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 enjoyed my work placement very greatly - it was a new opportunity in a new location working on new techniques which I had not previously been exposed to. Throughout the process I was supported by the teams I worked with and the variety of work meant that it was always enjoyable.
2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?
Each piece of work I undertook was all contributing to actual projects - I wasn't just a tea boy for a year! - and by being properly embedded into the teams I was working with, it ensured that my work was valuable and I was in turn valued by my colleagues.
3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?
Due to the small team sizes, whenever I needed support or guidance it was easy for me to contact someone and ask for help. I was provided with lots of background reading to complete before each project to ensure that I was up to speed before starting any project. All training for software used was provided.
4. How busy were you on a daily basis?
On the whole, I was very busy on a daily basis during my placement. There was generally a constant stream of work to do which, as mentioned before, was very varied. There were occasional lapses where lead times on parts meant that I was slightly less busy but I used these times to ensure my logbook and diary (assigned by university) were up to date.
5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?
I was given a fair amount of responsibility during my placement. Over the course of my placement, I was given full responsibility for one run of tests (including all the Health and Safety/paperwork stuff!) and I was also listed as the primary author on a procurement specification which was later delivered to suppliers.
6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?
Both the technical skills and “working” skills I learned will help me in my degree studies and beyond. I will hopefully be able to take a project from work on as my Final Year Project at university and the soft skills like document writing should serve me well in the future.
7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?
The atmosphere in the office was generally positive and relaxed, with everyone working together in their teams and helping to cross-pollinate ideas between different groups within the office. There were no draconian requirements to work in silence or anything like that so there was normally a happy level of chat going on at any given time!
8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?
The work placement was very well organised with information prior to joining being given in a timely manner beforehand, allowing me to sort out accommodation etc. A buddy system also helps the joining process. There is a formal company induction and a site induction, plus quarterly graduate forums which placement students were able to attend to meet other graduates, listen to talks and air concerns.
9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?
The company was good at investing in personal training and development, allowing us to access the company’s online resources for self-learning but also enabling us to go on courses and to conferences by our chosen professional institutions. For example, I was able to go to a RAeS conference in Farnborough to learn and network with professionals from a wider circle than just the company.
10. What were the perks on your work placement?
Above 25 days holiday
11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?
Future employment prospects are positive so far! I still have to do some things to confirm it but I hope to be offered a place on the graduate scheme for the company and I understand that there are reasonably good rates of students doing exactly that. I am not obliged to work at the same site and could go elsewhere within the company if I so choose.
12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?
I got on well with the graduates and fellow placement students who were based at the same site as me however the social scene was limited as some had to commute over from Southampton every day (I was based on the Isle of Wight) and were limited by ferry times. I gather that there was a better scene at some of the sites in Portsmouth.
13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?
The cost of living on the Isle of Wight is definitely manageable on the salary which BAE Systems provides. Rent is generally below the national average and there are lots of options for one bedroom apartments or annexes if that is what you choose (as I did). Socialising is more expensive because if one does not have a car, travel opportunities are limited.
14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?
The nightlife on the island is pretty abysmal! In the area where I lived there was quite a few pubs so some of us did go to pub quizzes and things like that but for actual nightlife you had to go to Southampton – luckily I have friends at the university there but you are looking at a minimum £16.40 ferry cost before you even start!
15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?
BAE Systems encourages placement students to get involved with the national STEM ambassador programme and lots of schools outreach projects. Most of these were based in the Solent area though if your school was doing any you were able to ask to go to them. Some of these were long term – one programme involved going into schools for 12 weeks to prepare them for a competition.