My time at university taught me to fail the right way

Profile shot of Hamish  - graduate of EEE
Engineer at GlaxoSmithKline
MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Hamish who graduated in 2020 shares his experiences of studying at EEE and the advice he wishes he had been given when he was starting at university.

From a young age I was interested in technology, taking things like radios and hoovers apart but most of all I was interested in my parents home computer and tried to understand how it worked and how best to make it work. During secondary school I was lucky enough to be able to study electronics and that was when I decided I wanted to study electronics at university. 

I chose Sheffield due to the new building the Diamond being built offering facilities not available at other universities. 

The most enjoyable part of EEE was the ability to use practical application in labs and in personal time. Being able to learn about circuits and test these and see exactly how they work and then being able to put these components together to create a useful piece of technology is incredibly rewarding. Being able to do that and create things that could offer global benefit to people is something not many degrees offer so easily. 

Being from a rural village in North England, moving to the city was a big change in environment. After being at a school with a wide range of abilities and interests and being the only person interested in engineering, starting where everyone had the same specialisation is strange but rewarding.  Being surrounded by those driven in the same direction is new and great to push your development. ant. 

My proudest achievement was my third year projects which created a novel machine learning process for 3 dimensional saliency detection that out performed the leading alternative. 

There are a few pieces of advice I believe to be gospel and wish I had learned at the start: 

  • Work practically when practical - If you have learned something, whether it be how a diode works or how to create a 3 phase VSI, make it and test it. There is no better way to fully understand something than to make it, find its flaws, how it's made and then debugging it when you break it. 
  • Learn from others - every single person at university knows something you don't and the only way you will learn that is from working with them. Although working on a project with every person you see is impossible find out what projects they are working on or have completed, ask how it works, what the hardest parts were, how they solved them and any useful or interesting tech/services they used. 
  • Fail the right way - Many people think of projects but don't know if it's a waste of time and money and instead procrastinate on social media or their video platform of choice for hours. Resist the urge and instead design and build circuits, figuring out what works and what doesn't and make sure blow things up so that you learn before you do that on a bigger more expensive project. This doesn't only apply in engineering contexts, attend society functions whether you're a member or interested and don't be put off by not being sure if it's right because the alternative of procrastinating certainly isn't better. 

Post-graduation I'll be starting at GlaxoSmithKline an and will hopefully use that time to figure out where I fit in within the business. 

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