Emerging Talent Finalist: Alanna Downing (AWE)

Hi, my name is Alanna and I am the Radiochemistry Quality Lead at AWE plc. I believe I was nominated for my efforts split across two main areas: quality within method development and diversity & inclusion.

I have worked at AWE for my entire early career, starting as an undergraduate placement student in 2016, being a graduate in 2018 and becoming the youngest Quality Lead of the company in 2020. Through this I have seen a new method created and accredited as a placement student and have owned it, maintaining its’ accreditation since returning to site in 2018. Due to this, I completed the graduate scheme which is usually 24 months within 12 so that I could advance my career within Radiochemistry. The attitudes towards quality within the group have not always been the best, and it hasn’t always been prioritised and this has been a challenge that I have been facing since undertaking the lead role in June. I look forward to continuing to improve these attitudes in 2021 as it has been very fulfilling work.

Fighting stereotypes and misconceptions with those who live with Hidden Disabilities is my other main line of work. Having lived with fibromyalgia for 10 years (diagnosed for 4), I have personally lived through the dirty looks on public transport when I sit in disabled seats, the statements of “but you don’t look sick!” and the unsolicited advice “have you tried yoga/eating healthier/exercising?” and therefore want to lead a more open conversation around these conditions to raise awareness and reduce misinformation.

Within the workplace, I do this through being the Vice-Chair of the N-Able-D working group, which is an open network for those who identify with being disabled/neurodivergent or have a family member or friend who do, or just want to learn more to be a better ally. I have set up events with nationally recognised speakers such as Jamie and Lion to help colleagues understand ASD and how modern technology can make a difference to those who cannot live independently as well as those with high functioning autism. I have also spoken out about my own story for both disability visibility and mental health awareness as my condition was triggered by trauma and I am constantly saddened by the taboo surrounding those who have gone through sexual assault and how they can be made to feel ashamed by the fact that they were attacked. I am also an advocate of the Sunflower Lanyard scheme and have just received confirmation that I will be able to officially launch this on site in the new year.

How did I feel when I found out I was a finalist? Honestly, like a fraud. I have never felt deserving of such an award and the fact that people at work nominated me was an honour enough. My other half and family have kept reminding me that I have been selected for a reason, and hopefully one day I’ll believe it! I cannot wait to meet the other finalists who are all such incredibly deserving and inspiring women and am beyond grateful to be considered amongst them.

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