Case study

Design engineer — Beckie Manning

The work experience that Beckie undertook while studying for her degree in aerospace engineering helped her secure a job as a design engineer, working on a range of exciting projects

What degree did you study?

I studied aerospace engineering at the University of Surrey, graduating with an integrated Masters in 2019.

How did you get your job?

I was offered a summer placement with Surrey Sensors by David Birch, Director of Research at the company, who was one of my university lecturers and who was supervising the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) Challenge team I was a part of. He found out I was looking for work experience after an unsuccessful application to the ESPRC vacation bursary at the university and offered me a vacation internship with the company.

After successfully completing this placement and continuing with part-time work for Surrey Sensors throughout my final year of university, I was offered a full-time position when I graduated. As well as the role of design engineer, I also head Surrey Sensors' maritime operations. 

How relevant is your degree?

Very. The principles behind how our products operate are all rooted in knowledge I learned on my degree, and I use skills and techniques that I learned during my degree on a daily basis.  

What's a typical working day like?

I enjoy a varied yet technical role: there may be products to assemble, new parts which need designing, prototypes to test or data processing work. If I have time I try and fit in an online tutorial for a new program I'm learning.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love getting prototype parts finished, seeing the real products I have designed or been involved with realised in the flesh. I'm lucky in that I get to have responsibility in my work, which brings with it a lot of pride when things come together.

What are the challenges?

Often I will need to do things that aren't part of my typical role, which comes with being a part of a small company. I really enjoy that this means my role is varied and I get to develop my personal skills in areas that aren't solely technical.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

As a keen sailor, I'm really interested in high-technology engineering applications in the maritime industry. We have already had some work and interest for the application of our products in that field, so I'd certainly like to try and expand on that.

What advice can you give to others?

It's absolutely fine to not know what you want to do. Make the most of opportunities such as placement years and summer industrial or research placements to find out what you enjoy. Completing a placement year, which was an optional part of my degree, helped me grow professionally and personally, and taught me a lot about what I wanted to do after I graduated.

Make the most of any opportunities or challenges offered to you - most will either be good fun or great learning experiences, if not both. The more nervous or uncomfortable it makes you, the more you stand to learn from it. 

Don't be disheartened if things don't go the way you expected or hoped. I wouldn't be in my role now if I had received the ESPRC vacation bursary I applied to and not ended up spending my summer at Surrey Sensors.

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