Systems Engineer (latter half I was systems engineer but in a more technical team) at BAE Systems

Top Employer
Placement Year (10 Months+)
Filton, Bristol South West
Review Date
£16,000 - £17,999

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The Role



The Role

Role Description

As a Systems Engineer you'll look at projects from a holistic point of view. Whereas other engineers focus on specific details, you'll be concerned with the bigger picture. You'll often bridge the gap between the various disciplines (such as Software or Mechanical Design) by using your knowledge of the system to provide appropriate information to each area of engineering. As a result of this, you'll often be viewed as a multi-discipline engineer. Throughout the different stages of the lifecycle, you'll take the lead in systems integration and testing, qualification and acceptance. As well as the technical aspects of projects, you'll also consider important factors such as schedules, costs, training and environmental concerns. Welcome to Systems Engineering in the real world.

1. To what extent did you enjoy your work placement or internship?

I realised soon after I started that I would have liked a more technical role, and the first part of my placement (although 'engineering') was not technical at all. I don't know whether this is what a lot of engineering jobs are like in large companies - I suppose this is just a personal preference! If you are looking for a role that involves technical detail then I would not recommend BAE Systems Naval Ships as their main role is just procuring equipment from other companies and intergrating that into the ship design. This in itself is technical but if you asked someone to describe the intricate workings of a piece of equipment they often wouldn't know. Although again, perhaps if you are an engineering student you would appreciate that before applying.
The office environment was quite noisy, with people constantly chatting (the large open plan office didn't help) and I found this distracting, especially compared to other smaller offices I have worked in. Furthermore, it is fair to say that if you apply to the Naval Ships business, make sure you work in Glasgow or Portsmouth where the ships actually are (especially if you don't like flying!).


2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?

I felt very valued in the second half of my placement when in an engineering team designing part of the ship, as I made some models and analysed data which went towards actually affecting the ship design. I spent the first half of my placement writing part of the intranet site which aimed to improve the way the business works by acting as a sort of miniture wikipedia for employees. This involved contacting people throughout the business to give information and review work before upload. Most of them were not keen on helping as they were very busy. This was a great personal development experience, but did not make me feel valued by the company as a whole (although I did feel valued by my team). This shows how the general atmosphere within the company is one of "this protocol has worked for the past 50 years, why adopt new ways of working?". This is predominant in the older generation of workers.


3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?

My first line manager was too busy to properly introduce me to the business at all during the first few months, so her colleague had to take me under his wing. It turns out that someone else had requested an industrial placement student for the team and had then retired, leaving my line manager with me without a plan. It took a while for them to find me work.
However, my second line manager was wonderful and I learnt a lot from him. He gave me just the right amount of space to work independently, yet support when I needed it.
This greatly depends on what team you are based in and the score of 6/10 is just an average over the whole year.


4. How busy were you on a daily basis?

This varied greatly - in general I was given a load of tasks and a deadline to do them so could plan my work independently. Therefore I would say I was generally not too busy but not left with nothing to do that often (although there were times during the first few months when I felt like this, as explained above).


5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?

I worked in a large business so they couldn't really give me lots of responsibility. However, when writing for the intranet site during the first half of my placement I was completely responsible for my work. During the second half I did work that my colleagues and I looked through to then advise the customer on the design, so I was responsible for my work but I wouldn't say I alone made a lot of difference to the ship design - it was definitely a team effort.


6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?

I gained experience in: dealing with difficult colleagues, concentrating in noisy environments, meetings, working to challenging deadlines (for intranet-site releases) and countless interpersonal skills. I now know that I would like a very technical job (and that a lot of engineering is not actually technical in the same sense as the science that I am more accustomed to).
I learnt some things about underwater acoustics but not to the level of detail needed for a physics degree, so again that's just another difference between science and engineering. However, I feel that my appreciation for planning and holistic thinking has improved by doing an engineering placement in a large company - something which perhaps I would not have gained in a scientific field.


The Organisation

7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?

As mentioned, it was very chatty and distracting. It was rather irritating that everyone spent so long on the phone yet had to work in an open-plan office. Most people would not even speak quietly. I have worked in offices with ten or less people in other organisations and this seems to work a lot better. Furthermore, I am sure that most people in the office spent almost as long talking about non-work related things than work-related things.
However, the atmosphere was pleasant and everyone was very smiley and diverse. I suppose it just comes down to whether you thrive in a people-filled environment or work better in a quiet room.
In terms of the ratings on here (1=dull, 10=fun never stopped!) then I suppose it was definitely more fun than dull. But I am sure a lot of people would rather a quieter place to get on with work than a fun, unproductive work-space. This is entirely personal preference...but overall a good balance between fun and dull is crucial. Therefore ideally this should have had a 5 in my opinion. I have given this a 7 because it was too noisy and distracting to be a 5.


8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?

Again, this varied greatly between the first and second half of my placement. The first half was initially not at all organised. Firstly in terms of not having any work ready for me to do for a good month (this is due to the retirement as explained earlier). Secondly, it seemed like there was no prior communication between my line manager and the HR team - my induction list took a lot longer than hoped because of this and getting access to IT applications was not at all quick or easy. (On this note, I would have greatly appreciated the opportunity to use MatLab during my placement but had to do everything on Excel because of the hassle of getting access to software like this - something I did not expect from a world-leading engineering company).
However, even though my second line manager for the latter half of my placement was knew to the company, he gave me extremely interesting, varied work to do without hesitation. He got to know the HR team who were dealing with me quite well which I greatly appreciate.
I think the stark differences between the two halves of my placement come down to the nature of the work in each half. The first half was working on the intranet site which was a new initiative that had tight deadlines to meet and lots of challenges in terms of getting people to adopt the ideas! The second half was me just slotting in to an engineering team which was great.
I gave a 4 for this because although it seemed unorganised, it is due to the immaturity of the placement scheme more than the people involved.


9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?

The online training system prompted me to do a fair amount of online training which was good. I also pushed to get on a one-day course in systems engineering which the company paid for and was very informative.


10. What were the perks on your work placement?

  • Flexi Time
  • Subsidised Canteen

11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?

I would like to see what the other BAE Systems business units (not just Naval Ships) are like to work for. I would definitely consider going back, but would choose my role wisely - definitely a technical engineering one as my experience there was far better than in systems engineering.



12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?

There were only a few placement students based in my office (again, there are far more in Glasgow) and we got on quite well. However, they were all in a team together and I was on my own. I quite liked that, but I can see why others would rather not be in that situation.
In general, there are far more older generations of people working in Naval Ships than people in their 20s (at least that's what I saw in my office anyway). There was one office night-out during the year, but no sports clubs or societies to join. However, I think the graduates up in Glasgow started a bouldering club which sounded really good. Everyone in the office got on quite well.


13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?

I lived in Filton/Bristol which was not that expensive, but perhaps more than a lot of places. I have heard that Glasgow is even cheaper!


14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?

Filton is very boring but Bristol (20-40 mins bus) is great and very varied.


15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?

No, as mentioned there were no clubs or societies in my office. Perhaps this will change if more graduates take jobs there... There was one night out though.