Case study

Project engineer — Caoimhe Burnett

Caoimhe graduated with a MEng in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Discover how she used her degree to secure a role as a project engineer at a mini printer manufacturer

How did you get your job?

After I graduated university, I immediately started searching for jobs in my field. I discovered the opportunity at Able Systems online and began working as a technical support and applications engineer. From there, I climbed the career ladder, honing my skills by working on smaller projects as well as gaining a PRINCE2 project management qualification.

What is a typical day like as a project engineer?

Essentially, a project engineer's main role includes making plans, creating reports and, often, designing part of the new product. Before starting a new project, I have to dedicate a significant amount of time to research so I can understand how the designs should work. This is especially important when working with emerging technologies or detailed requirements.

Since each product needs to be better than the last, I always evaluate the components and systems we use to make sure they are at peak performance.

At the moment I am working across one huge project, but usually my time is spread across multiple ones. The role calls for excellent organisation and time keeping, but this is something you usually pick up after immersing yourself in project management techniques.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Alongside project management, there are also plenty of opportunities for me to be creative and flex different parts of my brain, which I love.

Each day is varied and always introduces something new, so I never have to worry about my work standing still. The engineering industry is constantly evolving, so it's exciting to learn new skills and adapt to changing technologies.

What are the challenges?

One of the hardest parts of the job is finding a balance between delivering cutting-edge technology while meeting your customer's budget and timescales. This means it is important to manage expectations from the beginning and help them find the best solution.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree provided me with a great foundation for my career, offering both knowledge and experience. In my four years at university, I learned a lot about electronics and programming. It also allowed me to work alongside engineers in other disciplines, helping me understand the wider industry.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned was how to tackle problems, particularly how to establish what your customers want and how to work together to create great solutions.

How do I get into project engineering?

A degree is usually the best starting point for this career, but after that your options are open. Not many people go straight into a role like mine - you normally have to get to grips with the industry first while studying project management methods. The good thing about doing that is you can choose a number of different paths and find the types of engineering you’re really passionate about.

As I said before, the engineering sector is always on the move, so it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest innovations and developments. There are hundreds of webinars, blogs and newsletters from leading experts, so find ones relevant to your business and subscribe. You need to have a thirst for knowledge, so when you receive a task it's important to read around to get a broader sense of the subject.

Finally, don't be afraid to look further afield for career opportunities, there are hundreds of roles around you so cast the net wide when searching.

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