Maxwell Cameron-Jones: When I was at University and my first years since graduating
MEng Chemical Engineering, 2017
Process Project Engineer at Siemens Gamesa
When I was at university and the question, “How much of your degree do you use in your job?” was asked, I often heard “not very much, maybe 20%”. Considering my first job and now second, I would have to say I disagree!
I graduated from the Chemical Engineering department in summer 2017 after a brilliant 4 years. Throughout that time I worked hard but also had an amazing time, meeting my now best friends and developing a lot personally. The time at university is the best opportunity not to just learn academic knowledge but also to push yourself in many areas. My advice is to leave university with no regrets as the time there is very little relative to a lifetime, and you won't get the chance to have so much freedom to decide what you want to do or try. So make the most of it.
Throughout my time at university, there was the ongoing pressure of what will you do afterwards. The answer is almost anything. That can be the issue: knowing what to do. My advice is to find out what most interests you by reading more, attending the extra learning opportunities and heading out of the University to talk to people in industry. Also, talk to your lecturers about what they are working on – they’re world-leading researchers!
That last point is how I got my first graduate job. Throughout my four years I knew I wanted to work in the energy industry. I applied and was successful at obtaining a BP Scholarship, opening my eyes to the gigantic energy sector. Through being interested in the research going on in the School and through a professor, I discovered Highview Power. I attended their pilot plant opening event at the University and was able to introduce myself to the company’s Engineering Director: that was the start that led to me securing a summer internship with them, and later a graduate job.
During my two and a half years at Highview Power, an energy storage technology development company using cryogenic air as the storage media, I was fortunate enough to join the company as they were finishing their demonstration plant. Thanks to this good timing, I had the opportunity to work on-site and experience the last stages of the project, including the mechanical electrical installation, commissioning, testing and then operating. I was very nervous about being on-site at first, but quickly gained confidence and knowledge to be able to successfully manage contractors. I worked with some great colleagues through challenging problems, to achieve brilliant success.
At Highview I worked on the design of their first commercial plant. The knowledge and experience I gained in this very different environment was incredibly valuable, especially in developing my people skills as I worked with external contacts for the first time.
Driven by a desire to work internationally, earlier this year I sent out speculative applications to European-based companies operating in fields I find personally very interesting, particularly those pursuing an environmentally sustainable endeavour. That is how I came to move to Hamburg, Germany and begin working for Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, working on the technology development of energy storage using hot rocks as the storage media. I have been able to bring my previous experience to the new role which I am thoroughly enjoying. I even started my new job at home during COVID-19 lockdown! Working from home has certainly developed additional work skills such as communication and remote collaboration.
In both jobs so far I use my degree every day. Without it, as a Project Engineer I would not understand what I’m working on. The way of thinking from fundamental theories helps me approach problems and think of the potential solutions. How to execute those solutions by considering engineering best practise, document creation and communication are all things I have learnt on the job. It is, however, my understanding of engineering from all disciplines, plus the maths and science I learnt at school and university, that not only allows me to complete my daily work tasks but also become better at doing my job each day.
“My advice is to leave university with no regrets as the time there is very little relative to a lifetime, and you won't get the chance to have so much freedom to decide what you want to do or try. So make the most of it.”