Harry Shone is an Associate member of the Institution and graduate mechanical engineer with Crossrail.
What motivated you to become an engineer?
I took a slightly different path into engineering compared with most people. I left school at 16 and did a light vehicle maintenance apprenticeship. I did this until my early twenties but soon realised that I’d hit a glass ceiling being a mechanic and that was probably as far as I could take that career. I decided I needed a new challenge as my opportunities for progression were slimming.
I knew engineering as a whole was a much wider profession with plenty of opportunity and what working on cars had taught me, was that it was engineers who designed and made all of the systems I was taking apart and putting back together. That's what interested me, the idea of having input into the design and manufacture of something. So I went to university and did a mechanical engineering degree. It seemed like a very good follow on from being a mechanic.
Would you recommend engineering as a career to others?
Yes definitely. To gain my qualifications, I had to do a foundation year, a degree and then a masters. Those five years I spent studying were difficult and challenging, but I enjoyed all of it and I find my work very interesting and rewarding now. Engineering is challenging and forever changing and you are likely to be working on projects that will always change, which I think leads to a very interesting working life.
Have you used your skills as a mechanic as an engineer? Has it given you an advantage?
I have. Even though a construction site is very different to a mechanic’s workshop, the people and the style of work has similarities. A lot of the systems on cars are miniaturised systems that exist elsewhere. So having a fundamental understanding of the way they work has definitely helped me.
What have been the highlights of working on the Crossrail project?
Working within the client organisation has meant from early on we were given access to high-level meetings and discussions across the project, which I don’t think we’d get anywhere else. It was really interesting listening to and taking part in those discussions between designers and the engineers on how we wanted systems within Crossrail to be developed. Gaining an understanding of the contractual elements of the project has also been eye opening.
By far the most enjoyable experience has been working with the field engineering teams on the construction sites. I was based at Liverpool Street station for six months as a mechanical field engineer. There I was tasked with ensuring the installation of mechanical equipment was done safely and in accordance with the design. Understanding how you co-ordinate all the works at the same time to allow key programme dates to be met was also valuable experience.
One of the most important things I’ve learned through out all of this is how designs develop and how they are assured. I worked with the Chief Engineers group for six months and that’s where I learnt about design assurance. All the contractors are self-assuring. So they design and build their portion of the works. They have to make sure all the works meet Crossrail’s standards and Crossrail has to check that these standards are being met. In being part of this process I have a better appreciation of a variety of British and EU standards, and have learnt about Crossrail’s role in making sure these standards are met.
As a Crossrail graduate engineer I have been incredibly lucky to be sat on the client side. Most Crossrail engineers are highly experienced and more than happy to share that experience and knowledge with junior engineers. Working with, and learning from them has been a fantastic experience.
Why did you become a member of the Institution?
I’m aiming to become a Chartered Engineer and the IMechE, as far as I’m concerned, is the best institution for mechanical engineers in the UK. My university course at Kingston University was Accredited by the IMechE, which is why I chose the course. Within Crossrail I am registered on the IMechE MDPS scheme, which is structured specifically for graduate engineers who want to develop their engineering competence and gain Chartered membership. The IMechE runs this structured scheme and it’s very helpful as they give a lot of feedback and are quite open to questions about what to do next in your career. The whole aim of it is to put people on a fast track to becoming Chartered. The two-year Crossrail scheme includes four, six-month placements to help us develop our competence in a variety of engineering of areas. At the end of the two years we’ll go into full-time roles, either at Crossrail or similar organisations and continue working towards gaining Chartership.
Being an institute member also allows me to attend the courses and seminars organised by the institution. This gives me the opportunity to keep up with a range of engineering areas that are progressing, but that I'm not necessarily exposed to within my working life. At university I found Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) particularly interesting and so recently attended a seminar for modelling fire propagation within buildings.
How do you think Chartership will help your career?
When you are working towards becoming Chartered, you are working towards bettering yourself and furthering your knowledge in an area of engineering. Once you have attained that level of knowledge and achieved Chartered status, it’s not as though you can stop there. When you become a Chartered Engineer you make a commitment to constant improvement and professional growth throughout your career. It’s important to keep learning so you don’t get stale. Fellowship is also definitely an aim of mine, but it would probably be 10-15 years away. After Crossrail I’ll be aiming at getting Chartered and looking to work on interesting projects around the world. After that, I would hope that Fellowship will start to come into the frame.
At the moment I’m enjoying the rail industry and if I don’t stay with Crossrail there are a lot of rail projects in this country and around the world, such as in Australia, America and Singapore, so the opportunities are very good and the rail industry is pretty solid.
Are there other benefits of working on Crossrail, will it have a legacy?
I was born in London and have always admired the engineering marvel that is the Tube. I used it as a kid to get to school and I use it now to get to work. I think the legacy of Crossrail will be what we deliver for Londoners. I am very proud to have contributed to a new railway line underneath the entire city that will be here long after I’m gone.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing engineering?
One of the challenges facing engineers and the world is sustainable development. Not only ensuring that how we complete the works is environmentally friendly, but that whatever it is that we are building fits into the landscape and doesn’t have a negative impact on its surroundings. It’s a consideration that has to be made across all engineering projects.
Find out how to become an Associate member.