Nora Schillinger – MEng (Hons) Robotics graduate

Year of graduation: 2015

Current Employer: Buhler Sortex Ltd

Current Job Title: Graduate Hardware Development Engineer

Current Location: London

“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 Plymouth University’s staff for that!”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

I am very lucky as I was offered this job at the end of my placement year. After finishing my degree, Sortex gave me almost a year off before I re-joined – which I spent travelling and snowboarding. 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.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

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.

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I guess I’d probably be more engaged with the sports clubs from day one. I made friends for life there! On the other hand, because I was concentrating more on my first year studies, that gave me a very solid base, so I didn’t need to worry about grades in my later years when I was involved with a number of clubs.

What was your main reason for choosing to study your course at Plymouth? With hindsight how significant was this for you?

I 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 also played a major role in my selection, as I’m currently on the way to getting chartered status which will open even more doors for my career.

How did we support you in your studies? If you used any support services whilst at the university how did they enable you to get to where you are today?

I personally used the Employability service to get my CV checked and for mock interviews; although it’s not subject specific, the general advice they can provide helped me to build my confidence for interviews. I will take that knowledge with me to all my future jobs.

How did studying at Plymouth change your career aspirations and plans?

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 didn’t plan on going on a placement as I had the common misconception of, “it’s better to just get the degree out of the way,” but thankfully my lecturers strongly encouraged me to apply and that was the single best decision I made throughout my studies. 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 Plymouth University’s staff for that!

What is your favourite memory of studying for your degree at Plymouth?

Four years at Plymouth gave me many incredible memories, so it’s hard to pick a favourite! 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!

How well did Plymouth prepare you for the challenges that you have faced, or will face, in your career?

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. I found my course at Plymouth University very hands on and, while I used to moan a bit when I was told by the lecturers to research the answer rather than them just telling me, learning to learn on my own is the most useful skill an engineer can have!

Why would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University?

The learning experience, the location, and the extracurricular activities all made my time the best ever! I almost did a doctorate to be able to stay a bit longer, but at the end of the day I prefer to produce something new, than research the possibilities.

If you did a placement how did this impact on your short and long term career plans?

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’s no uncertainty and interviews with which to get distracted. Long term, I’m now settled into a large R&D team developing world-leading optical sorting machines, mainly for the food industry – not something I though I’ll be doing five years ago!

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 Computing, Electronics 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.