James Sopwith, adi Group strategic account director

#NCW2020 - James Sopwith @adigroupltd Shares His Engineering Journey

With attention turning this week to inspiring stories that encourage young people into their desired fields, Birmingham-based engineering firm adi Group has taken #NationalCareersWeek (2 – 6 March) as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on those with a long-standing career in the sector.

First up is James Sopwith, adi Group strategic account director and MD of adi Projects, who shares how he got into engineering, the projects he’s been a part of and advice to young people wanting to join the engineering industry.

Tell us a little about your role, the projects you are supporting and the type of work you undertake on a daily basis.

My role involves the total management of all aspects of adi Projects. This includes recruitment, health and safety, sales and profit, as well as developing the overall business strategy to ensure our company grows at an expected rate. On a daily basis, this means working with our project managers and sales team to support their efforts in each respective area. I also liaise closely with other central departments like quality or health and safety to ensure we are running our business in a safe and consistent fashion.

What attracted you to a career in the engineering sector?
At school, I did A levels in chemistry, maths and physics. Because my grades were quite good, the advice from the school was to pursue a career in finance or maybe within the medical profession. However, I enjoyed understanding how things worked, how products were made and how machinery was designed. I therefore went against the advice my school had given me, and decided to become an engineer, which would allow me to enter a career in the areas I wanted to work.

How did you initially get started in engineering? Did you do an apprenticeship?
My route into engineering was via university, doing a degree in mechanical engineering. I felt that my preferred career would involve more design and development, rather than hands-on roles. However, it is also good to explain, that around 25% of a degree course involves hands-on and practical projects, as it isn’t all theoretical or academic.

What do you most like about working for adi Group/adi Projects?
I joined adi Group 11 years ago as the managing director of one of the Group companies. I had worked my way up from a junior design engineer in the automotive sector.

Joining adi Group has given me the chance to grow not only my knowledge, but also to define my own career path, based on how successful I have been in various roles.

As MD in adi Projects, which is a start-up company, it has given me the chance to take a business from its concept and then work with my colleagues to build a strong and successful company. Whilst this isn’t easy, it gives me a huge opportunity to extend my skillsets

What is the best project you’ve ever worked on?
The most memorable project I have ever worked on was during my time as the development manager of an automotive component manufacturing company. The company made vehicle radiators.

In 1990, the company was asked to work on a secret project, which was to design a bespoke high capacity cooling system for a sportscar.

It turned out that the car was the McLaren F1. So, my claim to fame is that I led the team who designed the cooling system for the fastest production car in the world in 1993.

With everything you’ve learnt, what would you tell the ‘younger you’ about a career in engineering?
I have been very lucky in my career, as I have achieved many of the things I have wanted to do and also things that I enjoy. My advice is always do something that you really enjoy and always do something that you feel you’re really good at. In my case, that’s been engineering and I have and do love every minute of the career I chose.

Any other comments on the engineering sector / engineering careers you’d like to share?
There are so many roles that you can do in engineering, from a mechanical or electrical apprentice to start with, to a director or managing director. Whether it be aerospace, automotive, petrochemical or the food & drink manufacturing sectors, the range of roles you can have are enormous. This means that whatever level you feel you want your career to be at, in a massively diverse employment sector, you can find it in engineering.

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