Tomorrow’s Engineers Week
By Alex 15-08-2020
Tomorrow’s Engineers Week
with this week being dedicated to ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’ to attract the next generation to engineering design, we interviewed our own senior design engineer to get some of his views on his career development and the developments in the engineering field….
This week has been playing host to ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’, showcasing the exciting work that the different engineering industries in the UK are undertaking to encourage the next generation to consider a career in engineering. With a week filled with insights into technology and engineering design success stories, there’s plenty to be inspired by. We interviewed our very own senior design engineer to get some of his thoughts on his path into design engineering, and to see what tips he has for those aspiring designers and engineers out there…
Q1. You’ve been working as a professional design engineer for several years now, how did your career in engineering start?
Well, following school I chose to go to University, looking at the options for study carefully to understand what courses there were on offer at time. I ended up studying for a BSc in computer aided product design. As a degree, it wasn’t strictly engineering, but more science orientated with elements of engineering throughout it. There were modules covering mechanical engineering and electronic engineering as well as others, but essentially a small proportion of all the elements that someone looking to become involved in product design engineering may look for. Things like the business management side of it or computer aided design that are also desirable skills for someone looking to follow a career path into product design engineering were covered on the course, so it does require some thought as to where you want to start your career path from and what skills you want to acquire first.
After the BSc, I then decided to follow my interests and particular skills in design engineering through to a Masters that specialised in rapid product development. Looking back, this shifted me from a more hands-on design approach to one where my focus was upon design theory, understanding the product design process in detail. Even at this stage, the Masters was not fully engineering design related being an MSc, relating again to a more scientific backing over engineering.
During the Masters I approached a company who specialised in rapid prototyping, with an intention to gain some experience with them whilst studying for engineering design. It proved to work really well as it balanced out with the theory of the course with it being a practical hands-on job with them. I think it’s really important to have experience of both the theoretical and practical side of design engineering, something which is not often seen at university unless you’re on a sandwich course.
About half way through the Masters, I enquired about a knowledge transfer partnership which I was really interested in pursuing after hearing about it which was with a company nearby to the university. Luckily I managed to secure the opportunity to follow the KTP for the two year period alongside continuing the masters part time. It is important to try and be as flexible as possible when your forming your career path, as you never know what opportunities may arise. If you can have an open mind and consider options which you may not have thought of before, they can prove to be really worthwhile.
Q2. At what point did you begin to think about pursuing a career in engineering?
During school I did study design technology at GCSE and A level. The school had fairly good facilities which were available, such as milling machines and lathes, so we did get to use those sorts of tools with some freedom to experiment with materials and making our own products. Compared to schools today where there are so many more opportunities available through the likes of 3D printing and laser cutting as well as initiatives like F1 in Schools to encourage engineering skills and creativity, there’s more now to begin to explore that interest in design and engineering compared to when I was in school.
I did spent a lot of time outside of school hours, especially in year 13 working on my design technology project which took up most of my time outside of school during the week. I think at the time of year 12 and 13, I was so immersed in the design technology subject area with completing work that it significantly developed my interest I already had. I think there needs to be that seed of interest or passion at that stage, as with all the work, it can be hard to motivate yourself without it.
Q3. What inspired you to begin looking at pursuing your career path?
I guess I’ve always followed the belief that you do what you enjoy. That’s how I went about picking my GCSEs and A-levels, knowing that I enjoyed particular subject areas, design being one of them. It can be quite hard to know at that stage in life what career path you want to go down, so at least by having the safety net of studying subjects that you know you’ll continue to enjoy, you can’t go too far wrong. I had friends in school who didn’t follow this method though, who knew exactly what they wanted to do and so chose subjects which suited their planned career path.
Q4. Do you think attitudes have changed in recent years as to what an engineer is and does?
It’s a difficult one to answer as everyone has their own opinion on what it is and what it isn’t. I feel rapid prototyping has played a big part in this, whereas before we didn’t have access to be able to produce things so quickly and so cost effectively, now we may not have to do all the calculations to get to a certain point, because it may be quicker to investigate it practically through a robust, accurate prototype. I think technology has certainly changed the discipline and the way people envisage engineering, moving away from a view of someone sitting down with a calculator to one where it’s more about the approach and involvement, removing some of the barriers that are sometimes believed to surround it.
Q5. If you could give one piece of advice which you’ve leant and reflected on since finishing education and gained experience as an engineer, what would it be?
I think one factor which should always be encouraged in developing your career into design engineering is gaining experience at both a practical and theoretical level. Both need one another to truly function to the best of their ability and so any opportunity to spend time in either setting would be strongly advised. As I mentioned earlier, the early stages of my career in design engineering design purposefully had a mixture of theory and practical elements to get that balance right. It’s also important to play to your strengths, and so if you know you have an interest or want to pursue a career in design engineering then through exploring both sides, you may find particular avenues which suit you more than others.
If you’d like to find out more about the many opportunities that exist within engineering design in the UK, then check out the ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’ website at: http://www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/. Also if you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences with us, just get in touch by leaving your comments below.