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My engineering journey: Aquaterra Energy engineering director Nick Stringer

Professional Engineering

Nick Stringer from Aquaterra Energy
Nick Stringer from Aquaterra Energy

Beginnings

I grew up watching my father and older brother race motorbikes all over Europe. I was always in the garage with my dad, and I got an interest in engineering from that as a starting point. Then at school the subjects I had an aptitude for led me down the route of an engineering degree.

1998-2002, Mechanical Engineering, Oxford Brookes University

My degree really opened my eyes to a broader set of possibilities of what you could do with your career – as part of it, I did a placement year in a manufacturing environment. I was also exposed to the IMechE at university via a student membership. It really gave me a sense of engineering, not just as a technical subject, but also of the broadness and depth of the different professions.

2000-01, Production Engineer, Trox

When I graduated it took me six months to find a job – you have to be persistent and keep looking for opportunities. Eventually, after writing a lot of letters, I had the opportunity to go back to Trox, who make parts for air-cooling systems, and where I’d done my placement year in 2000-01. But I’d enjoyed finite element analysis in particular, and I wanted the challenge of doing something technical, so I took a job at Multimatic. 

2003-07, Structures Engineer, Multimatic

Multimatic are a Tier One supplier to the automotive industry – they make their money in car door and boot hinges, but they did lots of other work with automotive OEMs and motorsport which gave my job a lot of varied interest. You could go from doing the door hinge on a Ford Focus one week to consultancy for a Formula One team the next. During this time I also did a secondment in Aberdeen at one of their clients. Secondments are something any engineer should try and grasp – you learn so much from them.

2007-15, Riser Analysis Manager, Aquaterra Energy

I really enjoyed the work I was doing at Multimatic but I didn’t see an opportunity to progress through the ranks – there was someone above me and I just couldn’t see how I could progress until he left, and that didn’t really seem like it could happen. I’d seen chartered engineers become directors of companies, and I wanted to go somewhere where I’d have those opportunities. 

So I joined Aquaterra as an analyst, doing analysis of risers and conductors for offshore wells. It was a fairly new company, and they were looking to grow that part of the business. I was able to grow that team from a handful of people to 23 over three different locations.

2015-18, General Manager, technical, Aquaterra Energy

My next role involved applying some of those methods for improvement – the same
gains in efficiency and quality – but more widely throughout the business. 

When I first became a manager I got some good advice from my then boss. He really got me thinking about how you have to behave in a certain way. Initially you kind of feel guilty about not doing the work yourself, but you have to adjust to that and change the way you operate.

2018, IMechE Fellowship

Whenever I’ve been offered a secondment or the opportunity to take on more responsibility I try and take it. Lots of times you won’t get financially rewarded for doing it at the time, but those things will pay dividends in the long run. The IMechE process really helped me. The competencies that you are required to meet helped me become a very well-rounded engineer, and helped me progress from being an engineer, and then a manager, and then a director.

2018-present, Engineering Director, Aquaterra Energy

At Aquaterra we have an exciting time ahead. My medium-term goals are: how do I as engineering director scale my part of the company to being maybe twice the size of where we are now; how can I maintain the quality; and how can I train and get people in to be able to cope with that? Building an organisation is a new challenge for me, and the next part of my career.


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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