I particularly enjoyed the individual project in the final year
Aerospace was always the course that appealed to me most due to my interest in anything that flew. It also seemed to be the most forward-looking engineering discipline, and Sheffield seemed to be on top of what was happening in industry at the time.
The course was so well presented on open days, and there were (and still are) great links with industry. Even though the University was one of the top in the country for the course, they concentrated on me as a prospective student, instead giving me the hard-sell message.
During my time at Sheffield, I particularly enjoyed the individual project in the final year. I don't learn well in classrooms, it's just not my thing.
The project allowed me to identify my strength in technical project management, which has really shaped my career since. Without that experience, I don't think I would have had the confidence to transition so easily into the professional space.
The final two years of the course were the most enjoyable for me - it was when we really started to apply the basic principles which we'd learnt in the first two years into real-life examples.
Following graduation, I chose to join Caterpillar Inc. on their Manufacturing Leadership Graduate scheme. It was a two year scheme, with four different placements to gain experience in leadership, as well as the technical and commercial areas of the business.
After that, I became a Manufacturing Engineer in the diesel engine business. This gave me the chance to travel to China and the USA to work on global alignment of manufacturing standards. The graduate scheme and this position gave me enough experience to become a Chartered Engineer after around four years with Caterpillar.
My next position saw me become a six sigma black belt in the Global Manufacturing Team, where I was responsible for improving factory processes through lean principles.
Following on from this, I remained in the same department, and was assigned to New Product Introduction, leading a team of Engineers and Technicians on a new project to design a new platform of engines to fill a product gap in our diesel engine range. There I was responsible for the global manufacturing strategy, design for manufacture, manufacturing budget management and process architecture.
The final year project allowed me to identify my strength in technical project management, which has really shaped my career since. Without that experience, I don't think I would have had the confidence to transition so easily into the professional space.
Senior Applications Engineer, Caterpillar Inc.
For the past two years, I have been working in the Sales, Marketing, Services and Parts department as a Senior Applications Engineer at the Caterpillar facility in Peterborough, UK. Perkins is a Caterpillar brand of diesel and gas engines that we sell into third-party Original Engine Manufacturers (OEMs).
My role is to be a trusted technical advisor to the customer, from cradle to grave of their machine project cycle. Within this, I lead the installation projects, and to help them select the correct engine for their machine.
Once the engine is selected, I help them design their machine to ensure that they get optimum machine performance and to avoid any future issues in the field.
The role is great, and something that I really enjoy doing. It's multidisciplinary and allows me to frequently travel to Europe to work with customers on some very exciting projects and interesting machines. Customer-facing roles like this really have made me aware of why the business is operating and how competitive the current market is.
I hope to stay in a customer-facing role for the next one to three years. Following this, I'd like to move into a product management role within Caterpillar, which will enable me to have a wider input to the whole business from supply chain to customer delivery.
This will mean that I'll be less technical-focused and will have more of a strategic and commercial focus. Following on from that, it's likely that I will look to move back into a technical leadership role.
The interdisciplinary structure of the course has been extremely useful for me in every role I've worked in.
I really didn't enjoy controls, and electrical modules when studying, but they are used so widely in industry (from manufacturing systems to engine/machine control systems) and I am so pleased I had that basic understanding to build on when becoming a professional engineer.
My job relies on me having a solid understanding of machine electrical design, and control system integration, as well as the mechanical design principles. You can't just be a mechanical engineer these days due to the use of control systems almost everywhere.
The course has changed quite a lot since I studied it, which has been great to see over recent years. This has been driven by industrial developments, and also by the input from the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) (see below).
The Course Director has great links to industry, and really listens to us to ensure that the students are set up to be very employable following graduation.
The opening of the Diamond has been revolutionary. It gives the course such great opportunities to keep up with and - in some cases - exceed what is happening in industry at the moment.
Every time I have a tour of the Diamond, I say that I would love to come back and repeat my degree again. The facilities are second-to-none, and this really is reflected in the work being done by the students in their third-year group design project, where they design, build and fly their own UAV.
The Industrial Advisory Board
I am a member of the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) for the Aerospace Engineering programme. The board is made up of representatives from across industry (many of whom are alumni) and we work with the course leaders to improve how the course is run. This includes:
- Helping to shape course content, so that it reflects what is happening currently in industry.
- Identifying skills gaps amongst graduates and making sure Sheffield can help to address them.
- Highlighting general trends in industry, such as new and emerging technology or skills shortages.
- Assessing the MEng third-year group design project.
In recent years, the work of the IAB has led to the addition of several new modules, the reshaping of existing modules, and the addition of new types of degree offerings.
The IAB is vital in ensuring that the course can gain accreditation from professional institutions, which is very important to enable students to be able to follow further professional development routes such as IEng and CEng.
On a personal level, I like to stay connected to the University, as I feel that it allows me to give back to an institution that has given me so much in my career thus far. The board also gives Caterpillar a link to the University, and some visibility that we hope helps future graduate recruitment.
Sheffield is one of our target universities, so having a presence on site, and some input to the course content, provides a win-win-win situation for Caterpillar, UoS and the students.
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