Before you started at Queen's, where were you and what were you doing?
Upon completion of my A levels at The Wallace High School Lisburn, I began an MSc in Mathematics at QUB in September 2009, however after a month, I decided that it wasn’t for me. As my back-up choice, I contacted the Aerospace Engineering department, who regrettably informed me that I had missed too much class to transfer. I therefore dropped out of university, reapplied for engineering, got a full-time job in retail and re-sat my A level Physics, taking it from a C to B grade. Although I was unable to apply for the MEng program directly as I had applied the previous year, I began study in September 2010 and notably won the Bombardier Prize for the highest attained mark in Stage 1 BEng Aerospace Engineering.
What have you done in addition to your degree to enhance your employability and what do you feel you’ve gained from this?
Between Stages 3 and 4, I was employed as a Whole Engine Design Intern with Rolls-Royce plc at their Derby site. I primarily worked on the Trent 800 and RB211-524 & 535 engine projects; however I also did some work on the Trent 700.
I was involved with responding to safety alerts, implementing modifications, monitoring current inspection processes, re-visiting investigated issues and analysing the Research & Development engine documentation. I was also part of a team that investigated the working environment; understanding how different people work and modernising the current office layout.
We also promoted a greater team ethos through different events, including the organisation of a community project in the National Forest (see photograph). Outside of the office, I was a Rolls-Royce ambassador at a STEM event for the local Brownies association, where we encouraged a group of 100 girls through several engineering tasks to attain their Science Badge.
My placement year was a priceless experience; I was able to put my existing skills and knowledge into practice, as well as developing my innovative thinking and expressing my personality. I learnt a lot about the company, the engineering vocation and myself, as it not only made me a more professional engineer, it also made me a more employable person.
Making use of Careers, Employability and Skills
I was unable to make any of our school career sessions, as they were mostly on Wednesday afternoons and I was a keen rugby player in Stages 1-3, so I needed to attend trainings during this time. However, I was able to attend a few of the employer talks and careers fairs that were organised and found these to be a great help in understanding the available opportunities - and a few names to Google!
Any advice for other Queen's students?
After only doing one propulsion module at Stage 2, I decided to do a placement with a worldwide aircraft engine manufacturer, which was a bit daring to say the least. However, I wanted to explore the topic further and learn more about the subject from one of the very best. Also I had pre-empted the typical intern cliché, but was actually amazed by the amount of respect, attention and consideration I received from my colleagues. I would therefore advise students to have confidence in their abilities, never feel inadequate or like something is out of reach, and definitely do not be afraid to ask questions because the chances are, everyone else in the room is thinking it as well!