Stephen Turner – MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering graduate

Current employer: Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Current job title: Graduate Electrical/Electronic Engineer

Current location: Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, Oxfordshire

“Placement experience in your subject area, whether that’s a gap year, work experience, a summer placement, or a year in industry, is well worth the extra time to ensure that you build up and can put together your CV and cover letter. It’s also great for practising interviews.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I applied for the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s graduate scheme during my final year of university and I was accepted onto an engineering role, designing and testing upgrades to be used in ISIS, a particle accelerator and neutron source which scientists from around the world come to use in order to study materials and processes at the atomic level. The graduate scheme is accredited by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and I am currently making my way towards becoming a chartered engineer (CEng) on the scheme.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Not yet, fortunately, as it’s only been six months! At the moment, I’m very happy with where I am working, but I am also looking at the options available to me in the longer term, such as remaining in a technical role or moving towards management, whether I should enrol in further study for a PhD or start a spin-off company. If I decide on any of these options, then there are different ways in which the organisation can support me while I do them, which is encouraging.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

For me, it was probably failing a year at university and learning that I’d have to redo that year. It was quite a setback for a number of reasons, but it worked out for me in the end as it led me to really evaluate the learning style I used at the time and why it wasn’t giving me the results for which I hoped. I ended up finding out about more techniques and approaches that were more compatible with how I learnt things, and it’s been of great use ever since. 

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

I was selected to work for a social enterprise in India for six months as part of my industrial placement year on a range of renewable technology projects intended to give some of India’s poorest communities access to electricity. The experience allowed me to use some of the skills I developed during my course in a situation that was initially outside of my comfort zone. It was this placement that made me realise that working on projects that help people is what suited me the most, which in turn helped me to decide for which graduate roles to apply.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Placement experience in your subject area, whether that’s a gap year, work experience, a summer placement, or a year in industry, is well worth the extra time to ensure that you build up and can put together your CV and cover letter. It’s also great for practising interviews and going to assessment centres; actually applying to companies gives you real life experience. It’s a huge advantage to have relevant work experience compared to not having it, as those employers will know that others have also looked over your applications in detail and have offered you a position. Employers also want to know why you want to work for them, in particular above others: so tailor your application to suit.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

There are lots of volunteering projects, charities, and local groups on campus and in the area. I was able to further develop my subject knowledge by attending talks arranged by the local branches of professional institutions/associations, and the fundraising and volunteering support that the Students’ Union gave allowed me to work on my soft skills.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with University of Plymouth, and why?

Yes. For my course, we had a lot of contact hours with lecturers, learning the theory and getting experience in a well-equipped lab, whilst being supported by a team of helpful technicians for practical tasks. It’s open for students to use all day when practical lectures aren’t scheduled, which gives students lots of time to learn how to use the various bits of equipment and components. There’s also the peer-assisted learning scheme (PALS) where students further along in a course help those who are newer to the subject understand topics with which they are struggling – and they are paid for their efforts.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

University is a great opportunity to learn more about the topics in which you are interested and passionate, and just by being a registered student you also have a lot of opportunities available outside of the course which I would recommend undertaking to get the most out of the experience (and your money). The chances are it won’t be easy to do many of them again after leaving university, so do it while you know you can!

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying electrical and electronic engineering, please visit our MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering 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.