Michael Rackstraw

Graduate Engineer, McLaren Racing Team 
MEng Mechanical Engineering with Year in Industry (2014) 

Learning to think more like a design engineer was a challenge, and for me, one of the most noticeable changes between starting University and graduating.

Who are you currently working for and what, in brief, does your role entail?
In September I will begin a two year graduate scheme with the McLaren Racing Team. This role will involve spending time in the various Engineering departments that make up McLaren’s Racing division, including design, performance and systems engineering.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
Although I’m yet to begin working at McLaren I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an Engineer. The graduate scheme will expose me to a wide range of engineering disciplines as I will be working in a number of different departments. I feel very privileged to be in this position as a graduate and I’m excited about the chance to work alongside very talented and experienced engineers and the opportunity to compete in a sport I’ve been passionate about from a young age.

To what extent did your degree set you up for your career?
Studying Mechanical Engineering with a Year in Industry at University has had a significant impact on my career. Between the 3rd and 4th year of my course I spent 12 months working in the design department at Xtrac Ltd, a transmission technology specialist. Over the duration of my placement I consolidated some of the skills I had gained during my degree. It also allowed me to experience what it is like to work in the motorsport industry, which will prove useful when working at McLaren.

What were the most positive and also the most challenging aspects of your course?
Personally I enjoyed the variety of disciplines covered whist studying Mechanical Engineering, ranging from design to electronics, thermodynamics through to materials science. One of the biggest challenges was managing my time with a variety of different projects, as well as numerous exams to revise for throughout the year. Coming from an academic background, learning to think more like a design engineer was a challenge, and for me, one of the most noticeable changes between starting university and graduating.

What advice would you give to current students studying your course?
The best piece of advice I was given was to make the most of any opportunity you are presented with and you will only get as much out of it as you are willing to contribute.

What was your favourite thing about the university?
One of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of my time at University was being involved with the Formula Student Team, UBRacing. I was fortunate enough to work on a number of different areas of the car and ,as a result, I developed my understanding of a number of the subjects being taught as part of my degree, as well as gained a range of different skills not featured on the syllabus. Finally having the chance to work on a project from the design phase through to seeing the finished car running on track, and being involved with the various steps in between was hugely rewarding.

What is your best memory of your time at Birmingham?
The most endearing memory from my time at Birmingham would be the first time I saw a Formula Student car run. During my first year of University I had mainly helped with the manufacturing and assembly of the car. Despite not having designed any components on the car, I still felt I was part of the team. After working what felt like non-stop since exams had finished at the beginning of June, to finally see the car up and running was very special.