Graduate Mechanical Engineer
Tell us a bit about the course you studied at Uni.
I studied Aero-Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde from 2008-2013, which might seem like a long time but for me it absolutely flew by! The first couple of years were especially great because I got to do a lot of interesting activities to give you a ‘hands on’ perspective of engineering. One of the most notable activites was at the end of my second year when I got to go up in a glider with an instructor. It was quite terrifying but it’s an experience I’ll never forget.
In my third year I had to complete a group project to build a remote control model airplane with the aim of entering it into a competition. It was a tough project, we had many setbacks and long days along the way but we managed to complete it in time for the competition in York. Unfortunately the plane crashed epically into a thousand pieces; it was one of those moments when you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end we all laughed about it and made a cool video.
My fourth year was the year I completed my dissertation. Most people shudder at the thought of their dissertation, however for me it was actually quite enjoyable. I think I was quite lucky in the subject I was given and I found it very interesting. I won’t bore you with the details but it was related to energy modelling for sustainable housing.
Just so you know, it wasn’t all fun and games, there were times when the work was very hard but I enjoyed the challenge and I had a good bunch of people around me to give me a helping hand when I was struggling.
Did you enjoy your time as a student?
My time as a student was a thoroughly enjoyable experience in which I made lots of friends and created some great memories. I’m originally from Dunblane so moving to Glasgow was a scary thought at the time but it was something I always wanted to do. I stayed in halls during my first year which was the best way to meet people and make friends. I was probably a very stereotypical student; no cooking skills, a scrounger, a casual alcoholic and a late sleeper.
After halls I stayed in many different flats in and around the city. The best flat was probably in Merchant City. The heating wasn’t very economical though; I remember one day it was thick snow outside and I was sitting in my flat in shorts and t-shirt. It did make for some very good parties!
Thinking about it now, there are lots of things I miss about being a student such as the ability to dictate your working hours, endless discounts, Jeremy Kyle and the freedom to go out drinking any night of the week!
What’s the biggest lesson you learned whilst studying for your degree?
This is a tough one, but I guess an important one that was encouraged by my lecturers was to seek out summer placement opportunities. I tried to get a summer placement in between my third and fourth year however I was unsuccessful. I tried again the following year and managed to secure a 12 week placement in a company based in a town near Reading. I think this experience made a lot of difference when it came to applying for graduate jobs. It also gave me an idea of what it is like to work in the industry.
What is your role within EDF?
I am currently on the graduate scheme at EDF Energy. I started applying for jobs in my final year of university with the hope that I would able to secure a job prior to graduating. The application process for EDF consisted of an online application, followed by a phone interview and then an assessment centre. It was a tough process but I managed to secure a place on the scheme. I think it was down to practice, preparation and perhaps a bit of luck!
EDF operate eight of the remaining nine operational nuclear power plants in the UK and the scheme is very much tailored towards developing your knowledge in this field. I started in September last year and since then I have completed a number of short attachments in various parts of the business. For my first six months I was based at Hunterston B Power Station which is out on the west coast in North Ayrshire. I have also spent time at Torness Power Station near Dunbar and I am currently based in an office in East Kilbride.
Tell us about your typical day working for EDF?
Every day is a bit different; you really make what you want of it. I have just finished a stint working in operations which is the department which runs the station 24/7, ensuring it is generating electricity. This involved working 12hr shifts which were long but exciting at the same time because you never knew what problems were going to arise.
Since I am just in the early stages of my career, the main aim is for me is too learn as much as possible. This means that I spend a lot of the day talking with people, shadowing tasks and helping out where I can. When I finish the scheme in August I will move into a permanent position where I will use the knowledge gained from working in various departments.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
If you are not sure, ask! There is no such thing as a stupid question because it is likely that there are other people thinking the same thing as you. This is something that is encouraged at my work; it doesn’t matter if you are a graduate or an experienced professional, if you an unsure of something it’s better to ask!