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2010 Get a great graduate

»Engineering The Future


engineering & Technology Nuclear Industry Special Feature


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Contents On the cover


Upfront 06 E  ngineering The Future As Britain climbs out of the recession the engineering sector holds real opportunities for graduates. We explore the latest trends. 08 Great Expectations An industry expert and a Dean of Engineering give the inside track on jobs in engineering.

REAL WORLD FEATURES 10 G  reen Is The Colour Real World discovers out why Britain’s energy resources are becoming greener. 14 Nuclear Special Feature Investment in nuclear power is producing a surge in recruitment. Could nuclear be for you? 18 British Racing Green How the Student Formula competition is helping graduates into employment in motorsport. 20 C  ase Studies Recent graduates tell us what the world of work is really like. 28 The IT Crowd Jobs in IT are finally losing their geeky image. 30 D  igital Britain Dr Andrew Tucson of City University, explains why the IT button is most definitely on. 38 First Past The Post Why postgraduate study is becoming increasingly popular with students. 41 Postgraduate Case Studies 46 Think Big The UK’s biggest construction projects mean big job opportunities.

coming up this autumn >> Everything you need to know to get that perfect job in our issues: City & Finance, Law, Diversity, and Work Experience

Precision Engineering


he economic downturn has had an impact on all areas of the British economy, and dramatically so on manufacturing and house building. But the engineering sector has been less badly affected and according to a recent report in the Independent, the really good news is ‘demand for engineering graduates is often outstripping supply’. Engineering graduates leave university with a highly regarded skillset much in demand from other sectors, and traditionally many engineering grads have been poached by financial services employers. Now, a greater proportion of engineering grads are actually starting work as engineers on some of the most exciting projects the UK has seen in years. All this and the government’s commitment to switching to greener sources of energy mean exciting times for engineers. Meanwhile, as we all become more reliant on technology the world of IT is booming. In this issue of Real World we explore what the next generation of British engineers and IT graduates can expect from their careers and where their jobs will be. Our case studies with recent graduates, now out in the real world of work, will show you what to expect when you do secure your first job, and in our nuclear special we discover what the nucleargraduates initiative means for future graduates. If Britain is to flourish in the future it will need the best graduate brains to help it build a sustainable infrastructure – and that means you! If you have any comments on the features in this issue, or if there’s something not included that you feel should be then please do email me at

Dee Pilgrim, Editor

P10 P14 Editorial: Editor Dee Pilgrim • Senior Reporter Catherine Watson • Designer Yang Ou • Advertising: Sales Paul Wade, Harmesh Sansoa, Allanah Bradley • Online Brett Singer • Marketing/Distribution Manager Zoe Bowthorpe • Client Services Manager Louise Ashcroft • Managing Director Darius Norell • Real World is a publication of Cherry Publishing: 22-26 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TJ • Tel: 020 7735 4900, Editorial – 020 7735 2111 Fax: 020 7840 0443 • E-mail: • Website: Copyright © 2009 Cherry Publishing No part of this publication may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher. We cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts and photographs or for material lost or damaged in the post. The views in this publication or on our website are not necessarily those held by the publisher.



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engineering the future

While manufacturing in the UK has taken a massive hit during the economic downturn, it seems that the engineering sector has been less badly affected. According to the AGR Graduate Recruitment Survey 2009 Summer review, engineering accounts for 7.5 per cent of all vacancies and graduate salaries have risen by 2.2 per cent.


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ngineering is a huge sector covering everything from the design to actual construction of engines, machines and structures, and includes the areas of aerospace, automotive, mechanical, electronics, software and defence, construction, civil engineering, and structural engineering. In its Engineering UK 2008 report, the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) states: ‘Engineering will continue to offer a steady future to engineers and technicians in the long term. Although there has been much despondency spread by those bemoaning a fall in the number of engineering graduates, in reality there has been a 7 per cent increase in E&T HE applications in the last five years. Over the same period, the number of E&T graduates has grown by more than 2 per cent. There has also been much debate about the proportion of E&T graduates entering employment as engineers. The data indicate that just under two-thirds of E&T graduates enter employment of some kind six months after graduation….Three quarters of these E&T graduates take up

A BETTER BRITAIN Areas seeing significant growth are transport infrastructure (including rail, highways and bridges) and also environmental engineering (such as drainage). According to leading specialist recruitment consultancy, Hays Engineering, those professionals who can demonstrate experience working in areas such as these are going to be in high demand. Massive projects such as Crossrail and the High Speed 1 (HS1) rail link, along with all the transport links to the Olympic site, are fuelling this demand. ‘Rail, signal and electrification engineers are all keenly sought specialist skills. Roles for rail engineers exist at all levels of experience, from graduate and intermediate, through to senior engineering jobs appointments,’ says Sean Fitzgerald, senior consultant at Hays Engineering. Elsewhere, climate change and the subsequent increased incidence of flooding in the UK is fuelling the need for land drainage and flood defence experts. The Environment Agency is

employment with an engineering employer, while just 3.1 per cent of E&T

now working with local authorities to mitigate the damaging effects of future

subject graduates entering employment have gone to work for a financial services

flooding by conducting flood risk and alleviation studies. ‘The demand for

employer.’ More good news is that starting salaries are holding up with the

land drainage engineers has spiralled and the recommendations from Sir

median graduate starting salary being roughly £24,000 to £27,000. However, a startling 75 per cent of engineering organisations predict recruitment shortfalls in 2009, echoing the recent warning by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s chief executive that demand for engineering graduates is often outstripping supply * The ETB report comments on the fact civil engineer occupations and chemical engineer occupations are those with the largest shortfalls, as are specific physicists, geologists and meteorologists, so if you are graduating in these specific disciplines the outlook for your future employment is definitely good.

Michael Pitt’s Flood Review final report (2008) have only added to the importance of these specialist roles,’ says Grant Edwards, manager for Hays Engineering. The assessment and inspection of bridge structures has also created opportunities for qualified structural bridge engineers and bridge inspectors to work on the UK’s canals and estuaries.


For more information see our Engineering section at or go to *(source:, 27 November 2008)


Photography: © iStockphoto

engineering | overview



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great expectations o for engineers Both an industry insider and a Dean of Engineering explain why engineering is still a great career to pursue.


ndy Hardacre is the MD of ATA, one of the UK’s leading recruitment consultancies in the engineering, rail, energy, technical sales, and construction sectors. ATA specialises in the SME engineering sector (any engineering company between 50 and 250 employees) and although both manufacturing and construction have been hit by the

economic downturn, with a subsequent knock-on effect in engineering, he is surprisingly optimistic about future prospects. He says: ‘In comparison to sectors such as construction the engineering sector has held up fairly well, although it is tough at present. ‘I’m expecting for the UK manufacturing base to grow out of the back of this recession and so anything



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within engineering and the manufacturing environment in the next ten years will be a growth area, especially because the pound is so weak, therefore we are far more competitive in the export market. I think the UK manufacturing sector will grow significantly over the next ten years because the China bubble will burst at some point.’ Such a bullish outlook may seem

unrealistic, but Andy says there are many reasons why, post-recession, Britain will be in a better position than other countries to expand its engineering sector.‘Before the recession there was an enormous skills shortage in the engineering sector. Manufacturing output had become higher than it had been for 20 odd years despite the fact many companies had outsourced manufacturing to Eastern Europe. But as the Eastern European countries have come into the EU economic conditions have made it far less attractive to manufacture in Eastern Europe, so companies have started to manufacture here in the UK again. So, if you asked me if someone who is doing an engineering degree now would have good job prospects in three years time I’d say yes, they would, far more then in areas traditionally seen as growth areas such as IT.’ Roger Pollard, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Member and Dean of Engineering at The University of Leeds, agrees with him. ‘The emphasis on sustainability, renewable energy, electricity generation and distribution means that this is a very good time to enter the sector. Also, a steady shortfall in graduation of engineers over the past 20 or so years means than many people who started in the boom years are coming up to retirement and there will be a shortage which may mean high demand, large salaries, and employment of foreign engineers,’ he explains. ‘Engineering is all about inventing things which haven’t been done before; which solve real problems; which have the potential to contribute to the quality of life, and to improve the environment. Yes, it’s still

take on when the projects start to flow again, before loading up their fixed costs by taking on salaried staff,’ he explains. ‘The indicator I’m looking for for any recovery is the beginning of growth in the number of contractors, then the permanent staff will follow on the back of that.’ Contracting can be a very lucrative career however, it’s almost impossible for someone straight out of university to go into contracting. If you think the freedom of working on fixed-term contracts is for you, Andy’s advice is to gain three or four years’ experience with a company before giving it a try. ‘Contractors who specialise in oil and gas are especially well-paid because as they become more experienced, they can get positions where there are only 10 or 15 people in the country who can do their jobs. When they get to that level they can charge a premium; contractors can earn £400 or £500 pounds a day, and there are plenty of contractors out there earning over £100,000 a year.’ Roger Pollard believes some of the major advances in engineering in the next ten years will be in miniaturisation and integration. He says: ‘Perhaps a single electronic device will be developed that you carry in your pocket and encompasses all the stuff you normally carry - communications, keys (security), money. There will be major changes in energy, transport, healthcare related areas, sustainable infrastructure, and also a blurring of the divisions between disciplines.’ At present, the average wage for engineers ATA finds positions for is between £25,000 and £30,000 with top end

exciting and is a more fulfilling career than any other that I can think of and it will give

engineers in full-time positions earning between £60,000 and £70,000. If you are

you the opportunity to make a difference in helping to solve the world’s big

currently doing, or have recently completed, an engineering undergraduate

problems and improve the environment and quality of life for everyone.’

degree and want to move up the career ladder quickly then Andy’s advice is simple:


‘What I would urge engineers to do is to invest in more skills training: gain further

At ATA they place Project Engineers, Design Engineers, and Commissioning Engineers in both permanent positions and on contract. Although Andy admits contracting saw a marked decline at the beginning of the year, that trend is now definitely slowing, which indicates the decline is bottoming out. ‘Contractors tend to be the first people companies

qualifications; attend specialist training courses run by manufacturers and when the market starts to pick up again people who have done so will be at the top of the pile of prospective employees because they’ve done something pro-active to improve their skills. Candidates need to make themselves as competitive as they can be.’ n


Photography: © iStockphoto

engineering | overview



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Though the economy may be slowing because of the recent economic downturn, it would appear the future growth of the green energy sector remains secure. Zach Schalk reports on the green shoots of the green revolution.

green is the colour


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green energy | overview

ast summer, the UK government essentially guaranteed the expansion of the green energy job market with its pledge to increase the use of renewable energy while cutting carbon emissions. Not only has the government committed to increasing the proportion of electricity from renewable sources from 9.7 per cent of energy use this year, to 15.4 per cent by 2016, but it has also promised to invest £100 billion in the green energy economy over the next 12 years. Jobs are expected to be created across all sectors of green energy -- 160,000 by 2020 according to Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- and recruiting

area graduates should want to go into, it is an area they should go into, because politically it is very acceptable, and morally it is very acceptable. Even though there has been a bit of a financial hit, relatively speaking it is a brand new area that has only really taken off in the last two to five years and there is no shadow of a doubt in terms of growth, excitement, and improving the technology, there is a mass there for young, aspiring, innovative engineers to get involved in.’ The wind energy sector is expected to hold the most opportunities for graduates. By exploiting Britain’s naturally windy environment, the

Array the world’s largest wind farm. Hewett emphasises the strong future of wind energy in the UK: ‘The potential growth in terms of approved projects off shore in the UK and north sea is stunning for the next five years so there is masses of scope there.’ Gary Hewett explains there are many similarities between the more established engineering sectors and the emerging wind energy industry: ‘ In areas where there is a shortage of experienced people, then transferring skills from oil and gas businesses offshore, to offshore wind farm construction is not a big step. It is the same kind of work – working at height,

services are responding by increasing their focus on green technologies.

government hopes to make the UK a hub for wind power. The boldest effort to

working at sea; it is lots of power and distribution, safety type roles,

Gary Hewett, managing director at UK based engineering recruitment firm ATA

establish British wind power will begin construction this summer 12 miles off the

transmission and distribution, so there are lots of parallels. Here at ATA we are

Energy, encourages graduates to explore the options offered in the green energy sector for several reasons, despite the recent economic slowdown. He says: ‘I don’t just think this is an

coasts of Kent and Essex. Called the London Array, the first stage will include 175 turbines covering 90 square miles. Future plans are already in the works for further expansion that will make the

looking at suitable transferable skills in order to fill the demand in the renewable energy sector.’


Photography: © iStockphoto




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green energy | overview

if used properly, geothermal power could supply between 10 and 20 per cent of the uk's electricity needs remain to be answered, hydroelectric power will likely play a key role in future

power has vast potential as a key source of alternative energy. Plans to build the

other potential forms of renewable energy that will be key if it is to meet its long-term

attempts to cut the UK’s carbon emissions. The Government supports a

country’s first geothermal power plant at Cornwall’s Eden Project were announced

goals of carbon emissions reduction. Other sectors expecting a boost as the UK seeks

plan to build a £12bn barrage between Cardiff and Weston-Super-Mare in the

earlier this summer, and expansion seems imminent. Supporters say that if used

to green its energy are: SOLAR POWER SECTOR: One of the key components for the UK to meet its stated renewable energy goals will be the growth of the solar power industry coupled with its expanded use. One of the fastest growing sectors within solar power is Photovoltaics (PVs), in which solar cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. Professor Stuart Irvine of Glyndŵr University predicts that 1,200 new jobs will be created in the PV industry in Wales, home of the UK’s largest solar energy plant, by 2025. HYDROPOWER: While costs remain high and some questions of environmental impact

near future, which some estimate can provide 6 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs when fully operational. In Strangford Lough, Marine Current Turbines have recently installed the first commercial marine turbine and will be testing its effectiveness and impact on the area’s unique environment over the next five years. If successful, the experiment could lead to an even greater expansion of hydroelectric power throughout the UK. Estimates report that anywhere from 5 to 20 per cent of British electrical needs can feasibly be supplied by hydropower. GEOTHERMAL POWER: Though still in its early stages of development in the UK, geothermal

properly, geothermal power could supply between 10 and 20 percent of the UK’s electricity needs. BIOFUELS: Despite criticism from environmentalists that biofuels are more carbon intensive than other forms of alternative energy, the government remains committed to expanding their use as an alternative to traditional fossil fuels. In early 2009, a £27 million research centre was created with the aim of replacing petrol in UK cars with biofuels. In a statement regarding the centre’s creation, minister for science and innovation Lord Drayson cited the centre as part of the government’s broader initiative to create “green collar jobs.” n

Illustration: © iStockphoto

While wind offers the largest opportunity for growth, Britain is also home to several



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259095 NDA 297x210



Page 1

Engineering. Science. Business. 500 places. 20+ companies. One amazing scheme.

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we've got The power A special feature on the nuclear industry

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nuclear industry special | nucleargraduates


ence seen as the future for all our energy needs Britain’s nuclear power plan stalled at the beginning of the millennium amid economic and safety concerns. But now we are seeing a major renaissance in interest in nuclear energy as more people, including green groups, wake up to the fact the nuclear option is a viable option if we are to have a cleaner, more secure and stable energy industry. The perception of working in the nuclear industry is also changing. The need for suitably skilled graduates is growing and so nucleargraduates, a fresh and exciting graduate programme, run by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, has been set up. Carl Dawson, the NDA’s man in charge of the scheme, claims: ‘It is probably the most comprehensive graduate programme the nuclear industry has ever seen. It’s an exciting time for the industry and nucleargraduates is committed to finding its future leaders.’


THE PARTNERS More than 30 stakeholder companies are involved to maximise the choice and diversity of the secondments. That means graduates could be getting real work experience with the likes of Magnox North and South, The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), Atkins, and the Environment Agency. Keith Parker is the Chief Executive of the NIA, he says: ‘Industry, the NDA and academia are all focused on making young peope aware of the careers that nuclear can offer. The key is we employ an extremely wide range of staff - not just technical experts. From project planners to communicators; nuclear new build and decommissioning will provide long-term high quality jobs right across the UK workforce.'

THE PROGRAMME The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority was set up to ensure the safe, accelerated and affordable clean up of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy. This is no

THE PEOPLE Although nucleargraduates gets huge numbers of engineering applicants exciting opportunities also exist for managers, financial experts, and in HR. Mike Kelk studied English Literature at Exeter and is now seconded to the Communications team of the NIA, the trade association of the industry. He says: ‘The thing with the nuclear sector is it is so big and there is so much you can do and I’m getting to do lots of little bits of it, so I have a really good idea of what I want to do in the future.’

easy task, and the actual process spans the whole industry, as does the


nucleargraduate scheme so that graduates can experience the task from

One thing Mike is really hoping to do is get to America on his secondment

all perspectives of the sector. Currently, the scheme is run over two

abroad. He’s already had placements in Cumbria and in London but he says if he

years and each graduate works on four secondments. The first three are six months long and based at companies in the UK, with a final three month secondment based abroad. Ten per cent of a graduate’s time is spent volunteering for Footprints, where they can put something back into the community by acting as ambassadors to local schools, or getting involved in social projects. This innovative structure means some of the current graduates have done amazing things. They’ve met with MPs to discuss the future of nuclear power, worked on multi-billion pound projects, and even helped to develop nationwide strategies. (Read our case studies with nucleargraduates overleaf.)

works hard, he could be off to New York. In fact, secondment arrangements have been agreed all over the world, including Japan, the USA and South Africa. THE PLUSES Last year undergraduates on the scheme started on £24,000, while postgrads started on £25,000. There’s also a Golden Hello payment meaning nucleargraduates is giving the next generation of our nuclear workforce the power to make real career choices.



For more information on the scheme and to apply go to To read nucleargraduates' stories go to RW 15


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operational role. While I was at Atkins I had a design role, and at Dounreay a support role.

Working as a graduate in this industry, you come across a lot of people who have been working in nuclear for 30 plus years. I like to think I bring a fresh pair of eyes to work! Matt Dodds

Had you contemplated a career in the nuclear sector while at university? No, I knew nothing about nuclear power. I thought Sellafield was the only nuclear power station that existed and I didn’t know anything about it. There was a nuclear module on my course, and I now regret not taking it.

What attracted you to the nuclear sector? Nuclear decommissioning is a challenge. There’s a lot of historical unknowns. That combined with the future nuclear new-build programme makes it a much more vibrant and secure sector than other engineering industries.

Degree: Aeronautical Engineering, University of Glasgow I am a nuclear engineer. What do you actually do? I’m currently on a six month secondment with Magnox North, and I work at a nuclear site in Scotland called Hunterston. I'm looking to see if it would be possible to introduce a new system to deal with the waste. Trouble is, it's an old builing never designed to cope with changes like this. Did you contemplate a career in the nuclear sector while at university? Not at all! When I was at university it was the Airbus, BAE Systems and European Space Agency graduate schemes I was checking out. I didn’t really know anything about nuclear other than from what I’d seen in The Simpsons… unfortunately there aren’t any doughnuts, just great prospects! What was it that attracted you to the sector? Initially it was the nucleargraduates scheme that was attractive to me rather than the industry itself. It was a new scheme, it seemed exciting, and gave me the opportunity to try a lot of different things which was good for me as I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left uni. It was only after I did some research into the industry that I started to get into it. I realised it was quite similar to the aerospace industry in that we are still using much of the same principles that we’ve been following for the past 50 years…but there is research going on all the time, and it almost feels we are on the brink of some major breakthroughs (an economic supersonic passenger jet for aerospace, nuclear fusion for nuclear…) What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? Dealing with nuclear waste...just seems pretty cool! Downside would be that most nuclear sites are located in the middle of nowhere like Cumbria or Kent. It takes a bit of getting used to after living in cities during university. Has anything amazing happened on your placements? I worked on developing a strategy on what some newspapers called

the “most dangerous building in Europe” and even managed to get a visit inside. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where it is! What skills do you need to succeed? You need to be willing to challenge the status quo. Working as a graduate in this industry, you come across a lot of people who have been working in nuclear for 30 plus years. I like to think I bring a fresh pair of eyes to work! What would you say to any graduates who are still unsure about nuclear? You don’t need to be involved in nuclear for long before you realise just how ridiculous the sensational tabloid headlines are. It really is a very safe industry, and nothing like The Simpsons! Also, a fact I read the other day was that you would have to live near a nuclear plant for 2000 years to equal the radiation exposure received from one medical X-ray!

What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? The wide range of experience is invaluable at such a young age and getting to live in such different locations gives you a better appreciation of the UK. The downside is that you can be stuck miles from friends and family and you can’t attend every event or gathering. However, it allows you to appreciate the local area in which you work. I have been living in Thurso at the top of Scotland. I have been able to see much nicer beaches than I’ve ever seen in Spain or Thailand, although they do tend to be a a bit colder! What skills do you need to succeed at what you do? It is all about being a people person and forgetting about your academic qualifications. Being able to get advice and information off people is much easier than trying to look for it in documents and drawings. What advice would you give other graduates wanting to come onto the scheme? You might get the opportunity to work in some remote locations, but don’t be worried as it’s a chance to develop new skills and interests in what is the growth industry of the next decade.

Is there anything you would like to add? What did one Uranium-238 nucleus say to the other? “Gotta split!” Who said scientists were boring?

John Daley Degree: Mechanical Engineering, Cambridge University I am a nuclear engineer. What do you actually do? During my various secondments while on the nucleaargraduates scheme I have performed a wide variety of tasks. During my time at Sellafield I filled an

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takes longer than you would imagine, usually decaades! I spend my time at work up here doing environmental monitoring. This is looking at the water, soil, air, plants and animals around Dounreay to understand the effects of the site is having on them – and make sure there are no surprises! Did you contemplate a career in the nuclear industry before university? Certainly not. I had considered myself “green” and therefore anti-nuclear! I never thought I’d be a shirt-and-tie bloke either, but alas! It’s definitely good to go out of your comfort zone.

‘ Becky Read Degree: Natural Sciences at The University of Birmingham. I am a policy adviser for the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the Nuclear Waste Team. What do you actually do? Policy Advisor is the generic name given to government officials that are either creating new polices or implementing existing policies. One of our key projects is to engage with local communities across England and to persuade them to come forward to start talking to the Government about potentially hosting a Geological Disposal Facility. This is a highly engineered facility that will store radioactive waste from nuclear power stations. I have therefore produced and am implementing a communication plan to engage with these local communities. What attracted you to the nuclear sector? An industry that is set for expansion is an attractive element for anyone, but the complexity of the industry and the challenges that it faces by the nature of the work were definitely aspects that attracted me. It also fulfilled my criteria that the science side of me would not be lost. What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? The people that I have met and worked with during my last two placements have not only been a great source of knowledge and have always been willing to teach and assist me, but also have made the placements truly enjoyable. It has been hard piling my belongings into a car every few months and trying to find new places to live, but on the other hand the experience that you gain through moving around is invaluable.

There are still many misconceptions about the nuclear industry and my friends and family still ask me if nuclear power stations glow green!

Has anything really memorable happened on your placements? The first was going inside a nuclear submarine, in a skirt! Not my fault may I add, but I didn’t feel particularly lady-like with my skirt hitched up under my protective clothing. The second was having a conversation with Ed Miliband about his newborn son. It was during the official opening of The Department of Energy and Climate Change. Having discussed the nucleargraduates scheme the conversation turned to talk about how he nearly called his newborn son after his wife’s anaesthetist. A little surreal! What would you say to reassure other graduates about the nuclear sector? There are still many misconceptions about the industry and my friends and family still ask me if nuclear power stations glow green! But, I have never worked in another industry where safety is at the top of everyone’s agenda.

What was it about the nuclear sector that attracted you then? When the opportunity to take this job came up it looked like a good opportunity to learn more about something I didn’t really know much about – and if I still had bad thoughts about nuclear by the end of it, then it would be better the devil I know! I liked the look of the job as well because two years is not a huge commitment, it offers the opportunity to see a lot of my own country and work internationally, and if nothing else I knew the science would be interesting. Also, I’d be lying if I said the pay wasn’t attractive! Has anything amazing happened since you’ve been on the programme? Dounreay is based in the north coast of Scotland and the nearest city is a two to three hour drive south and I thought I would go mad up here. In reality I wouldn’t have swapped the experience for anything. I entered the Halkirk Highland games and won £40 quid for taking 3rd place overall in the U25 category. I didn’t toss the caber though because it had rained the night before and somebody had left it in a ditch. It sucked up all the water and ended up weighing, like 80kg. Also, it turns out that I live next to one of the best surfing beaches in Europe. What would you say to reassure graduates about the nuclear sector? It doesn’t bite! n

Jim Forde Degree: Bsc in Environmental Science at the University of Nottingham. I am a nuclear scientist. What do you actually do? I am currently spending six months at Dounreay in the far north of Scotland. Dounreay was the site where a lot of the UK’s nuclear experiments took place. The site stopped operation in the mid-nineties and is now being decommissioned – when it comes to nuclear this always RW 17


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British Racing Green T

hese days, in order to be first past the chequered flag it is not enough to achieve the highest academic marks. Graduates must also demonstrate they have team working skills and the ability to work under pressure to tight timescales. One of the best ways for them to display their talents is to enter competitions, and for some postgraduates the project work undertaken during the competition counts towards their course. In automotive engineering Formula Student

is the biggest and best of its kind in Europe. Run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), in partnership with various well known companies in the industry, it promotes careers and excellence in engineering, by challenging university students to design, build, develop, market, and compete as a team with a small singleseater racing car. It provides the students with a real-life exercise in design and manufacture and the business elements of automotive

engineering. It demands total commitment, lots of late nights and challenges, but the net result is the development of highly talented young engineers. The finals of Formula Student 2009 took place at Silverstone back in July and attracted entries from universities all over the world. In fact, this year over 80 teams (35 of them from the UK) involving over 3,000 students participated at Silverstone Circuit. Both Ross Brawn (pictured above with competitors), head of the Brawn Formula One team, and former Formula



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Motorsport is a highly competitive environment, where practical experience really can make a candidate stand out when looking for their first job. Ross brawn

Lancashire and the University of Hertfordshire, which eventually won with an electric car (Central Lancashire’s bio-ethanol powered car come third). This marks two wins out of two Class A1 races for Hertfordshire, which also won last year’s Class1A competition with its hydrogen powered car. Captain of the winning team is James Major, a 23-yearold studying a Masters in Automotive Engineering. He says: ‘It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication and we’ve been competing against some of the top universities in the world. We had an uphill Last year, the Class 1A category was introduced for cars powered by ‘green fuels’ and this year seven teams entered this category. 'It's a great way to highlight the increasingly important role that alternative fuels, such as biofuels and hydrogen, will play in helping the UK's transportation sector move toward a lower carbon future,' says Robert Evans, CEO of the Centre of Excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies (Cenex). Teams competing in Class 1A included the University of Central

battle because the original 15 members of the team were all automotive or mechanical engineers, and so the electrical engineering has been a real challenge. However, it has also been beneficial to everyone working with the team because it has definitely added to our engineering knowledge.’ If you are studying engineering Formula Student could be just the kind of project to jumpstart your future engineering career. Find out more at n

Photography: © Gavin Ireland

One world champion, Damon Hill, came along to give their support while the teams competed in the five categories. Brawn said: ‘Motorsport is a highly competitive environment, where practical experience really can make a candidate stand out when looking for their first job and that’s where Formula Student comes in. The enthusiasm and commitment that I have seen at the Formula Student events I have attended fill me with optimism for the future of science and engineering in this country.’



1/10/09 19:37:54



What strengths do you think you need to succeed at what you do? To work at Earth Tech you need to be motivated, committed, a team player, flexible and proactive. Every day is different; you could be providing mechanical engineering assistance for a proposal one day, or working on site overseeing installation activities on another.

Nathan Holliday Degree: BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds Job: Monitored Professional Development Scheme with global water and environmental engineering company, Earth Tech Nathan was a member of the Territorial Army (British Army Parachute Regiment reserve) and is very proud to have earned the coveted maroon beret. He was given the opportunity to serve in Afghanistan but turned it down because of career commitments with Earth Tech. He managed to combine working as an engineer with being an active member of the TA. He enjoyed being part of a team, training every Tuesday night and every other weekend for four years. Have you always been interested in the engineering sector? I’ve always wanted to be an engineer because I’ve always had a fascination with all things technical and discovering how they work. I was very tempted to follow a military career but was offered a place on the structured graduate training scheme by Earth Tech. This is known as the Monitored Professional Development Scheme (MPDS) and lasts four years. The course is accredited by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and means I will be able to progress to Chartered Engineer status on completion. The scheme is great because it means you can work within each of the three areas the company specialises in: environmental, clean water, and waste water engineering. What types of projects have you worked on? The first project I worked on was a £10 million turnkey scheme within our environmental business sector for Severn Trent Water. The project was driven by the European Commission Waste Incineration Directive (WID) and involved up-grading two municipal waste incinerators by modifying their treatment processes to reduce emission levels.

What do you like about what you do? You are supported at every stage of your career here. The project team structure ensures that you are supervised at work with engineers of different disciplines close by to help. Plus there are numerous internal and external training courses available. The atmosphere in the head office in Tankersley is relaxed but professional. I have found everyone to be helpful and approachable. In terms of the social side of my job there are various sporting activities to get involved in. I enjoy breaking up the day by playing squash or running in my lunch hour.

I'm glad I didn't go down the pilot route as engineering has brought about more new avenues than I could imagine. Steph Smith

Degree: FdEng Aircraft Engineering (with EASA B1 exams), Kingston UniversityNewcastle Aviation Academy Job: Aircraft Mechanic M7, which is the first grade of engineer for British Airways What do you actually do? The job entails performing servicing and maintenance tasks on aircraft and its components as instructed, and filling in the required paperwork when a task has been successfully completed using personal identification to show who did the work. Other things I will be required to do are: drive and operate vehicles to make the tasks easier; extend my knowledge and skills with further training and experience; and make computer and document transactions using modern technologies. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? I wanted to be an airline pilot, but the lack of accessible opportunities made me reconsider what I wanted to do. I still wanted to stay within aviation and I thought that engineering would allow

me to still fly in my free time for fun. I’m glad now that I didn’t go down the pilot route as engineering has bought about more new avenues than I could imagine and I have gained new qualifications and experiences. How did you find out about this particular career/job? I knew there were ways to become an aircraft engineer as I had friends who were already working in the industry, but I wasn’t too keen on the five year training route through industry that they took, so I looked around for other options. I stumbled upon my degree course by accident. I saw the course title and found that this was a quicker route to gaining engineer status, but the advantage was that I gained a degree in the process, making it more worthwhile than going straight into industry. Would you undertake further study in order to gain promotion? I intend on topping up my degree to a BEng (Hons), but this will be part-time over two years using the free time I have outside of work in which to teach myself the required modules. Once you gain experience you gain type approvals for certain aircraft by going on the appropriate course, this boosts the scope of your engineer’s license. What do you like most about your job and are there any downsides? I enjoy the variety of work I get to do; there’s so many different tasks that you need to complete in order to fill out enough of your logbook to gain the B1 license. The work is challenging as it’s such a steep learning curve from coming straight from full-time education, but at the same time it is great fun. What skills do you need to make a success of what you do? You need to be hard working, and not afraid to ask questions when you get stuck. The workload to complete the course is intense and you have to do a lot in your own time, so a passion for what you’re doing makes it easier to stand.



1/10/09 19:38:18


Dominic Abbott Degree: Civil & Structural Engineering, University of Leeds Job: Graduate Engineer, Atkins What do you actually do? I work in rail solutions within Atkins as a graduate engineer. I have a varied work load that includes detailed design, feasibility studies and working on site. The project that I am currently involved in is the reconstruction of four different stations platforms within the north west of England. Why did you decide to go into this sector? I have always had an interest in engineering, especially structures. At school and college my strongest subjects were mathematics and physics. I saw civil engineering as the perfect opportunity to work in a job that not only was well suited to my technical ability but also something I was interested in. However, at the practice and advisors Would you undertake further training to progress your career? Definitely. Every engineer must always be willing to undertake training as it is vitally important that the services that we provide to our clients are the best there is to offer. The challenges which engineers face are always changing, so we must always be willing to listen and learn. One such challenge is climate change and here at Atkins we are being trained to consider carbon in all our designs. I am also working towards becoming a chartered engineer with the Institution of Civil Engineers which includes continued professional development courses. What do you like the most about what you do and are there any downsides? What I like most about my job is that it is extremely rewarding when the project that you are working on is completed on time, on budget and the client is happy with the end outcome. Knowing that you have completed the job and have completed it well is very satisfying. With every profession there are downsides and everybody has bad days at work, but these are very rare in my job.


What skills do you believe you need to succeed? Aside from having the technical skills that are required to be a civil engineer, the most important strengths are to be a good at communicating, good at working within a team and also be able to think ‘outside the box’. What advice would you give other graduates coming into this sector? Never be afraid to ask questions. Before getting on a career path you must make sure that it is right for you. By using websites and magazines such as this and talking to teachers, careers centres, family, etc, it will allow you to get a feel for what the sector involves and will ensure that your career choice is a better informed one and one that you will ultimately enjoy.

With some roles there is not a huge amount of technical knowledge needed, but you have to be able to communicate with colleagues. Andrew Cornish

Degree: BEng Mechanical Engineering with Automotive Design, University of Birmingham Job: Graduate engineer, Network Rail What do you actually do? I started with Network Rail in 2007 on the graduate scheme. To begin with I moved around the company on short placements, understanding the way the company is constructed. I then moved into longer placements starting with an assistant project manager role for a track renewal at Willesden over Christmas last year. Since then I have moved into a role as a vehicle track interaction engineer. The team looks at the contact forces between the vehicles and rails and also supports both the maintenance and engineering functions with understanding and managing rail issues. I am using modelling programmes to look at contact wear energy, and the way vehicles react to irregularities and slight alterations in lateral stiffness in reference to track damage. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? Yes. My father is an engineer for an oil company in Aberdeen, so I think that I have ‘caught the engineering bug’ from him.

How did you find out about this job? While at University I often went to careers fairs, and found Network Rail at a stand at the NEC. Previously I had not thought about a career in the railway, but it made a lot of sense to me and I was very impressed by the people at the fair and signed up online when I got home. Would you undertake further study to gain promotion? Yes. As part of the scheme, the company are looking for us to move forward with our professional development. I am currently on track to getting incorporated engineer status. However, I would not complete this in order to gain promotion. I see it as a chance to develop myself to reach my full potential. What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? So many people use the railway and passenger numbers are increasing to a huge number, and to be part of that there is a great feeling of achievement, especially when punctuality is increasing. I’m not a fan of working night shifts but it depends on where you are and how often you do them. Some people much prefer them though. So I guess it’s just what interests you. What skills do you believe you need to succeed? Communication. With some roles there is not a huge amount of technical knowledge needed, but you have to be able to communicate with colleagues at the correct level. I also think that it is a fantastic way to gain knowledge, as you are able to share stories and build on experiences. In those situations it is about who you know rather than what you know. What advice would you give to people coming into this sector? Ask questions. There are a lot of small things that need to be picked up, and it can be quite easy to be swept up in things. Sometimes I take a step back, and write down any questions i want answered.




1/10/09 19:38:39

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engineering | case studies

Mohamed Mashaal Degree: MEng Mechanical Engineering, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University Job: Drilling Engineer, BP What it is you actually do? I help with planning the drilling of wells to reach geological targets that have been selected based on their hydrocarbon potential. I propose casing design options for the well, ‘casing’ being pipe that is run into the hole after drilling a certain distance in order to isolate formation fluids and pressures and maintain wellbore stability, before the next ‘section’ of the well can be drilled. I use specialist software to run simulations on a casing design to see how it performs under different loading scenarios and especially how well it resists burst, collapse and axial failure. This aids in the selection of the optimum design to go forward to the next design stage. Again, specialist software is used to perform calculations on the drillstring that is to be used to drill the well, providing graphical outputs of torque, drag and hydraulic performance. Hydraulic performance is very important, as the rig pumps have to be able to provide sufficient horsepower to pump drilling fluid down the drillstring, through nozzles in the bit (providing cooling and lubrication), up the annulus between the drillstring and the wellbore (picking up cuttings from the bit’s penetration into the formation) and back to surface. The drilling fluid has to first and foremost provide sufficient hydrostatic pressure to balance the formation fluid pressure and prevent any influx of oil, gas or water (known as a ‘kick’). I work very closely with the Lead Drilling Engineer and the Geologist within BP, as well as personnel from service companies to ensure that the design is right. Why did you decide to go into this sector? I did a summer internship with BP in 2006, at their base in Aberdeen,

I enjoyed the excitement of being at the rigsite, where the action was, and learning so much in such a short space of time.

while I was still a university student and this kick started my career. I managed to spend a week offshore on a semisubmersible drilling rig while I was researching for a project. A BP internship gives you a real job, with real opportunities and my project was studying the performance of the rig as it attempted to drill an appraisal well in water depth at the limits of its normal operating capacity. This was necessary because of the shortage at the time in high specification drilling rigs around the world. I enjoyed the excitement of being at the rigsite, where the action was, and learning so much in such a short space of time, while also producing something valued to the business. The novelty of flying to work in a helicopter was also something I found hard to resist! Following my graduation from university, I subsequently spent my first year with the company flying offshore once a month for two weeks to learn more about the drilling operation as well as help manage drilling equipment logistics to and from the rig. Would you undertake further training to further your career? Of course! Given the environment in which we operate, training is an enormous part of the BP culture. Here at BP we have training in design, planning, safety, drilling, well engineering, and modelling.

Ercihan Kiraci Degree: MSc Engineering Business Management, Warwick Job: Project Engineer, the International Automotive Research Centre, University of Warwick “Much more than an MSc” “Academic excellence combined with an inspiring collaborative environment.” That’s how Ercihan Kiraci described WMG after spending full-time studying for an MSc in Engineering Business Management. A qualified mechanical engineer, Ercihan came to the UK in 2005 to broaden his skills and professional experience. He began


looking around UK universities for a course that would reinforce his technical knowledge with an understanding of up-to-date business practices. Why did you decide on this particular course? I considered a number of courses before deciding on WMG. Quite simply, Warwick’s course is unique in the way it is taught. What I found particularly attractive was the range of companies they collaborate with: technological pioneers like Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and BAe Systems for example. The course comprises a series of core and specialist course modules in key subjects including Product Design & Development Management; Project Planning, Management & Control; Financial Analysis & Control Systems; Logistics & Operations Management; Organisations, People & Performance; Strategic Marketing; Quality, Reliability and Maintenance. There is also a project to complete worth 50 per cent of the final grade and mine focused on knowledgebased engineering.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Warwick? Being able to study and work with people from different countries across the world was a great experience. There was a real diversity of backgrounds, skills and interests that added immeasurably to my time at Warwick. It made for a genuinely all-round education. It’s an opportunity to improve yourself at every level. WMG gives you the support to explore your own ideas and areas of interest – as well as helping you to reach your personal aspirations. Also, the Warwick Skills Certificate has been a big benefit to me, enabling me to build valuable skills in a wide range of areas including time management, excellence in business communication, and making effective presentations. What do you actually do now? The Product Evaluation Team is led by Dr. Mark Williams at the International Automotive Research Centre at the University of Warwick. The team is leading in the field of product evaluation through the research and development of advanced metrology technologies and methods.




1/10/09 19:39:01


engineering | case studies

manufacturing in the future, which would enable me to gain chartered status.

Rachel Gilbert Degree: Chemistry (BSc) before going on to complete an MSc in Pollution and Environmental Control, both at The University of Manchester Job: Operations Graduate BAE Systems Submarine Solutions What do you actually do? I am currently helping to build the Astute class nuclear powered submarines for the Royal Navy. As a graduate you move throughout the business completing a number of placements over the two-year scheme. These placements are usually three months in length and it is up to us as individuals to decide which placements will be most beneficial to building our future career. I am in my first year of the Graduate Development Framework (GDF), based at the Barrow-in-Furness site. The Operations function is where the actual building of the submarine takes place, perhaps known more commonly as manufacturing and production. This is where large units of a submarine are joined together to form a complete hull, and its many operating systems tested. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? I was originally interested in pursuing a career within chemical sciences, and hadn’t considered engineering as an option, not realising it was possible because of my degree background. I originally applied to BAE Systems for a project management role, but my recruiting line manager encouraged me to join the operations function. Would you undertake further study to gain promotion? Although I work in operations, I am learning skills in project management to help me to become a better manager for the business. To support this I am currently undertaking a Post Graduate Certificate in Applied Project Management at Lancaster University. I may also do a Masters qualification in

What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? The most exciting thing about my work is the variety - the opportunity to move around placements. Experiencing very different aspects of a submarine’s life in the build process exposes you to a huge range of working environments and the chance to develop different skills. I am currently in a construction placement, dealing with submarine build support issues, chasing the various materials required, and working with those responsible for the commissioning of the boat’s complex operating systems. I enjoy the fast pace and interaction with others which comes as a part of that.

At the age of 29 I decided to retrain in something that was mentally challenging; engineering seemed like the perfect option. Nick Warde

Degree: MEng Civil & Coastal Engineering, University of Plymouth. Job: Graduate Civil Engineer with Babcock – Marine Division. What do you actually do? I am currently on the graduate training programme at Devonport Royal Dockyard, which is one of three UK dockyards which are either owned and/or operated by Babcock. Babcock is responsible for the re-fitting and re-fuelling of the British nuclear deterrent submarines, the re-fitting of its attack class submarines, and deep maintenance work on the majority of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet. It may not immediately be apparent what a Structural/Civil Engineer might be working on in this environment! The Babcock graduate programme allows me to spend two years working around the company in various different roles so that I can get a good overview of the business as a whole; after this I will take a more permanent position within a part of the business for about 18 months. The nature of the programme means that I am not just exposed to the usual types of work you would find in a civil/structural engineering practice and that there are opportunities to work both in design

teams and as a project engineer overseeing site works. There are also opportunities for me to work on project and production teams on warships and submarines. Some of the work I have been involved with so far includes: •F  inite element modelling one of the steel dock entrance ship caissons (a floating gate to allow a dock to be pumped dry) to investigate what maintenance work might be required and establish its expected life. •O  verseeing the installation of a civils project within one of the nuclear facilities and reviewing the proposed design to ensure it was fit for purpose. • Working directly for the executive team in a support function helping to review future business objectives and gaining a strategic picture of how the company operates. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? No, this is actually my second career. I served as an Aircrew Officer in the Royal Navy and then Sales Manager for VW before going to university at the age of 29. I decided to retrain and wanted a career that would challenge me mentally; engineering seemed like the perfect option. I chose Civil Engineering because of the diverse nature of the work that it covers. How did you find out about this particular career? I found out about Civil Engineering by looking into what engineering courses were available and deciding exactly what it was that I wanted from my career. I did a lot of research into the different engineering fields before making my final choice. As for my current job with Babcock, I was lucky enough to hear about a position on the Graduate Scheme by word of mouth from someone who was already working in the company; Babcock doesn’t take on many civil engineers so I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.




1/10/09 19:39:19

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engineering | case studies

Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence Degree: Undergraduate: MEng in Engineering and Material Science at Oxford University (2000-2004) Postgraduate: PhD in the Electrical Engineering at Imperial College London (2004-2008) Job: Research Fellow, Imperial College What do you actually do? I work in the Optical and Semiconductor Devices group in the Electrical Engineering Department at Imperial College. In this job I have worked on hardware which was installed on the Phoenix Mars Lander which was a spacecraft which landed in the northern plains of Mars a year ago. I helped plan the microscopy activities for the mission and helped assemble and test a copy of the flight hardware and software of the microscopy station. I then went out to America for three months to work as an Instrument Downlink Engineer during mission operations. There I had particular responsibilities for checking the state of health of the instruments, inspecting the data returned to Earth and deciding on the next day’s operations. Now I am back in the lab in London at Imperial College analyzing the data from the mission and running experiments back on Earth. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? Yes, as a young child I loved LEGO and Rubik’s cubes… and I still do! I have always been scientifically-minded so engineering was a natural choice for me. How did you find out about this particular career/job? I had always been excited by space science as it is real exploration and science, as well as pushing our boundaries in terms of technology. I found an interesting project which involved developing hardware for NASA’s Phoenix Mars mission, and this was to be the topic for my PhD. This developed into my direct involvement.

I enjoy the problemsolving element of the job and it's great to have been trusted with this responsibility.

What do you like most about your job and are there any downsides? Development is what Engineering is about: how it can change our world and our understanding of it. For me it is all about those moments where the experiments no-one else has done before give new results and understanding. That is the most important and exciting part of engineering. I do real research trying to solve problems no-one has tried or been able to

solve before and I love the excitement of discovering new things. In my particular field, the downside is probably finding funding for projects. Although space science is a very exciting field, there are limited resources, especially in the UK. And it’s not cheap! What skills do you need to succeed? Although application of theories is important, as someone working in the academic environment, I believe that idea generation is the most important part of the process.

Adam Fairman Degree: Chemical Engineering, Cambridge University. Job: Efficiency Initiatives Project Manager, Kelda Water Services. What do you actually do? I work for Kelda Water Services in Wales as Efficiency Initiatives Project Manager.  I manage all the various new initiatives in the business that are aimed at saving money. I also carry out the feasibility work and project manage them to see them through to completion. It’s an interesting role: I get involved in many different parts of the business and see through positive changes to the way we do things.  Many of the initiatives are around saving energy, as this is a major expense for a sewage treatment company.  I enjoy the problem solvingelement and it’s great to have been trusted with this responsibility. How did you get your job? I graduated in 2005 and spent the year in-between job hunting and temping. I was looking for a job in the water industry where my technical background would be relevant but I wouldn’t be restricted to that area. I started the programme with a 2 week induction programme. It was a great chance to get to know other

graduates and learn more about Yorkshire Water and the Kelda Group. The programme is structured around 3-4 month placements in the different Kelda Water Services companies. My first placement was with Delta Water Services, I was thrown straight in with real work and real responsibility. This meant I could get out of the office and see firsthand how things work. It was a very good first placement. I learnt some of the basics of the business and the way things work on the ground, whilst making a real contribution. I then moved further afield to South Wales. Here I worked with the Sludge Team and was challenged with finding the costs of treating sludge and suggesting ways of reducing them. I was able to present my findings to the board and leadership team. This was a daunting experience but well worth it. I spent some time in both clean and wastewater business units of Yorkshire Water.  This gave me the added benefit of seeing how things are done in the different environment of a regulated business and build up some contacts there.  An important ingredient in the success of the Kelda group is the sharing of knowledge across the business. I then went for a second stint in Wales.  I worked in the call centre for a few months, a reminder of what an impact we have on consumers, which is easy to forget when you work at a sewage treatment works.  There I helped to prepare our Quality Management System ready to be audited.  And during that time I got the role that I’m in now. What did you do when you started at Kelda? Designing and writing an operations manual for several clean water treatment processes on RAF and Army bases, and I was very impressed by the fact that my views were taken seriously and have been acted upon.n



1/10/09 19:39:42

Guess why Ian Hill (MIET) got the job It’s obvious really. Having letters after your name really does give you a professional advantage. When you become a full member of the IET you gain the right to use MIET after your name. An internationally recognised qualification such as Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) is even more prestigious and the IET can help support you to achieve these and progress your career to the next level. When you consider that the IET registers more engineers than any other professional body in the country, you’ll see that it makes sense to become a member.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology is registered as a Charity in England & Wales (no 211014) and Scotland (no SC038698)


26/8/09 19:49:41 16:09:12 1/10/09


IT isn’t just for geeks in basements. These days it can offer exciting careers in anything from fashion to forensics. Real World explores why the IT crowd is fast becoming the IN crowd.



1/10/09 19:41:15

technology | overview



oor old IT. For years it has suffered from an image problem, with most people believing it is the refuge of sad souls with more affinity for computers than humans. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. According to the President’s Report 2008, from Intellect (the trade organisation for the IT sector): ‘The technology sector is not just an important sector in its own right, it is a key enabler of all other industries in the UK…. Recent research by the Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), shows that the competitiveness of the UK economy is underpinned by the presence of a strong technology sector. With the technology sector playing a significant role in the UK economy, generating over £35 billion of Gross Value Add (GVA), employing over five million people in the wider knowledge economy, and with over one in twenty of the UK workforce an IT professional, it is vital that we safeguard its future.’ Maggie Berry is the Director of Women in Technology (WIT) and she admits the image of IT has been a stumbling block in the past. ‘What people perceive as jobs in IT are actually far removed from the truth. We need to make people aware of the sheer breadth and range of jobs available in the sector and the amazing careers people can forge for themselves. Yes, sometimes it can be geeky, but it is also about working with technology that is absolutely cutting edge and has a huge impact on the success of a business. Why would you not want to be in a position where the work you do can generate income, help your company survive, and achieve a lot more in this recession?’ Maggie explains that although IT is an industry in itself, it also impacts on every other sector. ‘If you work in law, there will be IT systems that support all the solicitors, and if you work in medicine there will be IT systems there, especially in the NHS. So it’s not all about working for Microsoft or Sun, it is across all industries and you can be a technologist in any of them, which is great.’ This also happens to be a sector where good communication skills and logical thinking are just as

Women in Technology British Computer Society E-Skills Intellect

a computer science degree -- language graduates are often good at technology because they have the right skill sets. Pay tends to be good with the average starting salary for a graduate being £24,000. Across the sector the average salary is £37,000, but you can significantly boost your earnings above that level. ‘If you specialise in a certain niche within technology then you can earn significant amounts by becoming a consultant – contractors can earn hundreds of pounds a day,’ explains Maggie. ‘I’d say to all technology students make sure you get some work experience before graduating (especially in web based stuff rather than the older mainframe technologies), so you’ll know which area you want to go into when you start your career. As a graduate coming in I would recommend they try a few different things and work out what it is they really like and then build from there. Many of the graduate schemes actually do placement rotations so you can work out where you fit in best.’ n

Photography: © iStockphoto

important as having a technology-based degree. Many firms will train up bright candidates even if they don’t have



1/10/09 19:40:35


he Digital Britain report was published earlier this year and contains actions and recommendations to maximise the social and economic benefits from digital technologies. It is a sector where Britain has internationally recognised strengths and if, as expected, the volume of digital content increases up to one hundredfold over the next three  to five years, then we are on the verge of a “big bang” in the communications industry that will provide the UK with enormous economic and industrial opportunities. Lord Carter, who chaired the report, stated: ‘The UK’s digital dividend will transform the way business operates, enhance the delivery of public services, stimulate communications infrastructure ready for nextgeneration distribution, and preserve Britain’s status as a global hub for media and entertainment.’ Dr Andrew Tucson, Head of Computing at City University London, certainly agrees with that, but says the biggest challenge ahead will be matching graduates with the right skills with the high quality jobs that will be on offer. ‘There has been a crisis within IT because we’ve basically been unable to locate people of the right quality,’ he says. ‘Because of the increase in offshoring during the last ten years the IT industry in the UK has reinvented itself and these days it is not just programming work but high level, high skill work with high quality technology development.’ He says what graduates now coming into the industry need is not just technological skills but also the ability to solve business problems. ‘They need to be business aware,’ he says bluntly. ‘At City we teach business skills and because of this we have a high employability rate for our IT students. About 75 per cent of our graduates actually go into the IT industry (elsewhere the figure is about 50 per cent). This is because we concentrate on professional development models, business awareness, business facing areas and we run placements, as work experience is very important.’ Dr Tucson is well aware of the impact IT and new technologies have had on the British economy. ‘IT is so important in all businesses, from financial services to retail, that’s why we need to support students doing Masters from other disciplines who want to come into the IT area,’ he explains. ‘We need to look at talent from other areas because although I believe we are getting better quality students now than back in 2001, applications for IT Computer Science degrees have actually halved, and the evidence is that graduates from other areas are now beginning to look at IT as a career with great potential.’ During the recession the IT industry has been far less affected than most other areas mainly because when companies look to cut costs and make their business more efficient they need IT professionals to do that for them. IT is essential for the effective running of any business and can effectively change the way people work both in the public and private sectors. 55 per cent of UK productivity is in the technology sector. Dr Tucson believes the sector will continue to grow and points to the following areas where there will be the most growth: ‘IT is essential to the financial sector, and growth in financial IT will continue. Another big growth area is services, the provision of services and technical servicing. Graduates should also look at the creative industries -- computer games, film special effects, and the media -- all of which are heavily dependent on IT and there is a global market for these skills.’



digital britain | the future


Photography: Š iStockphoto

digital britain




didn’t really know much about careers available. Of all the companies I applied to, Deutsche impressed me most at interview – with their welcoming, supportive atmosphere I immediately knew that this was the perfect place to start my career.

Johannes Woolard Degree: BA Computer Science, University of Oxford Job: IT Security Analyst, Deutsche Bank. What do you actually do? I run security reviews and provide consultancy services for the Deutsche Bank IT portfolio of 3,500 applications. In my role I concentrate on the UK, US and South America. I am on the Deutsche Bank Graduate Programme, which provides support and training for new graduates and gives us a leg up in our careers. I really would recommend joining a graduate programme – the support you get and the networks you build are invaluable. Were you always interested in IT as a career? ‘Always’ is perhaps too strong a word, but I have been passionate about technology since before my A levels. Until I started work, I was unaware of the huge variety of career paths available in IT: varying from the purely technical (as a developer), through project management (coordinating all the work that goes into a large IT project), all the way to business analysis (breaking down the communication barriers between technical and non-technical groups).

Problem solving is vital. You need the drive to find out why something isn’t working and how you can make it work.

How did you find out about this particular job? I actually applied to Deutsche Bank for the internship programme during my second year at university. At the time, I was sure that I wanted to work in IT but

Would you undertake further study in order to gain promotion? Absolutely, IT is an ever changing field and it is important to keep up with the latest developments. Of course, non-technical training is important too – as you move on with your career you start to use more and more ‘soft skills’ and these need to be nurtured and developed. Any good employer will offer training to help you with your career. What do you like most about your job and are there any downsides? The people: I get to talk to people on three or four continents every day! Working with the different cultures is a fascinating challenge. I also like the technical aspect; I get to investigate a different part of the bank’s IT systems all the time, and I’m continually learning about new challenges and solutions. Every job has an element of grind – mine is reporting: creating the daily and weekly reports that are forwarded onto management is a chore, but when managers come back and single you out for praise it is all worth it.

How did you find out about this particular career/job? I was looking for summer internships in London in 2006, when a friend told me about Bloomberg. I went to the Bloomberg careers website, applied for the internship and after a few interviews, I was offered the job. After the 12 week internship I was offered a permanent position for the following training class which started after my graduation in 2007. I took the offer and started at Bloomberg in September 2007. Would you undertake further study in order to gain promotion? Yes I would. It is vital in my job to stay ahead of the game. Bloomberg uses cutting-edge technologies and it is important to keep up with innovations. Therefore, part of my job is to keep on learning every day. What do you like most about your job and are there any downsides? I like the great variety of projects that I work on. I get to work on different technologies and interesting problems. Also, I like that I keep responsibility for my projects. I also like being able to work closely with our users.

Stefan Bauer Degree: Computer Science, University of Darmstadt, Germany. After the second year of his five year course Stefan went to Lancaster University where he was allowed to skip the first year of a three year computer science course. He graduated from Lancaster 2007 Job: Financial Software Developer, Bloomberg What do you actually do? I work in a team of eight people. We mainly develop workflow applications for Bloomberg Data Analysts. I work on both the user interface and the server side which gives me the best of both worlds. I work very closely with our users on the user interface. My time is usually split into 80 per cent developing new functionality, and 20 per cent fixing and enhancing existing products.

What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to make a success of what you do? Obviously, as a Software Developer, you will need strong technical strength. Besides that, you will need good communication skills. I think there’s still a dogma attached to us programmers that we’re geeky and unable to communicate with the rest of the world. In reality, we hardly ever work on a project alone. In most cases we’re part of a team with which we have to interact a lot. We also have to reach out beyond our own team and talk a lot with other software development teams. But most importantly, we need to be able to communicate with our users. Additionally, being interested in solving problems is vital. You have to have a drive to find out why something isn’t working and how you can make it work.

Were you always interested in it as a career? I started to get interested in computers when I was a young teenager. I took interest in programming early on and decided to pursue a career in software development even before beginning with my A-Levels.

What would be your best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector? Make sure you’re on top of the technologies that are advertised for the role you’re applying to. Be interested in learning new things and work on your communication skills.



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progress your career? Currently I am happy to continue working full-time, developing my knowledge and skills through practical experience and on the job training. However in the future I would consider completing some professional qualifications such as PMP that I can complete whilst continuing to develop my career at P&G.

Gail Andrew Degree: Business & Modern languages at the University of Strathclyde Job: Systems Analyst for Information Decision Solutions (IDS) function within Procter and Gamble What do you actually do? I work for our IT management function, and my team is ‘Financial solutions’. I have two key responsibilities. Firstly, as part of our merger with Gillette, I am leading the integration of our Gillette Blades and Razors plant in St Petersburg into P&G’s Capital and Fixed asset accounting solution. The P&G global merger with Gillette is the largest ever in the FMCG sector and was completed in record time of 15 months.  As part of the merger, my role is to assess and improve key financial processes so they meet the needs of the Gillette business. Financial processes can be quite complex, but are critical to the efficient running of our $80Bn business. My work will deliver one common company-wide process which will increase the profitability of the Gillette merger and ensure its success! Why did you decide to go into this sector? I was initially attracted to IDS as a function primarily because I wanted to work in a role that would offer me variety and where I could deliver real improvements to the company. I could see that IDS would offer me the opportunity to do this as one of the key purposes of the function is to leverage information technology in order to improve existing systems and business processes. Additionally, I could see that it was an attractive area to develop my career as there are a broad range of assignments allowing you to build a multitude of skills and experience. Would you undertake further training to

What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? What I appreciate most about working for IDS in P&G is the sense of achievement that I get from my work. As a project manager for the Gillette integration I was responsible for a large complex project that has given me many challenges at a very early stage in my career. So now after a successful Go Live I am proud that the company entrusted me with such a large responsibility and that I was able to deliver the work successfully. Although I do enjoy the challenge and the recognition associated with delivering your own project, the downside of being the project manager is that your working hours will fluctuate according to the stage of the project. What skills do you think you need to succeed? I think one of the most important skills that you need to develop within IDS is leadership. You will be expected to deliver on your projects from the day that you start, so learning to develop leadership skills that allow you to drive a project forward, engage key stakeholders into the project objectives and enabling others to allow them to develop is essential in helping you achieve your objectives efficiently.

Gaming is becoming harder to enter professionally because people are realising what a fulfilling occupation it is. Scott Davies Degree: University of Derby, BSc in computer games programming Job: Junior software engineer, Monumental Games

What is it that you actually do? I am a full-time employee with Monumental Games in Nottingham and work as part of a team on its MotoGP game, a long-established motorcycle racing game, developed for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which is based on the real MotoGP Championship. My job is to help ensure the


technology works, giving the player a seamless, enjoyable experience.   Were you always interested in an IT career? It was a last minute thing really. It was either IT or music. I wanted to do something which I would love for the rest of my life. I did a paid-for gap year placement with Monumental Games while I was at university and that made up my mind for me. In the end, I don’t think I would have made much money in music anyway! What do you like most about your job and are there any downsides? The fact that I can mix business with pleasure. I love gaming and to earn a decent living as part of team where everybody helps each other out is as good as it can be for me.

What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to make a success of what you do? You have to have a keen understanding of, and interest in technology, be adept at solving problems, be a decent communicator, and good team-player. What would be the best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector? Gaming is becoming a lot harder to enter professionally, even without the recession, because people are realising what a fulfilling, rewarding occupation it can be. You need to be passionate about gaming. You need to play games and analyse them, not just enjoy them, so you know what works and what doesn’t. Focus on maths and general computing skills while you are at school and then try to specialise with a computer games design or programming degree. Is there anything you would like to add? Seek out work placements with computer games companies while you are studying at school, college and university. Be persistent and don’t give up at the first refusal. It shows that you are serious about a career in gaming and not just doing it as an after thought. I was very lucky to be one of the first people on the Monumental Games scheme when it started two years ago. The experience was invaluable in not only training me but also giving me a foot on the career ladder when I completed my studies. It’s great to be doing something that I genuinely love for a living.




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Get under the skin of it Graduate opportunities | Cheltenham | £24,945 + excellent benefits If you’re into technology, you won’t find a more interesting world of work than with us. One of the UK’s intelligence services, our world-class computers help in the fight against global terrorism and crime. GCHQ’s role is two-fold: to gather and analyse intelligence which helps shape Britain’s response to global events, and, to provide technical advice for the protection of Government communication and information systems. In doing so, our specialists – in IT, internet, engineering, languages, information assurance, mathematics and intelligence – get well beneath the surface of global affairs. If you thought the world was an interesting place, you really ought to explore our world of work. Applicants must be British citizens. GCHQ values diversity and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community. We want our workforce to reflect the diversity of our work.



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Chris Degree: BEng in Software Engineering, University of Manchester Job: Software Developer What exactly is it that you do? I design and implement new software systems, and maintain existing ones. Although, putting it like that doesn’t really do the role justice, as there is a lot more to it. For example I have to liaise with customers who are experiencing problems and help capture, craft and refine their requirements, so I can then go away and incrementally deliver a solution. Crucially though I have to engage with the customers throughout the process so I deliver what it is they need. Why did you decide to join GCHQ? I became aware of GCHQ whist at university researching possible places for my industrial year. A student jobsite highlighted technical internships via their ‘Sponsored Undergraduate Technologist’ (SUT) scheme so I visited their website to find out more. After further research I was really attracted by the unique nature of what it is GCHQ does (not to mention the mystique surrounding an intelligence agency). I was fortunate to gain a place on the SUT scheme and this really opened my eyes to just how challenging and interesting the work is – literally doing ‘stuff’ that conventional industry isn’t. I enjoyed my time so much that I applied to join them after my placement and was fortunate to secure a full time position. What’s the training like? There’s been a real mix of on the job training and structured tuition, and I’ve even learnt a new programming language along the way. What’s great about the training is that it often builds upon the theory learnt at university in order to apply it in a practical environment. I’m currently on GCHQ’s Technical Gateway Scheme, which offers a tailored development programme over a 2-year period. On this I will get exposure to several different parts of the business (that really interest me) so that I have a much better understanding of the ‘bigger picture’, as well


as developing a really good base of skills to further my career. What do you like most about your job? Quite a lot! Every day is different and there is constant change, so it never feels like it is getting stale. There’s also a real creative buzz and a thirst for new ideas – although it can sometimes be frustrating and lengthy trying to implement solutions, due to (valid) security reasons.

Being able to think outside the box, come up with innovative ideas, and not be afraid to experiment is key.

What skills are necessary to perform well in the role? You really need to be open to picking up new skills and learning quickly. From a technical perspective, having a good understanding of software development lifecycles helps (such as Agile and the Unified Process). Also, being able to think outside the box, come up with innovative ideas, and not be afraid to experiment is key.

Tia Degree: Law, Aberystwyth Job Title: Language & Cultural Specialist What exactly is it that you do? As GCHQ gathers intelligence from a range of sources, some of the material received can be in a foreign language. My role, as a ‘language and cultural specialist’, is to translate materials and provide a gist, so that analytical teams can interpret the information. The role goes much further though than providing just a translation service. I am also the point of contact for behavioural, cultural and regional references. Consequently, I work alongside Intelligence Analysts to ensure information is not misinterpreted. By doing this I get a real understanding of their requirements, which allows me to continually re-evaluate what it is I deliver to them. Why did you decide to join GCHQ? Originally I was considering a career in law, but after several years studying became rather disillusioned with the prospects, so started to investigate careers in the Civil Service. I applied to some other government departments, but then a family member highlighted GCHQ to me. Ironically I came from Gloucestershire, and although I knew of GCHQ, never considered that I had any

skills that would be of use. However, after reviewing the website I became aware of their need for language speakers and, as a native speaker of a particularly rare dialect, suddenly realised I had lots to offer. What’s the training like? As GCHQ’s work is so unique the majority of the training is on the job, although there are obviously lots of courses to go on in order to understand IT systems and to learn how to write intelligence reports. However, what soon becomes apparent is the support network in place to assist you – there is always someone you can turn to. And in the language arena there is also the possibility of retraining in another language. What do you like most about your job? The amount of input and the level of responsibility I have over the end result – the intelligence that is produced. Plus, I work with a fantastic mix of people - all from different backgrounds and cultures – which makes for a really interesting and enjoyable working experience. What skills are necessary to perform well in the role? Obviously language ability (not to mention good English skills) is vital. As is IT proficiency. However, just as important are softer skills, such as the ability to work in a team (and take the lead when necessary), and a willingness to continue to learn, develop and update skills – the nature of the work is always evolving so it is crucial to keep up to date. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to GCHQ? Do it! It is well worth it – good colleagues, good benefits, job security, not to mention the opportunity to do something of real value. Best advice for anyone thinking of applying is to fully review the vacancy information on the website. And if you do decide to apply, be patient – GCHQ’s application process is not like most others and it takes a long time (for good reason). n



1/10/09 19:43:10

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‘With professional accreditation and an excellent reputation within the profession, Sheffield Hallam gave me the key skills essential to improving my employability prospects.’ Tony Cheetham, MSc

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postgrad study | overview

The idea of carrying on studying after three or four years already spent at university is enough to make the fainthearted queasy. But for those with commitment and dedication, a postgraduate degree could be the path towards a successful career. By Helen Knapman.


any graduates jump straight into the real world following their degrees, while for others travelling is the perfect escape from the stress of deadlines and dissertations. But for those who enjoy their courses and hope to make more money in their chosen career, postgraduate study is the way forward. £65,000 per annum is what you can expect to earn with a postgraduate degree, according to the Association of MBAs in the UK (AMBAS). It is also one of the best ways to get a head start over the competition, as employers recognise postgraduate students as being dedicated high achievers. According to statistics from HESA, in 2007/8, compared to the one million undergraduate students, there were only 115,000 postgraduates, highlighting how postgrad makes you stand out from the crowd. A combination of science postgraduate degrees (including engineering) proves to be the most popular, closely followed by business and administration. As these courses are so popular there is a wide choice of degree as well as variety in where you can study as these core subjects can be found at the majority of universities in Britain. There are two main types of postgrad study: taught courses and research based courses. Taught Courses: Consisting of a one year full-time, or two


year part-time Masters degree taught through seminars and lectures. This will be an MA (of art), an MSc (of science), an MBA (of business) or an MRes (of research). MRes are based on 60 per cent individual research and so differ slightly from the Masters. The other form of taught course is a Diploma or Certificate, which is a professional qualification taken over a nine month full time period. Research Programmes: These normally last between three to four years of full-time study requiring intense research into a specific area of interest, resulting in a dissertation and oral exam. They come in the form of a PhD, also known as a DPhil or doctorate. There are also collaborative projects available between industry and academia whereby students are given an industrial sponsor; this is now increasingly popular in both the engineering and finance sectors. Funding: Money is one of the main reasons why students do not pursue postgraduate education. Tuition fees cost between £3,000 to £6,000, with an MBA costing a staggering £18,00 to £45,000. There is also the cost of living to think about which Prospects UK estimates to be around £12,000. However, grants, although not automatic, are given to cover both these costs. Scholarships, bursaries, awards, loans, charities, and business benefits can be used as a means of additional funding.


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postgraduate study | case studies

Nishil Patel Degree: Brunel, graduated MSc Biomedical Engineering in 2007 Job: Product Engineer for a medical device company called Maquet in the US What do you actually do? My day-to-day duties are as follows: • Analyzing research data or customer specifications and proposing product specifications to determine feasibility of product proposal. • Developing work plans and schedules, preparing progress reports. Collaborate with research, customer service or sales personnel or customers to clarify or resolve problems and develops design. • Prepare and direct preparation of product or system layout and detailed drawings and schematics including establishment of new part numbers and bills of material or configuration rules. • Coordinate the manufacturing or building of prototype products or systems. • Create test protocols to support design development and regulatory requirements. • Analyzing test data and reports to determine if design meets functional and performance specifications. Preparing reports for newly performed tests or analysis. • Using computer assisted engineering and design software and equipment to perform engineering and design tasks. • Gathering and presenting technical information in response to questions from engineering, sales and manufacturing personnel and customers. Resolved production problems either in house or at other suppliers’ facilities. Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course at Brunel? After doing extensive research I decided to go with Brunel University because of its history, excellent reputation in research and design and the quality courses it offers. Brunel has a large number of international students who come from different parts of the world which makes it a diverse and a social university. Its close proximity to central London was another factor in why I chose it. \ How has doing your postgraduate course helped your career? There is a strong

research and development emphasis at Brunel. During my thesis my supervisors made sure I visited live surgeries in different hospitals which helped me understand certain problems fully. In addition, lecturers from the industry gave us a more detailed perspective into the course. As I am working for a medical device manufacturer, skills like FDA Regulations are very relevant to my day-to-day activities. Knowledge learnt from modules like Design and Manufacture, Innovation and Management, and Biomechanics and Biomaterials put me way ahead of the competition. I can give input, recommendations and solutions to various design projects with confidence. This is all down to the knowledge I gained from the taught modules at Brunel, and the lecturers who made it simple to understand the modules.

During my thesis my supervisors made sure I visited live surgeries in hospitals which helped me understand certain problems fully. Kirsty Elaine Allan

Degrees: MEng Mechanical Design Engineering (1st Class Honours) University of Glasgow, MSc Motorsport Engineering and Management 06-07, Cranfield University Job: Composites R&D Project Engineer, Williams F1 Why did you choose your postgraduate course? I have been an avid fan of F1 for many years and have always been fascinated with the technology and mentality of the sport and of the motorsport industry in general. Upon discovering the Cranfield University Motorsport MSc and then undertaking work experience with Legends Racing, I realised that motorsport is the way in which I want to apply my engineering knowledge and skills. Therefore, I chose to undertake the course as a stepping stone to helping me achieve a much sought-after career in motorsport. How did you find the course? I actually found the course on the internet during one of my lunch breaks when I was working for National Grid! After debating whether or not I really wanted to make a career at National Grid, I googled “Motorsport courses” and up


popped the Cranfield MSc. It immediately grabbed my attention. What was your project about? The main group project was set by the FIA and Formula Ford and the project involved designing and manufacturing a crash nose box for Formula Ford single seat race cars for use in the British Championship. Each group worked with a different manufacturer to design and manufacture the nose crash box. What are you doing now? I am now a Composites R&D Project Engineer at Williams F1. I am a link between the Composites Design department and the Composites R&D group.  I am responsible for managing a number of R&D projects and I get involved in all aspects of these projects.  Once the projects come to an end, I have to write up reports and present any results and conclusions at a fortnightly Comps R&D meeting.  As I have always been interested in the R&D side of engineering as well as the design side, getting to do both in my first job is brilliant. I’ve also been slowly getting more involved with the design of car parts as well as carrying out my R&D projects and test programmes.  I am getting invaluable experience and gaining lots of knowledge that will stand me in good stead for eventually becoming a Composite Design Engineer. How did Cranfield help you get where you are today? Cranfield University helped me gain my role at Williams F1 by providing me with invaluable opportunities to network and make contacts within the motorsport industry.  As well as offering modules which would expand my academic knowledge, I was given the chance to apply for the Williams F1 bursary which I was successful in securing. I also secured a Grand Prix Mechanics’ Charitable Trust Fund bursary which helped support me through the course. Without Cranfield University, the support from the Grand Prix Mechanics’ Charitable Trust, and Williams F1, I would not have the career in motorsport I always wanted.




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postgraduate study | case studies


meet the same people all the time. You have to understand all the different politics of the firms with which you work. Being a woman in this industry can be difficult but it is just a question of patience and trust.

Valerie Hindie Degree: Mechanical Systems Engineering, University of Technology Compiegne (UTC) France, MSC Design and Rotating Machines, Cranfield University Job: Sales Manager, Man Ltd UK What do you actually do? I sell rotating equipment to clients in the oil and gas markets and the petrochemical markets. I have to understand the product because it is not like a car; it is very complex so I have to be able to understand what my clients’ needs are in order to sell them the right equipment. Much of the words we use to describe the equipment are very specific, so you need to know what you are talking about. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? My dad is an engineer and I always wanted to be one. I always like to find out how things work. He used to do all these repairs around the home and making new things. As a child I played with Lego. Would you undertake further study to progress your career? Although I have a very good technical background I would like to become more knowledgeable about management and so I am thinking of taking an MBE in the future, either part-time or maybe e-learning. What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? I am an achiever and I like to have a target and reach it. I like the challenge of finding out all about the products. I also like creating contact with clients, sharing experiences and meeting new people because you always discover something new. Once you enter into the “rotating machines world” it is quite small. People move around between engineering firms, contractors and manufacturers and so you quite often

What skills do you believe you need to succeed in what you do? Being multilingual has proved to be a good skill to have but most of all you need patience, initiative, good observational skills and it helps if you are persuasive. You have to be very strong technically because is the key to opening the door to so many career opportunities. Also, the more specialised you are the better. If you can be flexible in where you want to work and are prepared to move to find work that can be advantageous. What advice would you give other graduates coming into this sector? Be strong on the technique. Once you have acquired this experience/knowledge it will open a lot of perspective. If you are flexible you will open lot of doors as well. Another point is that it is an international environment so languagesskills can definitively be a bonus.

The key is to map out what you enjoy doing and if you are missing any skills for that role, study to fill that gap. Bijal ‘Bee’ Thakore

Degree: University of Bath in the UK for my first Masters in Aerospace Engineering. I also earned a second Masters in Space Business Management from the International Space University in France Job: I am the Director of Research and Development at Big On Good Solutions. What do you do? Until very recently, I was working on helping solve technical and project management challenges for companies such as Shell, BT, AIRBUS, and LEGO. I started my career working for AIRBUS UK and Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace and decided to then move to the Space Sector. My speciality is in Robotics, in particular systems that ‘live off the land’ and I use principles from making simple robotic systems work collectively for complex tasks – like digging on the Moon to make hydrogen and oxygen, or helping to bring medical attention to

someone in a remote area. Big On Good Solutions is my own consultancy that I set up when I decided to operate independently. In my previous roles, I have found it very useful to keep a regular eye on openings and really detail my skills and interests against it. Keeping your connections and network informed of movements and changes in jobs is always very important and not something you hear being advised about. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? I remember being gifted my granddad’s very old model aeroplane engine when I was seven-years-old by my uncle. I was fascinated by what a work of art it was, so small and yet it achieved the complex function of flight – Ever since then I felt that engineering was my calling! Would you undertake any further study? In my experience, time invested in further study has always been very beneficial. I worked for a couple of years inbetween my Aerospace Engineering Masters and developed a good understanding of the aerospace defence sector and engines and I wanted to move to the space sector and propulsion/ infrastructure and specialised systems (which ended up being robotics!) and I chose to take another masters. The key is to map out what you enjoy doing and if you are missing any skills or qualifications for that particular role/ job area, study to fill that gap. There are several options of part-time study, virtual training and certification, or intensive professional courses available now. What do you most like about what you do? Since being part of Big On Good Solutions, I really enjoy the purpose and fulfilment the engineering challenges bring. I have always enjoyed driving through design to production phases, but now we are trying out new areas such as open source design or designing with recyclability and replacement in mind – something that is very fresh in advanced engineering. What skills do you need to succeed? Determination and a sense of what you enjoy or how you would like to contribute to the world – essentially, this is no different in the engineering sector than in any other. n



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’s built en is curren vironment sector tly construct ion of som witnessing the projects i e of the biggest n living memor y.

reports, And, as Catherine Watson ly ones on civil engineers are not the newlywho can benefit from the ities. created job opportun


ne of the best things about having a career in the

built environment sector is the opportunity to work on projects which are tangible and have a real impact on thousands of people’s lives. The built environment is an umbrella term for everything from the construction of buildings, to the sale of real estate. Some of the biggest built environment projects for many years in the UK are underway now, and they include preparation for the 2012 Olympics, the construction of Crossrail, and expansion of the NHS. What’s more, according to reports, over the next four years anywhere between an extra 90,000 and 180,000 new workers will be required to work on these major infrastructure projects – and many of these vacancies will be for graduates. Crossrail is the new high frequency railway for London and the South East. It is hoped that from 2017 trains will run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, through newly-constructed tunnels under the capital. Initial work has already begun, with the main construction due to begin in 2010. It is expected that Crossrail

will boost the country’s economy, with an estimated benefit of at least £36bn according to Transport for London. As the largest construction project in Europe, Crossrail is looking for ‘a pool of capable civil, electrical, electronic and mechanical engineers to manage the programme and to work with private sector delivery partners’. It says its Graduate Development Programme allows trainees to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical way. Crossrail also says its placement programme is unusual in that although placements are primarily within the Crossrail business, trainees will be expected to accept short-term placements with delivery partners and other transport and construction-based organisations. (For more information about working for Crossrail take a look at our case study of Jessica Yu.) Crossrail isn’t the only major construction project to be underway in the London area. Ever since July 2005, when it was announced that London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympics, graduate job opportunities in the built environment have sprung up across the South East. These jobs are not limited



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big builds | overview


Further afield Some of the biggest built environment projects currently underway are in the Middle East. One of the largest is the world-scale integrated Pearl Gas to Liquids (GTL) project in Qatar. A joint project between Qatar Petroleum (QP) and Royal Dutch Shell, it will result in the largest GTL plant in the world. In a statement, Shell said the project would: ‘provide an alternative way to utilise Qatar’s enormous gas resources in an economically robust and environmentally constructive way’. But while there are many UK graduates working on the Pearl Project, in most cases your first assignment after joining a graduate programme such as Shell’s will be located in your home country. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Dubai is also seeing huge builds with new skyscrapers being erected every week. If you manage to secure a built environment job in the Middle East you will be paid a tax-free salary, although it is worth noting that the cost of living is considerably higher than in the UK. And if you do head east, don’t forget to send us a postcard!

money is at stake. Leigh Kopec was a trainee procurement manager for the Olympic Delivery Authority. During his time with them he was responsible for procuring goods and services for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. ‘Having been thrown in at the deep end, dealing with major procurements that will have a real impact on the Olympics was an amazing opportunity,’ he says. ‘I also loved the high profile nature of being involved in a huge project, working in a tight team, and also having the opportunity to meet lots of new people.’ However, like so many other Civil Service graduate careers, competition for places is fierce. Applications for the GPGS rose from 138 applications in 2008, to over 500 applications in 2009. Another area of the public sector where procurement is hugely important is the National Health Service (NHS). The Office of Government oversees procurement policy on behalf of the government and works with the Department of Health’s commercial team to ensure procurement methods are run effectively. In recent years, the NHS has undertaken its largest ever hospital building programme and since 2002

Illustration: © iStockphoto

a programme (known as ProCure21) has been used in the construction of new health units, such as community to sporting arenas and large stadiums; construction and civil

hospitals. Julian Colaco, training and communications manager for ProCure21, says this method: ‘Represents

engineering jobs in areas such as regeneration and infrastructure must also be completed in time for the opening ceremony. To fill these jobs some of the country’s biggest names in construction are recruiting and those which have been linked to the massive project include Carillion, Atkins and Balfour Beatty. With the £9.325bn public sector funding package announced for the Olympic budget, these graduate built environment jobs are likely to be well-paid too! Graduate jobs associated with the Olympics are not limited to the actual construction project as there are many other areas involved in the successful completion of the build. For example, procurement is a growing area of importance. In fact, the Government Procurement Graduate Scheme (GPGS) now has dedicated trainees on the procurement team working towards the 2012 Olympics. Put simply, procurement is the buying of goods, services and works from suppliers – and getting the best value for money. This is essential for all major projects, even more so when public

current construction industry best practice and helps [NHS] trusts guard against poor practice.’ In addition to jobs on the procurement side of things, opportunities are also arising for construction workers. Given the sheer scale of the NHS expansion project it isn’t possible to list all the construction firms involved, with many different companies working on projects in the regions. However, according to articles in the construction press, in 2009 Interserve won a £20m contract from East Kent University HNS Trust to build a new community hospital in Dover. So, if you are lloking to land a jobworking in NHS construction, one of the best ways is to sign up with to a local recruitment agency. The built environment is one of the few areas of graduate recruitment where, by and large, a specific qualification will be required. Typically this will be in architecture, surveying or engineering. However, even if you don’t have one of these degrees there are always opportunities in property management, the real estate sectors, and procurement.




1/10/09 19:47:39

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non-technical) people can understand. What would be your best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector? Get industrial training as early as possible. Working as an engineer is quite different to studying engineering. Is there anything else you would like to add? Engineering is a lot of fun, give it a go!

David Rowlinson

Jessica Yu Degree: Civil Engineering at the University of NSW in Sydney, Australia and I studied MSc in Soil Mechanics at Imperial College, London Job: Geotechnical Engineer, Crossrail What it is you actually do? I am working on the Crossrail project at the moment. Currently I am assessing potential ground movements caused by tunnelling and other excavations and the likely impacts on adjacent structures. I have worked on other tunnelling projects in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia and also civil infrastructure projects in Australia. My work has ranged from planning and supervising site investigations, to design work in the office to construction supervision. Why did you decide to go into this sector? Large scale civil infrastructure projects intrigued me. I wanted to know how these projects go from concept to reality. I thought it would be fun to be on the team who makes it happen. Would you undertake further training to further your career? I did and I plan to do more. I studied MSc in Soil Mechanics at Imperial College, London a few years ago and I am planning on starting a PhD investigating the behaviour of cast iron tunnels. What do you like most about you do? I like the technical aspects of my work. I like using the theory I learned in university to help me solve problems in a practical way. I like trouble shooting construction issues to make a design buildable. I really enjoy team work. It is a fun job. Are there any downsides? There is not much glamour and engineers could be much better paid! What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to make a success of what you did? The ability to explain technical things in ways other (technical and

Degree: Hertford College, The University of Oxford. Engineering Science (Civil and Mechanical Engineering Options). Job: Graduate Engineer, Rail North UK, Hyder Consulting. What do you actually do? As part of a team, I work on rail projects, designing brand new infrastructure and the strengthening / refurbishment of existing infrastructure. This includes bridges, platforms, buildings, and other structures. My work can include producing drawings, carrying out calculations, participating in meetings to determine the design, and also carrying out work on site. This ranges from investigation works to supervision of the people constructing my designs. Were you always interested in engineering as a career? I was always interested in engineering; I just didn’t know what it was called! I thought that designing and building with Lego, reading “How things work” books and doing lots of drawing was just a way of having fun. However, I now know that these are all key aspects of engineering. At school I loved physics and technology and was good at maths, so an engineering career was an obvious choice. I did consider Architecture, but that wasn’t scientific enough for me. How did you find out about this particular job? Engineering was a simple choice due to my love of science and design. I

big builds | case studies


chose Structural/Civil Engineering because of the size, longevity and benefit of the structures you design. On holiday I met an Engineer who worked for Hyder Consulting. His career was inspirational and I took him up on his offer of a work placement. I loved the work placement and was accepted on Hyder’s University Sponsorship Scheme. Four summer placements followed in which I gained some great practical experience and when I finished university, I was given a great job offer. The great thing about engineering is that companies are always looking to support motivated young people.

It’s great to know structures you have designed are in place, improving the lives of thousands of people everyday.

Would you undertake further study to progress your career? Civil/Structural Engineers are required to do a four year masters degree. Once this is complete, the rest of the study is on or around the job. My next major milestone is to become a Chartered Engineer. To do this you must complete some exacting requirements set by either the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE). These are not just related to technical aspects of the work, but also to management, commercial and health and safety. Once these are met there are further exams and interviews to make sure that you meet the high standard required. Chartered engineers are qualified to manage whole construction projects and approve designs for new structures. Such a qualification guarantees further promotion and success. What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? The best part is the projects themselves and what they achieve. It is great to know that structures which you have designed are in place, improving the lives of thousands of people every day. Through designing a bridge, you may be cutting 20 minutes off somebody’s journey to work, giving an ambulance a shorter route to a hospital, or reducing congestion and the associated accidents. For most projects you are not just helping one person once, but you are helping thousands of people, sometimes over a period of 100 years. n



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Engineering Special Edition 2010