Meet Kim Everitt, an automotive engineer who won the 2021 Flare Ignite Social Impact award. Kim is a budding entrepreneur who wants to improve the lives of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
|Current job role||Business owner and Test and Development Engineer at Ballard Motive Solutions|
|Year of graduation||2018|
|Course of study||BEng (Hons) Automotive Engineering with motorsport|
The inspiration behind SENDplan
Kim's winning business, SENDplan, is a special education needs and disability support service, that helps parents with their children’s development outside of school by finding answers to their questions and offering structured support with information and resources.
The University’s Flare Ignite awards give budding students and alumni entrepreneurial support and training to bring their business ideas to life. Kim won the 2021 Flare award for social impact, which is designed to support a business that is ethical and socially impactful, with the aim of improving the world we live in.
Kim’s business inspiration grew from volunteering. She says, ‘Over the years I have worked with my mother whose long-term career has covered a variety of SEND educational opportunities and I got involved as a volunteer with playschemes and other activities. I felt inspired by the families I worked with and wanted to find a way that I could help. The pandemic taught me to make the most of every moment, and as the restrictions started to ease, I decided to go for the opportunity in setting up the idea for my business.’
Upskilling with Flare Ignite
Kim really enjoyed taking part in the Flare Ignite competition and said, ‘Completing my business model allowed me to really push myself and see the validity of my idea and how it could all come to fruition. The business advisors on hand were excellent and encouraging. The support sessions provided information that enabled me to upskill my business knowledge and offered insight into each competition stage. The opportunity to practice my pitch in advance really helped with my confidence in going into the pitching stage of the competition too.’
The day job - a sustainable engineer
Kim’s day job is an engineer with Ballard Motive Solutions. ‘I am a Test and Development Engineer, where my key duties so far have been to create test procedures and plan vehicle level testing. I am building on my knowledge of Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology as well as learning more about high voltage systems and new areas. Already I have supported testing a Hydrogen Fuel Cell RCV on track at HORIBA-MIRA, UK which was a fantastic way to get familiar with Hydrogen vehicles at the start of my career at Ballard Motive Solutions.
‘I have always been fascinated by the evolution of technology and the potential of alternative fuels. My first interaction with sustainable technology was when I attended the Formula E testing event for fans in August, 2016 at Donington Park Circuit. This was inspiring, and encouraged me to learn about vehicle networks, software and controls systems. Throughout my career I have enjoyed testing a variety of vehicle platforms, and when I saw the opportunity to utilize my existing knowledge and develop it for sustainable applications - I had to apply. Working at Ballard Motive Solutions there are opportunities to work with the latest technology, contribute to the greater community and focus on professional development’
Supported to succeed
Kim had a great student experience at Herts, she says, ‘What I learnt as a student has provided the foundations for my career and I will always be grateful for the University’s support throughout my studies. It’s because of this support that I felt confident and comfortable enough to enter the Flare Ignite competition as a graduate and challenge myself to make SENDplan a reality.’
‘My favourite memory from my time at Herts is from my final year of study during the Shell Eco-marathon projects where I was able to push myself as an engineer. This is where I started to believe in my ability and see results from my work, and my friends taught me to embrace the notion that anyone can achieve anything they want to if they work hard and believe.’
‘I enjoyed many aspects of my studies, I developed skills in mechanical engineering all throughout and have fond memories of studying engineering mathematics with Kuldeep Singh as my Lecturer. Studying Automotive Engineering at Herts provided me with the freedom to research into areas that I was interested in, whilst also developing the skill set to adapt to a variety of upcoming and existing technologies. Since I have graduated I have continued this approach by acting on ideas and seeking out opportunities to learn.’
Extended route into higher education
Kim entered Herts through an extended engineering degree with a foundation year. She says, ‘The foundation year provided me with the fundamentals and in-depth engineering knowledge, as well as new friendship groups. It was during that year that I met one of the best mechanics/physics teachers in my entire life and found inspiration through his teaching. The class collectively upskilled quickly in a short space of time where we became close friends and were competitive with our results aiming for 100%. The course overall has led me to exactly where I dreamed of being and I would highly recommend the extended route. This programme is an ideal alternative route to higher education as it prepares you for progression to an engineering-related honours degree’.
Kim’s aspiration for the future is to not only set up her business SENDplan as a fully functional support service to families, but to continue to apply herself as an engineer and pursue her career in the automotive industry.
Advice for other students and graduates
Kim’s advice for other women wanting to pursue a career in engineering, ‘I would highly recommend joining the Women's Engineering Society (WES). WES is a fantastic charity that supports women engineers throughout their career and provides the opportunity to form friendships and contacts, through their events and networking. I would recommend applying for all the opportunities that you see that spark your interest, and to gain as much experience as possible during your studies.’