It’s a grad world: Checking in with Josh Sharland, Graduate Mechanical Design Engineer

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Since the last time I wrote anything for the blog, I have been engrossed in a couple of design projects as well as a number of smaller tasks, which aim to improve the efficiency of certain products that are currently on the market.

Unfortunately, I can’t really go into great detail about my design projects since they are not yet on the market but I can say that one of my designs is currently being shown to a potential customer outside of the UK. It’s one thing to be able to think of a useful concept and then physically build it to your own specifications but then to see that your idea has value to external customers is a very gratifying feeling.

The process for designing a product rarely runs smooth and inevitably hits a few snags along the way. My project was shelved after I spent three months working on it, since we were unsure of the applications in the wider industry. I wasn’t too disheartened as this is fairly common in engineering and technology firms, however, the project was brought back to life a few months later and I picked up from where I finished. Perhaps time away from this particular product had offered me a different perspective but I saw problems that had never occurred to me before and eventually I decided to rebuild the product from scratch.

This may seem like a radical step, especially after spending three months on the previous iteration, but with the knowledge I had gained from the first time around I managed to build a functioning prototype within three weeks. It’s great to know that you have actually learned something and that all my hard work before the project was shelved helped me become more efficient later on in the process.

Needless to say, a project’s success is not solely determined by my actions and I’m lucky to work with a great team that offer guidance and support. Development Director, John Robinson is always on hand to offer advice and suggest improvements to my original design. However, these are only suggestions and I am given a lot of autonomy to try out my own ideas and not stick to a rigid formula, which is one of the reasons I enjoy working here. I am allowed to guide a project from start to finish, beginning with the design stage and culminating in the production of a prototype that is sent off to our manufacturing operation in China.

I’ve heard from some of my fellow engineers from university that have now also found themselves in jobs at Engineering firms and their experiences seem to vary from mine. Most of them say that their companies place too much of an emphasis on learning concepts and theories and not enough time is spent on practical skills. My personal opinion is that you can learn more from your own mistakes than solely listening to theory.

Of course, a job is mainly focused around the work that you do but the people that you work with play a crucial role in determining job satisfaction. I’m lucky to work with a lot of interesting and friendly colleagues that I have enjoyed getting to know over the past few months. Extra-curricular activities range from the usual post-work drinks at the pub on a Friday to nipping down to the local climbing centre to scale a 20m wall for a bit of fun.

I think you can tell from this small snapshot that I do really enjoy my job here at ITL and I’m looking forward to being able to continue designing and building products for years to come.