Fault analysis (materials) engineer — Ella Podmore
After performing well during a year's internship at McLaren during her degree, Ella got a job as a materials engineer with the same company on graduation. Discover more about the work and what she enjoys most about the role
What degree did you study?
I studied for a Materials Engineering (MEng) at The University of Manchester, graduating in 2018.
How did you get your job?
I got offered a job with McLaren Automotive after completing a 12-month internship with them. This was possible because my degree offered an industrial placement year on its third year. After finishing my thesis, which was on a subject relevant to McLaren, I started back full time after graduation and have been there for three years.
How relevant is your degree?
Hugely relevant, as I use the knowledge that I learned at Manchester every day. The beauty of studying materials engineering is that I could have gone into any industry, because materials feature everywhere, yet I combined my passion for cars with my degree and now I lead material investigations at McLaren Automotive. Materials engineering is relatively niche, so I found when applying to McLaren and other companies that materials engineers were in high demand.
What's a typical working day like?
My day is normally split equally between practical work and admin/presentation work. I specialise in metallurgy and corrosion science.
I normally work on projects that involve experimental investigation, so in the laboratory I section components and analyse them under both optical microscopes and scanning electron microscopes (SEM). I receive parts off development vehicles from test tracks and I look for any signs of deterioration, UV/thermal degradation or deformation in the parts. Depending on what I find, I normally spend the rest of my time writing up a report or presenting to other engineers or executives within the business.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
One of the lovely perks of my job is that on rare instances I get to drive a McLaren around a development track to see if everything is performing correctly.
Every day I get to work in a beautiful facility called the McLaren Technology Centre, which is where both McLaren F1 and McLaren Applied are also situated. It is a fantastic site to be on, if not a little humbling.
What are the challenges?
McLaren Automotive is a high-pressured environment, deadlines are tight and the performance bar is very high. But this is also what makes the place very special. Sometimes when working on a project, it may seem like you are being asked to do the impossible, and in some instances you are. But after persevering you discover that your project is actually a 'world first' in the automotive industry; that is what makes it all worthwhile.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
I hope to still be at McLaren, but leading an analysis division that specialises in investigation work. The company is very driven by data and I hope to take this further with material technology, especially as priorities become making vehicles more lightweight.
What advice can you give to others?
- Find your passion - materials are found everywhere so you can be a materials engineer for any company. There are so many opportunities out there, so do your research and make sure you find one that gets you interested.
- Be curious - there are so many resources available now to research industries, so go and investigate. An engineer is always interested in 'how things work' but should also never stop learning.
- Stay true to yourself - remember being an engineer is simply a skillset, not a type of person. There are many stereotypes associated with what engineers do or what they look like, so it is important to embrace your individuality and let it motivate you to being the best engineer you can be.
Find out more
- Discover what you can do with a degree in materials science and engineering.
- See what the engineering and manufacturing sector has to offer.