Senior Electrification Engineer, Electrification team
What was your route into Engineering?
I always preferred science and technology subjects at school and I was sold engineering as a potential career for me by my careers advisor. I come from a family with absolutely zero engineering heritage, so I really had no idea what I was getting myself into! I studied Mechanical Engineering with Design at Newcastle University. Following this, I took a break from engineering, completely changing direction and studied Art at Leeds College of Art and Design (Oooooh!). I needed a break from the maths! I really enjoyed ‘being a creative’ but quickly realised that it would be a struggle to pay the bills pursuing a career in art. I decided to go for a graduate scheme with Grant Rail – now VolkerRail. After leaving VolkerRail I joined SYSTRA, where I have been working happily ever since.
Is engineering different from what you expected?
Yes and no.
The curriculum I studied at University was very classical. Towards the end of the degree I felt a little detached from the course and I found it difficult to relate the principles I was being taught to real-life scenarios. I managed to almost stumble upon a career in the Railway after feeling quite disillusioned with engineering in general. I think this turned out to be really a fortunate decision – railway engineering has led to being involved in a wide variety of projects that bring tangible benefits to the general public which was ultimately what I thought engineering was all about.
What is the best part of your job?
This has changed slightly throughout my career; early on when I was working in the construction industry, I used to relish the successful completion of planned construction works following what was usually an intense build up. After moving into consultancy, I still take pride in seeing the ideas and designs we produce being implemented and realised in real-world scenarios. More recently, job satisfaction comes through problem-solving throughout the design phase of a project and building meaningful client relationships. Over the last few years, I have also particularly enjoyed supporting developing engineers within our business through daily informal discussions and one to one mentoring.
How has your job changed as you’ve progressed?
I think it has changed through broadening into a bigger picture. Early on I was very much responsible for a specific element of a project or design. After several years of building up my competence and confidence I now have more responsibility in terms of the design delivery in both technical and financial capacities; from tendering for works, managing the design production and inter-disciplinary interfaces all the way through to approving designs. I also undertake a lot of the client-facing roles within a project which keeps me on my toes – as no two clients are the same! Couple all this with line managing and mentoring a number of engineers within the business and I have come to realise that a huge part of what we do is about getting along with people; at all levels.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Go for it.
Get the basics right – whatever your entry route; degree through to apprenticeship, take the academic qualifications as far as you personally can to give you the best technical foundation as possible. I think there is a niche for everyone in engineering. Read the UK Spec – this is the Engineering Council’s measure of ‘what an engineer is’ – I think most people will really be able to relate to it, it doesn’t have to be rocket science!