Development plan: making a successful transition from uni to work

Laying out a portfolio.

Colin Webb, who graduated from Brunel University with a 2:1 (Hons) in Product Design Engineering, talks to The Student Engineer about life after graduating in 2014, and the transition to working in the engineering industry with Owen Mumford


Hello Colin. Can you tell The Student Engineer what was so good about your course? 

It was a great course as it gave me a true insight into what to expect in the industry and didn’t restrict my creativity. During my time at Brunel I was exposed to a variety of opportunities which I believe has set me up well in my role today.

Out of the many engineering courses out there, what made you choose this one?

One of the core reasons I chose this course was the range of activities on offer. Studying the mechanics, electronics, materials and manufacturing modules were my favourite! The course enabled me to learn about graphic design and the more artistic parts to design too. It was great to gain these additional skills as they have come in handy with my work today. In short, the experiences I have gained during my course have given me a great insight into what to expect in the industry.

Brunel University has strong industrial links and whilst I was studying there, we regularly received design briefs from real life companies. It was a fantastic opportunity to work with the university’s industrial partners and be as creative with ideas as possible.

In what ways did your course set you up for life after graduation?

Brunel helped set me up for life with invaluable support offered in their career centre, which aimed to help students transition smoothly from education to the workplace. In my second year of university, I completed a module with the centre and a lecture called Professional Practice, which provided valuable assistance on the following:

  • Laying out a portfolio
  • Preparing for an interview
  • Writing a CV

The module was really helpful in terms of gaining real world business information. The careers centre later helped me find and attend my placement opportunity with Owen Mumford.

How did you prepare for interviews?

The careers centre was a service that I only had to use the once. The placement application process for Owen Mumford required a CV, portfolio, cover letter and interview. Within my portfolio, I showcased a project I had completed with Finite Element Analysis (FEA) – a software engineering tool – which gave an example of my capabilities using the software. The interviewers at Owen Mumford liked this piece of work so much that I later found out it was one of the things that clinched the deal in my hire. Lastly, the interview included a presentation of my work, a design challenge and a general discussion with an informal personality test at the end. During my final year of university, I was offered a full time position at Owen Mumford to join the Junior Development Plan, which I went on to accept.

What were the key things you learnt on your placement year?

I learnt multiple skills at Owen Mumford whilst on my placement year, which included learning about the manufacturing process and preparing engineering drawings (geometric dimensioning and tolerancing). This was not on my course syllabus at Brunel, so it was great to learn more about this whilst working in the industry.

One challenge I faced during my placement was getting to grips with the business dynamics and being in a network of collaborators. At university I worked very much individually so working in a network was very different and something new that I had to learn and adapt to. Although this was a new way of working, it was a change that I very much enjoyed and it is now one of the parts of my job that I thrive off the most. General creative thinking is always promoted at Owen Mumford and luckily this is something I really enjoy. With creativity, you see through a design to a working product. It is very rewarding!

How have you progressed at Owen Mumford?

Owen Mumford is a very supportive company and development is available and encouraged to all employees. The Junior Development Plan that I began my career with has been created to give graduates a series of targets to meet during their time here, to ensure they progress. From the Junior Development Plan, I have now moved into a Design Engineer role and I now help other graduates to develop, so I’ve gone full circle.

How is Owen Mumford nurturing your talent and what does the future look like?

My placement experience at Owen Mumford was invaluable in providing additional experience and ultimately made me want to work for the company after graduating. Who wouldn’t? As for the future, the main thing I enjoy is being creative, not only in my job but in life, so I’m looking to develop my skills further in every way I can. I’d also like to continue to teach graduates and collaborate with others. I find it a very fulfilling process.

Any tips for engineering graduates looking for their first role in the industry?

For recent and future graduates, a piece of advice I have is that you should spend a lot of time working on your portfolio and CV. In an interview, this and your personality are the key things you can shine with. Employers need to see what your personality is like – are you friendly, a team player, someone who would collaborate well within the company? All of these attributes are equally as important as the technical ability you display in your portfolio at the interview.

Thanks Colin!