Are you a post-graduate sick of scrolling through job adverts and seeing nothing suited to you? Are you looking for a career change? Or are you merely curious about what jobs Europe, and the world, has to offer? In our Undiscovered Professions series, E&M explores professions beyond what meets the eye.
E&M: Hi Tim, what is it exactly that you do?
My job title is ‘graduate engineer’ which sounds fairly generic but is a pretty accurate title. I work as a design engineer at ARCC Innovations on a new bicycle, covering all aspects of the project as it progresses.
E&M: What can you tell us about ARCC Innovations?
ARCC has been formed in order to design, develop and engineer new products to the highest possible standard. It also provides a site for multiple companies to share. It supplies a combination of skills and resources which aids the growth of these companies, as well as the individuals involved. On top of this, it specifically aims to develop the careers of young designers/engineers, such as myself. This means I am involved in all stages of the project, right through to manufacture, which is all done on site. It’s a rare opportunity and one that I consider myself lucky to have.
In my career, there are many occasions where you can spend hours working on a potential solution to be shown that it isn’t viable. It’s part of the learning curve, especially in my position, but it can be tricky to not grow attached to ideas. Whilst it could be perceived as a waste of time whenever an idea is discarded, there is always something to be learnt from it. I’m told that experience is just a measure of how many mistakes you’ve made, which is proving to be true so far.
E&M: What was your dream job when you were younger?
It seemed to change every week, but when I was about 16 I was fairly settled on engineering. I was always keen on making things, usually something knocked together in our garage. When I was much younger I’d been scared of flying because I didn’t understand how aeroplanes worked. This drove me to (try) and learn how they did, as well as piloting a couple, through the Air Training Corp. These two factors combined and resulted in me studying Aerospace Engineering at University.
E&M: What is the best thing about what you do?
The reason I wanted to work somewhere like ARCC was because I wanted to get a chance at seeing the entire process of creating a product. Large engineering firms that take on graduates can often be geared up to keep all the graduates locked away in an office somewhere. What I love about my job is that I have a desk in the design office, but also, a dedicated space in the workshop. I can spend time down there, learning more about manufacturing processes than I ever could in a lecture theatre during my degree, from excellent technical engineers with decades of experience.
E&M: Often youths these days are pressured into the idea that they should know exactly what they want to do from a young age and everything they study and their work experiences should be going towards this goal, how far do you agree with this? Do you find you had a conventional career path?
It’s so hard to know exactly what to do during school. My main advice would be to find what it is that you enjoy the most; ignoring salaries, stereotypes, biases and all the other waffle. That’s what led me to engineering, it wasn’t the idea of ‘being an engineer’. I just knew I enjoyed making ‘things’ and also learning how ‘things’ worked. That led me to product design, maths and physics during school and engineering as a degree followed on naturally.
E&M: What advice would you have for other young people looking to get into your career path?
My main advice is to get into the practical side. It’s never too late to start. The beauty of engineering and making things, is that it can be done by anyone, anywhere, and on any budget. That drive to learn how things work, or improve something by fashioning some sort of tool, is exactly what engineering is. My favourite inventions are most often created from the bits and bobs people have lying around their house. My favourites coming from Simone Giertz. I think this side of engineering gets overshadowed by the theoretical side (Maths & Physics) which is a real shame as it’s equally important.
E&M: Do you think there is enough emphasis on taking career paths like yours?
It was very easy for me to be drawn into the world of engineering, the problem is that it is still so heavily biased towards males. The ratio of male to female engineers is a joke, and something I firmly believe needs addressing earlier on in education. Boys were always encouraged to work with tools whereas the girls were not. Looking at other subjects, such as medicine, the gender balance is far better. It is embarrassing that it’s taking engineering so long to catch up.
E&M: And lastly, do you think there are enough opportunities for graduates to enter your field? If not, how could this be improved?
There are many career opportunities available for graduates in engineering. The down side is, the majority of careers come from graduate placements in large firms. There are not so many opportunities for young engineers to excel in a smaller work environment, where they can see the entire process. Fortunately, this seems to be changing. This is because funding for start-up companies is becoming more easily attainable through crowdfunding etc. This isn’t without drawbacks, however, and I am lucky to be part of a company that isn’t reliant on crowdfunding.
About the interviewee
Tim Jones is from Solihull, UK. He studied Aerospace Engineering at Liverpool University in the north west of England and now lives and works in Cambridge. Tim has always loved making things and experiments from his project, Timkering, have featured on the Unilad website. Tim is always coming up with ideas for new inventions. He tests his ideas out and builds prototypes at work, where he is encouraged to be innovative. He loves tennis and is a keen player and qualified coach.