James's career started off by shadowing other engineers on projects. One year later, he was put in charge of a multimillion-pound project...
I've always been interested in understanding how things work and science in general. While I was at college, I decided to move onto an engineering degree and further my studies. By the time I had made it to the last year of my degree, I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a design engineer. I had looked at jobs in the oil/gas industry but knew I really wanted something more focused.
I was interested in the design aspects of my degree and a small local company was recommended to me by the head of engineering design. I made a speculative application starting with a phone call and within a few weeks I had secured a job.
The company designs and builds mechanical mine field clearance equipment for the military and humanitarian organisations. There are approx 50 engineers working full time in design and project management roles.
My job title is design/project engineer. The company operates in a way that gives you the opportunity to develop your design skills and still experience project management and practical engineering. As your interests change, so can your daily activities and future career path.
The mechanical engineering degree I completed was essential to successfully getting my job and practising my day-to-day activities. Being a successful design engineer takes a creative mind, but you also need the analytical skills taught at university to take a design from paper to reality, whether this is operating the latest 3D CAD and FEA software or doing structural calculations by hand. However, the skills I gained from real world experiences like part-time jobs, university clubs and placements have also given me a huge advantage.
Since my first day, two and a half years ago, I have been on a very steep learning curve and feel I have achieved a lot in such a small amount of time. My career started off by shadowing other engineers on projects and progressed onto having my own responsibilities.
After just one year, I was put in charge of a multimillion-pound project and was dealing with the customer directly. The project involved me designing a product by myself but also dealing with all the project management and manufacturing issues.
Six months ago, the company had a change in structure and a design team was formed to specialise in future developments and completely new designs. I was one of five engineers chosen for the group and since then I have been involved in two new products at a concept design stage, one of which has just been built as a prototype before a two-month operational test in southern California.
The job has given me the opportunity to put my studies into practice, but also have a large amount of practical experience. A big emphasis is put on the engineers supporting the trials of new designs and this is one of my favourite parts of the job. During my time, this has taken me on many travels including Kuwait and many parts of the USA.
I'm sure it's not for everyone, but there is nothing I would change about my job. The job can take over your life but the rewards far exceed the sacrifices.
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