Kate Lovett is what Americans would call a winner - the sort of person who would have excelled whatever she chose to do. That the choice fell on engineering she puts down to her journalist mother, who alerted Lovett to the opportunies in industry while writing an article on women in engineering.
A year off after school, spent teaching English and French in Germany (Lovett is trilingual), was followed by Production Engineering and Economics at Birmingham University. Here she came top of her year (the only other woman on the double honours course came second) and was quickly snapped up by Jaguar in Coventry.
It was not a totally alien environment since Lovett had been sponsored by Jaguar and spent summer vacations working on the Coventry site. The first time had been at the age of 18, out in overalls getting shopfloor experience. "I was completely on my own," she recalls. "There were no other women and I spent three weeks without having a drink because there were no ladies loos."
Returning as a professional engineer, Lovett was once again the only woman. Her first job was in manufacturing, determining the assembly process of the XJS sportscar. It was plain sailing if you learned to ignore the comments and propositions from the shopfloor and cottoned on to the fact that it was best not to stand still on the raised part of the track if you were wearing a skirt.
"It helps to be thick skinned," she says. "If you take umbrage you don't stand a chance. And if you look at it from the men's point of view," she adds nonchalantly, "it's probably the most exciting thing that's happened all week - this bird coming out on the track."
After 18 months Lovett was promoted to project engineer grade and moved to procurement, responsible for quality control and at the suppliers end. Now, still only 25, she has gone to Insead in Paris to add an MBA to her name.
"I love the industrial environment," she says, and of her long-term ambition she adds: "I want to be in a position of influence."