I’d like that job – Jack Strong, Engineering & Technology Magazine Interview
As a materials engineer Jack’s work entails providing PFMEA support as well as researching the development of new materials.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
Grainger & Worrall.
What’s your job title?
How long have you been doing that?
How did you get there?
It’s been quite a journey. After school I worked in a small automotive engine development company making rally engines. While running an engine on our test bed, a piston shot out the side of the cylinder block through a thin walled section, straight by my leg. As a technical task the company asked me to write a report to ascertain the failure mechanism, investigating the scale of deformation, which in turn initiated my interest and awareness in materials science through academia.
To progress my knowledge, I studied an engineering course at Loughborough University, which focused specifically on materials engineering. Alongside attending university, in the summer months I worked in a number of small engineering companies. With the skills I had learned coming from a respective university materials department, I found no trouble getting a job.
After graduating, I worked for BAE Systems in the Advanced Technology Centre. My role of materials scientist consisted of materials product support for the UK’s defense industry. This is when I first joined the IET, becoming a member of the institute, on the road to reaching Chartered Engineer status. I was with the defense company for just over a year before deciding to move on, following my decision to pursue a more research-based role in the automotive industry. It was from here that I found Grainger & Worrall, a well-known high performance castings specialist with a recently established research department, looking for a materials engineer.
What’s the work and day-to-day experience like?
My role consists mainly of two constituents; providing PFMEA analysis support across the company’s production departments, alongside working on aluminium research projects to develop new materials – normally collaborating with academia and industry.
My day-to-day experience is very diverse so prioritisation is key. I have weeks where I am working on site, the next day I could be at a conference, then the next writing a report to accompany an investigation. It’s all very interesting and it allows me interact with the entire site.
What’s the best thing about the job?
In my role there is nothing more satisfying than taking a machined cylinder V12 block from a high performance sports car, then chopping it in half and sampling sections for metallographic analysis. However, working in research also allows me to meet very interesting people; another great perk of the job.
And the worst?
Explaining what my role encompasses to friends and family is very challenging. I think my girlfriend still has absolutely no idea what I do, regardless of how many times I’ve told her!
What standout things have you got involved in so far?
I’m still relatively new in this field of engineering, but I’ve already had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people, both inside and outside of the business.
With the research projects present and forecast, I feel very involved with the ongoing technology development in the automotive industry. My department’s work is directly influencing future technologies and their implementation. It’s a great place to be!
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
I can’t imagine working as anything else but an engineer. I think my hobbies are even very engineering-based. Excluding sport, all are based around design and development. For example I am awaiting my own additive manufacturing 3D printer to arrive very soon!
What did you expect when you started work? Did anything surprise you?
Having worked in the summer months during university, I thought I was fully prepared for a full-time role. However, summer placement roles really only give a taster, as you only work a short period of time and are in some ways shielded. Now fully immersed in an engineering role, I find myself running multiple projects and am fully responsible for the delivery of results, so it’s a testing environment that I am still getting my head around.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
Don’t just follow the crowd – find a niche that really interests you and work hard to achieve your goals.
What do you think you’ll do next?
I am keen to further my education, looking to do a part-time master’s research project alongside my current role.