From education to employment

Inspiring the Next Engineers: Building Beneath the Waves

One of the most difficult questions we are ever asked is what career we would like to pursue. Where do we see ourselves in five years’ time? For those of us who do have an answer, there are a whole spectrum of routes available to us. For example, you may dream of becoming an engineer, but in what speciality?

There may even be routes you hadn’t thought of before. So, whether you have your mind set on becoming an engineer and want to know what options are available, or you are about to make some key academic decisions for your future employment, we’re here to help. Here, we’ve teamed up with SMD, the world’s largest independent designer and manufacturer of work class and specialist subsea remotely operated vehicles. We caught up with some of their engineers to find out how they built their careers, and what advice they would give those who are just setting out.

Graduating into a career

Austin Phillips is a graduate mechanical engineer at SMD. He notes that the graduate path is a great place to start as an engineer, as you get a feel for various areas of the business, from customer interaction to design. For example, while Austin is currently working in the services department on an upgrade job, he recently worked on a repair job for a part that broke down in the field. He was tasked with redesigning the part to strengthen it up.

So, how did Austin achieve this, and what advice would he give to people looking to set a good foundation for a career upon graduating?

“I personally didn’t know too much about the industry when I graduated,” Austin admits.

“I had a few jobs after graduating before I came to SMD. So, for anyone looking at getting into subsea engineering, I’d definitely recommend reading up on it as much as you can to get an idea of the products and clients in this sector.”

It’s certainly been worth the work too, as Austin describes the sense of achievement and pride he gets when seeing something he designs “come to life” on the shop floor. Might be working adding that last week Austin was offered and accepted a full-time role at SMD as a Mechanical Design Engineer.

Motivation for a future as a principal engineer

For those that decide to get into engineering as a career, like Austin has, what’s waiting at the top?

As a principal engineer at SMD, Richard Purdy is required to manage a team of draftsmen and engineers to make sure their workloads are balanced correctly. He also deals with any issues around people management during any given project, as well as checking and approving engineering designs and drawings. Richard also deals with technical reviews throughout the day — so it’s certainly a lot of responsibility.

Plus, Richard also helps new starters and graduates find their feet as engineers and push them on to the next level of their careers. With so much going on in his role, we asked Richard what the most exciting part of working on subsea components and devices is.

“The best part for me is having the ability to take something from a blank piece of paper and see it through to the end, putting it on the back of a ship and then down to work underwater,” Richard explains.

“There are not very many jobs still out there that you can do that in terms of the timescales, to see it from the very start at concept to actually seeing it working. A lot of engineering roles you just see the design, you don’t get to see the manufacturing of it. So, for me, that’s the best bit.”

And what about advice for aspiring engineers, especially those looking at a career in subsea components?

“I actually studied agricultural engineering,” Richard continues.

“So, I got an interview based around my background in agricultural engineering. Engineering is engineering. It’s the application that changes, the fundamental principles of mechanical engineering stay the same whether it’s subsea vehicles or combine harvesters!”

Aspiring engineers take note — whatever your current field of study within engineering, there is certainly a unique scope to diversify into other sectors within the field of engineering! If you like the idea of not only designing parts and components, but seeing them be built, tested, and put to work in real-time, subsea engineering could be the hidden gem of a career path that you’ve been looking for.

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