Ben Connolly is a process/project engineer at Lorien Engineering Solutions. He joined the engineering design and project management firm three years ago following the completion of the practical aspect of his PhD in chemical engineering at Swansea University. He is aiming to complete his IChemE chartership in the next 12 months.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
I enjoy solving problems. People are always throwing challenges at you and asking how they can be solved. It’s like being a trouble shooter. I enjoy working on different projects in diverse locations. I like travelling and I’m curious to see how different manufacturers work.
What attracted you to a career in engineering and to Lorien?
Lorien provides engineering design, project management and technical consulting services to customers in the food, brewing, drinks, life sciences discovery and manufacturing sectors. This means that I get involved in a wide range of projects, often encountering obscure challenges that I never knew existed, such as ‘How do you pump Marmite?’. I’m also lucky to be able to learn from some experienced colleagues who have ‘been there, done that’ and are happy to help me. The joy of an open-plan office is that someone can hear your conversation and chip in with some advice or an answer. That’s a very productive environment in which to work.
What is your typical day like?
Because of the variety of projects, my days can vary wildly. One day I could be working on designs, drawings and calculations in the office, the next I might be on site, managing contractors or exploring how we can solve a problem. Another day I could be in a meeting with a client discussing the weird and wonderful solutions that can be provided by cutting edge technology.
Tell us about an interesting project you’ve been working on recently.
I was recently involved in a water project at a brewery where the old tanks were just about falling apart. We took some old brewery vessels and modified them to become water tanks. When we switched the flow on and everything worked well it was hugely satisfying. The look on the brewer’s face made it even better.
I enjoy working within the brewing industry, it helps that I enjoy a beer outside work!
What’s your favourite thing about working for Lorien?
The variety and the pressure. I enjoy the pressure of deadlines. It focuses the mind and makes you work hard. We often get told by the site manager ‘oh, by the way, I need the plant back by 6pm’. That can lead to some interesting conversations but nothing that can’t be resolved with some sensitive negotiations and conversations. Nine times out of ten we hit their deadline.
Do you think more needs to be done to encourage young people into careers in engineering?
There is a shortage of engineers coming into the profession but its not exclusive to the UK. I have friends in New Zealand and Canada, for example, who say the same thing.
Project engineering is fantastic for a young engineer. You get to see all aspects of manufacturing. For that reason, Lorien has done very well in terms of attracting graduates.
I did a presentation in a school about working as an engineer. I told them it influences everything they consume and wear from toothpaste to clothes. We need to tap into young people’s curiosity and provide attractive career paths for them.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to pursue a career in engineering?
Work hard. Listen to your science teacher. You might not think it is important now but in a few years’ time when you don’t know what to do with your career it will serve you well.
University is not the only way to go. Apprenticeships offer an alternative route and there are some excellent employers looking for talented young people who want to learn while they work.
Overall, do something you enjoy.