Case study

Graduate systems engineer — Amba

Amba studied the BSc Physics with Astrophysics at the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent before joining a BAE Systems graduate scheme as a graduate systems engineer

Why did you decide on this career?

I had never come across systems engineering before during my degree and I wanted to explore what this job would entail. I did some research into systems engineering and was fascinated to explore how it was used within a business and applied to projects.

How did you get your job with BAE Systems?

I saw the graduate scheme job being advertised on Gradcracker, a website shown to me by my university.

What's a typical day like as a systems engineer?

Though my role is that of a graduate systems engineer, the team I work with focuses on networks and IT infrastructure.

My day-to-day role mainly consists of investigating new network features, helping to development our network to meet customer requirements, liaising with suppliers and helping to write test schedules.

I've had some exposure to systems engineering through conversations happening in and around my team on lifecycle management, engineering frameworks, plus business and functional requirements.

What qualities do you think are important for this role?

It's important to be open-minded and able to think about a problem in a different way, approaching it with a can-do mentality.

Good teamwork skills - when working on larger projects, the importance of cross-team collaboration and the ability to have good communication plays an even bigger role.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I really enjoy working as part of a team and getting the chance to collaborate daily with likeminded individuals. Working on large projects gives the sense of being part of something bigger and that feels rewarding. It's also great to be on a graduate scheme that encourages you to mix with other graduates and apprentices through mini projects.

What are the challenges?

Understanding the language and context of all the information that gets thrown your way when you start a new career for the first time. It can certainly feel overwhelming at times, but it's so valuable to always ask questions - even the ones you think are 'silly'.

In what way is your degree relevant to your job?

Though I do not use any physics in my day-to-day role, my degree has taught me many valuable skills, such as being able to problem solve as well as understanding and communicating complex ideas to others. It has also helped me to become more resilient and I feel strongly that physics has given me a broader understanding of the way the world works.

What are your career ambitions?

This graduate scheme has made me realise that I'd like to stay in the engineering field but find a role that's perhaps more related to my degree, or at least allow me to apply what I learned in my degree more directly. I believe model-based systems engineering could allow me to do this, but I'd also like to develop my software skills too.

What advice would you give to other aspiring systems engineers?

  • Understand what the systems engineering product lifecycle is as well as the systems engineering approach and thinking. From experience of talking with other systems engineers new to the role, it's common than new starters in the field don't really know what systems engineers actually do - unless they've studied it at university or elsewhere.
  • Be resilient and don't give up. It may feel overwhelming at times but if you're passionate enough, you can do it.
  • Ask questions. Reach out to other systems engineers on social networking sites such as LinkedIn and show your interest.

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