“I realised how much of an impact engineers have on my day-to-day world, and I wanted to be part of that, to help improve people’s lives,” Philippa Jefferis, a graduate engineer at one of the largest companies in the UK, AMEY, says about how she first decided to study engineering.
She continues: “Engineering is all about the tangible output; it's a career where you can really feel you're making a difference and [can] show other people.” It’s about job satisfaction, she says.
Philippa is an active STEM ambassador and a member of Engineers Without Borders UK, an international development organisation that removes barriers to development through engineering. While at university, she headed the EWB UK branch in Birmingham.
“We have some great training programs in place, as well as providing placements for those who are keen to go out and put their skills into action,” the young engineer says about the organization.
“However, it's not just for those wishing to go out and explore; there [are] lots of opportunities with training and conferences held by both the student branches [of EWB] but also by EWB-UK,” Philippa says.
“The aim is to help engineers gain a better understanding of the human side of engineering, which is an essential lesson for any engineer.”
The graduate scheme she is now a part of at AMEY, an infrastructure support service provider, has helped Philippa to develop a greater understanding of this human side of the profession.
“I have learnt a lot about working with other people, and not being afraid to ask questions,” she says.
“When you are new to a role, you want to impress people… Yet on a graduate scheme everyone knows you are there to learn, and [they] are expecting you to ask questions.
“I'm getting better now at speaking up when I don't understand something and it makes everything so much easier.”
Being proactive helps not just to fit in within a team more easily, but it also teaches you how to communicate more effectively, to convey your ideas.
“It also definitely pays to be enthusiastic and engage with people: volunteering to help out with extra activities means you can get to know other people within a business, but also learn skills you may not use in your day to day job,” Philippa says.
She adds: “Communication is essential in engineering, as all our work is carried out as part of a team – you need to be able to communicate to your team members to ensure you are heading in the right direction.
She says the AMEY grad scheme provides lots of opportunities to gain experience: “I am rotating around different parts of the business… Getting a wider view of what is required to deliver engineering projects.”
The company is entirely driven by its employees, says Philippa, and by their passions and ambition. “[It’s] just the kind of culture I wanted to be involved in.”
She advises young engineers to not be afraid to be outgoing, and to engage with people. “Ask difficult questions, and find out more about the world you live in,” she says.
“Engineers need to stay connected to the world, and yet have the imagination to think beyond current limits to find the solution to the problem.”
Engineering is a hands-on profession. The best way to learn is though practice, she adds: “Make sure you try and get as much work experience as possible – engineering is all about experience and understanding, so the more you get involved… The better you'll be.”