13 Mar Passion, positivity and perseverance: An interview with Faye Gennard
Even when you know exactly where you want to be in life the road to get there can be bumpy – Faye Gennard is someone who knows just how vital it is to have passion, purpose and, most of all, perseverance.
The importance of resilience
Carving out a career in a job that has been traditionally male dominated has been one thing, but the real challenge lay in sticking to her plans through a difficult school life.
It’s not every four-year-old that announces they want to be an engineer, but for Faye Gennard that was the case. From her earliest years she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
She explains: “I’ve always wanted to be an engineer. I did have some insider knowledge into the career because my dad, grandad and uncle were engineers.
“I didn’t really understand what it was, but I enjoyed Lego and had that interest anyway.”
“Believe in yourself and all that you are, know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Christian D Larson
However, rather than support her engineering plans, Faye’s secondary school experience was a challenge all round, both personally and academically.
She recalls: “I had a tough time. I was overweight – I’d done a lot of sport at primary school, and ate a lot of carbs, but then I continued to eat carbohydrates and chocolate. I suffered a lot with eczema, and it just wasn’t a comfortable place to be.
“I wasn’t that naturally bright either and on paper it didn’t look like this engineering dream would come true.
“I was getting bullied because of the weight and eczema, both mentally and physically. I didn’t really talk to my parents about it, kept it a bit of a secret and went into myself.”
As tough as those personal challenges were, she found her engineering dreams being questioned by others, although thankfully she still had the support she needed at home.
“There was a lot of people saying I don’t think she’s going to be an engineer; her maths isn’t strong enough, her science isn’t strong enough. I was really terrible at English and potentially dyslexic. But I kept saying I want to be an engineer and kept working at it.”
“Then once I came home with a trophy. They had created this engineering endurance award and my dad, very lovely, said you’re not very good at it but keep trying. That summed it up, I kept working towards it.”
“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength”
‘Stickability’ – be guided by perseverance
That commitment to resilience has served Faye well, and it was an early lesson in life that stuck with her – that being the idea of ‘stickability’.
A primary school assembly focused on the theme, leaving her with a lasting impression and stickability is now something she credits for her success.
Explaining the idea of stickability, she says: “If you know where you want to go, no matter how long it takes just keep going for it.
“I spent my life trying to find out what this stickability was and kept going towards that dream of being an engineer.”
From being told she would struggle to pass GCSE English, Faye left school with an A grade, while a C in Maths and Bs in Science secured her a college place.
It proved to be a turning point in more ways than one.
Faye says: “For me college wasn’t about academia but finding out who I was and being comfortable with me, because I hadn’t really been until that point. I went there with good intentions but that was what it became.
“I had been this overweight girl with eczema and hadn’t had a strong group of friends around me. I felt very isolated.
“At sixth form college I made a great group of friends. I managed to get onto maths, design and technology, physics and history.
“But I spent a lot of time socialising. I really got comfortable with myself because my friends appreciated me for who I was after I had gone through high school trying to fit in.”
An interest in drama nurtured Faye’s confidence and helped her to develop as a public speaker, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Finding the right peer support
All that socialising had taken its toll on her grades and she faced the prospect of failing. However, a change in syllabus gave her a lifeline to resit in one year.
Finally, Faye secured the grades she needed to get onto a foundation course at Liverpool University – the extra year allowing her a way in despite not meeting the classic three A grades needed for an engineering degree.
Knowing this was it and having found her place in life, Faye buckled down.
She says: “It clicked because I’d had two years at college working out who I was. I could think ‘I’ve had fun, now I need to crack on’.
“In that first year I went from scraping an E in maths to getting first class honours. I really worked hard.
“I came out with a 2:1 Masters in civil and maritime engineering. It wasn’t an easy journey but there was no question in my mind that I wasn’t going to be an engineer.”
Graduating in the middle of a recession, the job that Faye had lined up with a consultancy fell through.
Eventually she went for a job as a drainage engineer and says she felt like she was supposed to be there, giving her the confidence to secure the job.
Eventually moving onto a larger consultancy, Faye’s now husband agreed to move to a halfway point that allowed them both to pursue their dreams, despite a two-hour commute.
It is this support and the support of her college friends that she highlights as being so important to her journey – ‘it is so important who you surround yourself with’.
Perseverance and positivity have been key themes in Faye’s route to setting up her own flood risk and drainage consultancy.
Make the most of challenges with positivity and perseverance
As the world faces finding a route away from the current pandemic, positivity and perseverance will help people make the most of the situation.
For Faye the pandemic provided her with the time and resources to start her own business.
She explains: “During the pandemic I got made redundant and it was that that gave me the chance to start a business.
“On paper it’s not the best time to start a business, but there’s a lot of support out there. Our expenses had gone down with having no nursery fees or nights out to pay for.
“It gave me time to think how can I make this work? Everything switched online, so I was able to do virtual networking and online tools became free.
“It’s looking for those opportunities and thinking ‘well life’s different at the moment but what does that bring us?”
She believes the experience of learning online could develop a different skillset in the younger generation that will open up new opportunities.
She adds: “If you can get your grades through a global pandemic, nothing is going to stop you. I’m incredibly excited to see what this younger generation can do with that.”
And what advice would she have for her 15-year-old self?
“Just do it! It sounds like I was very focused, but there are times when I have thought: ‘Is that the right call?’ Stop overthinking it and just get on with it. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and think what if, you want to think, ‘yes, I’ve done it’.
“I love everything I do. I love civil engineering and the diversity of the career. You need to find something that you love and get someone to pay you to do it. That is the goal of a successful career. You haven’t got to change your passion for anyone, your passion is what makes you you.
“That’s what’s going to make you good at what you do so find out what that passion is then go and show the world.
“Failure is a bend in the road, not the end of the road. Learn from failure and keep moving forward.” Roy T. Bennett
Choose the life you want to lead
If you have a dream, finding the resilience and perseverance to follow that through thick and thin is what really matters. To do that requires a good dose of positivity and support, so wherever you can find people that will help you find your way.
The Back on Track Teens community is always here to offer support. Find out how others have found their way:
If you are struggling to meet the challenges on your pathway to your dreams remember these ‘Ps’ – passion, purpose, perseverance, a great peer group, then go and be powerful!