James Davis

MEng Mechanical Engineering with Industrial Year, 2020
Graduate Engineer within Defence, Rolls Royce

Currently, I'm on a four-month placement in lifecycle engineering within the naval business. Any in-service problems, big or small, come through the team. I'm currently working through a few safety-related tasks in parallel to investigations into possible product improvements. 

Alongside the day job, I lead a Rolls-Royce team with a charity mentor scheme for year 11's, as well as learning French on Wednesday mornings with other keen learners.

What is the best thing about what you’re doing now?

The technical aspects are great, it's a world-class business working on genuinely cutting-edge products. However, the best bit of the job in my opinion is the day-to-day culture. Interacting with colleagues at work is always refreshing, with smart people from a range of backgrounds bringing their ideas to the table. Currently, the safety tasks I work on give great scope to work with a range of people across multi-disciplinary skillsets. I am accountable for the task resolution while being facilitated to do my job by the vast array of specialists both in the team and across the business.

James Davis headshot

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

During my time at university, I completed a year-in-industry at Rolls-Royce, and simply put, that got me to my current role on the graduate scheme. There were no further assessments or interviews prior to day one on-site. The internship gave a great springboard into the role, already aware of the standard systems and processes in place, which was especially helpful given the COVID-19 situation working from home.

Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?

I didn't know a lot about Birmingham before the open day. It was in the Goldilocks zone of far, but not too far, from home, while offering a high standard academic pedigree being a member of the Russel group. After a visit to both the campus and department, I saw the benefits of a truly beautiful campus university with great access to the city and an aspirational capital infrastructure plan. The department gave a strong sense of industry links as well as opportunities to get involved with extra-curricular groups and activities if desired.

What are your fondest memories of the University?

In a professional context, I would perhaps describe this as developing my soft skills... first year was a blast. Somehow, I lucked out living with great people in the Tennis Courts accommodation, who I went on to live with the following two years. We did every social under the sun; Guild nights, city nights, black tie, and bin-bag. Those moments and the people I met will stay with me for the rest of my life.

We Are (Third Width)

Did you get involved in any extracurricular activities as a student?

Birmingham offers a vast array of opportunities to get involved in, I realised that pretty quickly during all of the fresher's fairs and email correspondence (not to be ignored!). In sports, I competed at the University Indoor Ultimate Frisbee nationals, a sport that I picked up at university, became social secretary for and to this day, live with three people who are also club alumni. I was a member of the MechSoc football club, the University tennis club, swimming charity events, the BUDs 5 km charity run, the inaugural Birmingham Marathon. It's easy to ignore in the moment, but meeting new people and operating under pressure were valuable experiences for me moving forwards. I received a scholarship to study in Korea for free for four weeks over the summer, studying Strategic Management and International Business, all thanks to the international relations department. My first time in Asia, was an incredible experience, having to rely on myself more than ever and question things I'd previously taken personally and culturally for granted. I earned money as a student ambassador within the department, represented third year on the MechSoc committee, and on Monday nights did salsa...

What advice would you give to current students?

Programme-wise, talking to people from previous years is very helpful both for projects and module selection. When dealing with academics remember that people operate in different ways, some may be slow via email, but welcoming if you drop by their office. Accommodation-wise, it genuinely is what you make of it. The faster you accept where you are and who you're with, the faster things become what you hoped they'd be all along.

Top tip from James

“Take as many opportunities as you can, the weirder the better, you are unlikely to get a chance or the availability for a long time.”