.

My advice for you is that teamwork is very important, and you don't have to be brilliant at everything. When I was at university, I was finding a particular assignment hard, but I was able to get help from other students in my class. I was able to help these students in a later assignment that they found difficult. This is also true while working, teamwork is extremely important.

When choosing subjects to study for GCSEs or ‘A’ levels I picked subjects that I liked, these were usually subjects that I was good at. I think enjoying the subjects you have chosen and finding them interesting helps you to do better. When I was leaving school, I looked at areas of study which included subjects I liked – like maths and physics.

Don't let anyone put you off. When I told my careers advisor at school that I wanted to study aerospace engineering at university they didn't know what that was and suggested I thought about becoming an optometrist instead as I liked physics.

Look at paths other than university. The school I went to didn't offer another option to university when leaving after ‘A’ levels: it was only once I had my first job after university that I realised apprenticeships existed. There are many apprenticeships available now.

If you would like to find out more about the work they do please visit www.caa.co.uk/stem


Hi everyone, I’m Anne McIlveen

I work for Boeing providing engineering and technical support for the C-17 Globemaster III military cargo transport aircraft. Several countries fly C-17s. I help their engineers fix any technical problems that they find while maintaining and flying the aircraft. I specialise in designing new repairs for structural damage.

My superpower is prioritisation! Sometimes the aircraft need to be fixed very quickly as they are needed for an urgent mission (for example, delivering medical supplies). This means I often have to work out which repairs are needed immediately, which can wait, and whether there is time to carry out a temporary or a permanent repair.

My key STEM strength is aerospace engineering. This is important in my job because to help fix the aircraft I have to understand how they work. Aerospace engineering involves knowing about lots of things: from aerodynamics (how the air flows over the aircraft) to understanding how engines generate lift, and how computers help pilots fly the aircraft.

Problem-solving, keeping calm, and having a sense of humour are my teamwork skills. Sometimes when fixing the aircraft things don’t always go to plan. If the aircraft are needed urgently there can be additional pressure. So problem-solving, keeping calm and maintaining a sense of humour are all very important.

Spelling is my challenge and overcoming this is all about practice and reading books.

Recently, I had to design a repair for part of an aircraft structure. The repair was quite complicated and involved designing a new part, choosing a material to make it from, and getting it made and installed. The repair was in an area of the aircraft which was hard to access so I had a replica part 3D-printed as a practice piece. With help from other engineer team mates all over the world and maintaining that sense of humour, we ensured the aircraft was fixed and ready to fly its critical missions.

My top tip is to pick a subject you love. If you love something, it’s much easier to spend time getting good at it.

If you would like to find out more about the work they do please visit www.boeing.co.uk/


Hi! I’m Naomi Sandford-deQuincey

I support my company in reducing our environmental impact by providing technical advice. I have a wide variety of roles that allow me to support my company. Every four weeks, I look at all our waste figures and use this to further explore areas where we can improve our waste management processes. This may be changing our product to one that is biodegradable or starting a recycling programme for our equipment. I talk to many colleagues across England, Scotland and Wales and support them in choosing the most environmentally friendly option. I work alongside our regulators to discuss how they can help us be the best we can but also, how we can help them achieve their objectives. We have hundreds of environmental laws that apply to us, and I support the company by understanding what we as a company and individuals need to do.

My superpower is analysing the big data the find improvement areas! This is important in my job because 'if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it'. Understanding what is happening is very important for sustainability. We need to know where we may be throwing the most waste away, or why spills happen ‐ otherwise we won't be able to improve it. By diving into the details of all those numbers, we can spot trends, or reasons why, which help us make improvement programmes. Imagine a football player, they need to know why they keep missing the goal. If they know that they keep kicking it with the wrong part of their foot, they can keep training to change the way they kick the ball. Then when they get into the match, they can keep on scoring!

Being able to feed back well is my STEM strength. To get improvements, we must explain the situation to people who can help us. This takes practice but is an incredibly useful skill. If we can tell someone what happened, what was the impact of that, and how we can change it in the future, we can bring people in to help us solve problems and change future events.

Being friendly, easy-going, and asking questions are my teamwork skills. Sometimes we do things because we've always done it that way and sometimes it's helpful if you ask the obvious questions. It means you might be able to explore some new paths and change direction for the better. There are always going to be problems, but remember, there will always be a solution. By hurrying individuals, we're not supporting each other in finding the best solution together. Imagine stepping outside of the situation and looking at your team talking about the possible solutions. You'll find by taking five minutes, it will give you and your team the platform needed to progress.

Finding priority tasks, knowing how long something will take me, and knowing when to switch off can be challenging for me. Part of my dyslexia means I struggle to understand what to prioritise and sometimes miss deadlines. I learnt tools such as using four squares with different levels of importance to allow me to put tasks into the squares and be more organised. Part of my dyslexia means I frequently underestimate how long a task will take me and end up missing deadlines or working late. Now I'm aware of it, I tend to double what time I think it will take me as a deadline. This means I have plenty of time and will look good if I do it quicker! Many people have this problem of being too focused on something that they forget to stop for the day. Asking yourself why you are so focused, or feel the need to keep working, will help you understand and work on the causes. In the meantime, set yourself strict schedules and alarms for finishing times. Show your family and friends your schedule so they can make sure you follow it.

As a construction company, we throw a lot of things away and lots of these can be recycled or reused. Part of my job is looking at what we throw away the most and talking to different companies for solutions. An example of this is a lot of our engineering equipment is thrown when it's no longer needed. By setting up an app recently, we were able to restore these pieces of equipment and give to other departments who needed a new one. This stopped us throwing away working parts and stopped the other department spending money on a new part.

My advice is that it doesn't matter if you're not the best. If you’re passionate and happy, keep working hard and you'll see the rewards. Throughout school, I struggled but I found university easier and I'm now a subject matter expert in my company. It was a tough journey and it took me six years to finish my university education, but I never gave up because I loved making a difference for the environment.