What is your role?
Bradley Durrant: I work as a mechanical and electrical engineer. I was originally an undergrad in 2016, and then I applied for the graduate scheme and worked for two years throughout five different departments.
Adam Potter: I joined as an undergrad in 2016. I really enjoyed my 12-month placement. I then finished my degree, applied for the graduate scheme, and was lucky enough to get on. I spent two years working in various departments including propulsion testing, component testing and business development. I am now a design engineer.
What did you do on the graduate scheme?
AP: I moved slightly differently to most other graduates, working in business development for four months. It was very valuable experience, because I got to see the other side of the business, learning the process and understanding the background to managing different customers.
You can kind of carve your own path. If you’ve got an interest and there is an opportunity, they are more than willing for it to happen.
How important is support from senior colleagues?
BD: It’s daunting to begin with, but there’s a really good network of people here that have been through the same cycle of learning. The vast majority of people that work in my office were here as undergraduates or graduates. No one will be upset if you get it wrong and try again.
How has mentoring helped you develop?
BD: Our mentor Dan Ince puts so much focus on personal learning, and cares as much about supporting your personal development – your aspirations and dreams – as your technical ability. It’s also about how you work with people, how you have a difficult conversation with a customer.
I think he was moulded quite a lot by how the Monitored Professional Development Scheme (MPDS) structures the world and your perspective of engineering. He’s done a good job of passing that on.
AP: He’s been brilliant. Being able to go and speak to Dan with any issues you have on a project is really useful. I feel more than comfortable if I have an issue, which I think is a great thing about Millbrook. Or if you have something you want to suggest that could improve things, they’re more than willing to take that on board and discuss some way of doing it.
BD: Every now and then, when we’ve just had new undergraduates start, I think “Wow, that was me just three years ago. How much have things changed in that time?” I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Adam and I have worked hard to try to improve, but without such a good support network I don’t think there’s any hope we would be like we are.
AP: If something comes up, in terms of my professional development, Dan’s got a really grounded knowledge and is probably an expert in finite element analysis. I hadn’t actually done a lot of that at uni, and he’s taking the time to bring me up to speed with it.
On top of this support, there are the varied projects you get, so you’re naturally going to build up expertise and knowledge. We get given a lot of responsibility – there have been times I’ve thought “I wasn’t expecting to do this, but I’m very fortunate and happy I am.”
Are you interested in mentoring in future?
BD: Absolutely. I think with this sort of thing you’ve got to pay it forward. We’ve benefited massively from it and I think it’s only right that we try to help others going forward. I already feel like I want to try to help the younger engineers coming in.
AP: I totally agree. I think it’s embedded now that I’ve done it.
When did you become a mentor?
Dan Ince: I gained my chartership in 2013 and joined Millbrook in 2015. Within the first year or so I joined the MPDS scheme as a mentor and did some training through the IMechE.
I work as a senior engineer, covering anything from design and simulation through to build support, testing, then documentation and delivery. It’s quite a varied role.
What does the mentoring involve?
We keep a bare minimum monthly ‘drumbeat’ kind of meeting with both of my mentees. We give ourselves a good hour at the very least.
It’s as much about giving them pastoral support as it is the more formal reporting and objective setting, and trying to hit the UK-Spec competencies. I enjoy seeing them grow and develop, helping them through some challenges. I guess that’s part and parcel of being an engineer – if someone’s got a problem, you have to try and fix it.
How have your mentees benefited?
They always recognise the limit of their knowledge – sometimes maybe a little bit too much. They’re a bit too reserved and don’t give themselves credit, so the mentoring has helped their confidence grow with a little nudge from me sometimes, saying “No, actually, you do know what you’re talking about here.”
Are mentoring programmes important for the future of engineering?
Absolutely. Learning to have confidence in your own intuition in whatever project you’re in is quite important.
Hand in hand with that is also not being afraid sometimes to say “I don’t understand what this is, this is outside of my experience, I need to reach out to the right person, textbook or piece of software.” It’s really important to recognise when you’re at the limit of your knowledge, especially when you’re young.
Has mentoring helped you as well?
It’s really helped me in a more informal setting. I’m operating as a senior engineer at the moment, and hopefully the opportunity will be there within Millbrook to progress to do more technical leadership. This has really helped me to develop my coaching skills.
It’s not all a one-way street. I get a lot back that has certainly helped my career develop. My mentees are quite often teaching me things.
Mentoring lets you give back to the engineering community and boost your professional development. For more information, visit the IMechE mentoring page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.