Engineering a dream job while on placement

The power of placements

I never thought that I would graduate with a job already secured – before I had even started my third year – and I can only thank the support of the University’s staff at Plymouth for that.

I am the Graduate Hardware Development Engineer at Buhler Sortex Ltd and I was very lucky to be offered this job at the end of my placement year. I work in a large research and development team creating world-leading optical sorting machines, mainly for the food industry – not something I thought I’ll be doing five years ago.

My lecturers strongly encouraged me to apply for a placement and that was the single best decision I made throughout my studies. It changed my life! In the short term, I came back to my third and masters year with so much extra knowledge. Real life experience is priceless, and you can definitely see students returning from placements performing better. Knowing that I already done a job that I enjoyed took a large amount of pressure off the final year, as there was no uncertainty and interviews with which to get distracted. 

After finishing my degree, Sortex gave me almost a year off before I re-joined – which I spent travelling and snowboarding.

Life as a hardware development engineer

Since starting my career, I have been given multiple projects to balance simultaneously; sometimes I have a free hand, but sometimes I receive more guidance.

Projects have included LED lighting design, PC integration to our system, including digital electronics and micro controller design. I have had experience in the planning, producing requirements specifications, followed by design specification, test reports, installation guides, all the way to official release documents to production.

The first time you roll out a product is always exciting! After you put so much effort into it, going to customer sites for testing is very rewarding.

Choosing Plymouth

I originally went into robotics as I find the area of bionic prosthetics fascinating. My studies at Plymouth widened my interest to all automatised systems, whether humanoid walking robots or high-tech, high-speed optical sorters.

I had moved from Hungary and lived in Plymouth for the year before my studies. Knowing the location well and having some friends before the start definitely put less pressure on me. The accreditation played a major role in my selection of the course, as getting chartered status opens even more doors for my career.

I found my course very hands-on – learning to source answers on my own is the most useful skill an engineer can have. In my current position I’m constantly facing problems and, basically, my job is to solve them! It’s exactly the same as all the course work I completed at university: here’s a problem or a future product idea, research it, solve it, produce it, test it, and document it. The only thing that’s different is the scale of the projects.

My favourite study related memory is our master’s project open day. Talking to all the employers about the STERNA, the robot sail boat we had built with three of my course mates, made me realise how complicated everything looks from the outside and how straight forward it seems to us. That’s true for all the problems I have had to solve since: it’s only a problem when you don’t understand it. The employers liked it so much that we got a price for it, and one of us (Matthew Preston) got a job out of it, to work with automatic under water vehicles,

The combination of my learning experience, the location, and the extracurricular activities all made my time at Plymouth the best ever.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying robotics, please visit our MEng (Hons) Robotics course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni from the Faculty of Science and Engineering are currently doing, please visit the engineering and robotics interest area.