Any Mechanical Engineers or Product Designers in the house?

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  • Any Mechanical Engineers or Product Designers in the house?
  • Duane…

    Hi all,

    Right, this might be a bit of a long one, but hopefully a few of you can be bothered to read it all!

    So, just a quick intro, I am in my final (5th) year of Mechanical Engineering (with Management) (Masters), at Edinburgh University. Currently sitting with a fairly high 2:1, if I push hard this year I might get a 1st. Without meaning to be big headed, I’ve got a pretty strong CV. I spent the second half of 4th year on a 6 month placement at Rolls-Royce (aero not cars), and have done various engineering work/projects in the past.

    I need to start thinking about jobs for once I’ve finished Uni (next April). Rolls-Royce will offer me a place onto their graduate scheme, which I know is an excellent opportunity. The only problem is that I’m not sure if I want to work for them. As their products are so large and complex, you are either looking over a larger section of the engine from a high level (ie management), or are zoomed right in and spend your life designing a blade or bolt.

    In high-school, my favourite subject was always D&T. I loved coming across a problem, coming up with potential solutions, improving them, singling out one or two, making prototypes, and through testing and tweaking, construct a final product to solve the initial problem. I loved having an input into the whole product throughout its creation. This is something obviously not possible at Rolls-Royce (maybe in specific R&D departments, but not in general).

    I have therefore been thinking about some kind of product-design career/role, as that is clearly what I enjoy, working on simpler products where I will have more of an input. Unfortunately, I have done little creative/conceptual work at university, so, for example, my concept drawing is pretty poor (I know I can work on this, and plan to this year), so not sure how well I would fit into an “artsy” design job – but maybe a more mechanical product design role would suit? I’ve also considered doing an additional masters in Product Design, but as much as I love uni, I feel it would be better to leave sooner rather than later.

    My (pipe?) dream is to run a company designing and manufacturing innovative/creative/desirable products, but am happy to accept that that might take a while to get to. I’ve been thinking about applying to companies such as Dyson, or design consultancies such as DCA. However, I am not sure if my skills/experience will meet the needs to get the kind of job I would want. Additionally, the appeal of Rolls-Royce on my CV (even if just for their graduate scheme, and then move on) keeps dragging me back. The logic would be that Rolls-Royce will look impressive on my CV – but even though it is a top engineering company, will it be much of an attraction to a design company? Or will it just show that I am good at working in a large bureaucratic company which isn’t particularly innovative? Also, I would really like the chance to work abroad, which will be tough on the RR grad scheme (it’s possible, but is a lot harder from this year on).

    Not quite sure where I’m going with this, but basically, does anyone on here have a mechanical engineering or product design background? What work do you do now, how did you get there, and would you recommend it? Any thoughts on how useful a couple years at RR will be for working at a smaller “artsier” design company? Any recommendations for companies which people feel may suit me well?

    Many thanks (if you’re still reading!),

    (I am aware that I can apply to as many companies as I can be bothered to (and maybe should), but would like to get a better idea of where I want to head before I do this!)

    Premier Icon Jon Taylor

    ir_bandito posted on here many moons ago while I was doing a post-grad in Oxford that his company were hiring, so I joined them.

    I spent 4 years working for them covering projects and machines at a level it sounds like you’d enjoy. I worked on big, cool things for offshore stuff and didn’t have to spend years on end designing a single aerofoil or wing profile.

    I’m now in NZ designing vacuum mooring systems and get to work at a similar level again, so there are careers in the level you want, you’ll just have to look for them.

    we made this J-Lay tower (Saipem FDS2)

    I designed lots of the pipe-lay and handling equipment on Technip’s Deep Energy


    Call me jaded but the main things to consider are can you avoid a place with bitchy politics and will you be able to ride often.
    Starting at RR like you say is a sound thing. You seem to be qualifying well with experience, you shouldn’t worry so much.


    My background is similar to yours – I did an M.Eng at Cambridge (manufacturing engineering which is pretty general) and graduated in ’98. Joined GKN’s graduate scheme out of college and did that for 2 years, moving around different bits of the company, then about 2 more years in one job with them doing project engineering and project management.
    Left in early ’03 and emigrated to canada. Kind of fell into more of a product design role here, mostly in LED lighting but also doing some backcountry ski gear and those HUD goggles you may have seen (Recon instruments). I’m now lead product dev. engineer (basically run the mechanical engineering dept) at a small LED lighting startup. I have actively avoided getting stuck in a purely management role and still manage to spend half my time or more designing stuff.
    Anyway, my recommendation would be to start with RR. Even if it turns out to be not what you want long term it is really good experience, will probably expose you to several different areas so you’ll see what you like and what you don’t. With most of those schemes there is no obligation to stay. RR is a big company, you may well find a niche you fit into – there will be design jobs in there where you get to design the whole product, without it just being one tiny item – think assembly equipment, test rigs etc etc.
    Meanwhile, you’ll make loads of contacts at their suppliers and contractors, which could lead to a job.
    Just my 2 cents.
    Oh and remember, a job is just something that happens between the weekends, there’s more to life!

    Premier Icon nickjb

    RR would be a good start. Whatever you end up doing having a sound engineering background would be useful. If you do want a DCA/Dyson style product design job then a product design masters would be useful but you would likely get a lot more out of that with a year or two engineering experience. I did the industrial design engineering course at the Royal College of Art. David Carter of DCA was the head of the course, James Dyson is an alumni of the college and Dyson recruit a lot from there. A lot the guys from my course are now running their own design businesses, as am I. Its a long game and experience of a wide range of disciplines is very useful.


    There are two big things you need to be good at product development. The first one is coming up with an idea and making it into a working product (ie, engineering know how) and the second is making your working product into something that can be manufactured cheaply, then bringing it to market (ie, a bit of engineering know how, plus understanding of how the supply chain works and marketing nous).

    I’d personally stick with the engineering for a bit – real product development where you come up with a genuinely innovative idea with big scope for £££s is tough, so a lot of companies tend to go down the route of an idea that already works in a new shape, or somehow prettified.

    Premier Icon monkeyp

    My advice – start at Rolls and see where it takes you. Their training is second to none and have so many divisions and subsiduaries that you may find yourself a new found interest. You are still young – and you will get so much exposure to all aspects within RR. Also, don’t forget that RR ‘owns’ many other busnesses – Aero Engine Controls being the one which I started out in (when it was Lucas, then TRW, then Goodrich…)

    Having RR on your CV will be an asset wherever you decide to go after the grad scheme.


    Are you confusing pencil fairy design with engineering ,you will find it very difficult to leave uni and go into a job where your the star and your idea has any significance whatsoever…

    Going to rolls will maybe make you a specialist but you become a world expert at it and you can name your price


    Start at rr. It will give an understanding into how an engineering company works and manages itself (its a business first and foremost – plenty of clever engineers go bust every year). Also rr is a huge and diverse company, I think your view of it is not really complete. Yes, there is not a job where you’re designing a whole product in its entirety but rr is on the cutting edge of many field of engineering and the opportunity for innovation for a clever and creative engineer are huge.

    I’ve been in engineering for 24 yrs and the most important thing is experience. You will be a much much better product/design engineer the more you experience at the ground level. Too many graduates come into the industry from a purely academic background and really do lack that practical element that is so fundamental in engineering (not saying this applies to you of course).

    Good luck. Engineering is a fantastic career and very rewarding.

    Premier Icon richmars

    Just to repeat what many others have said: Start at Rolls. You’ll get a lot of experience, and you may even like it!
    It’s a question I always ask graduate engineers looking for a job; large or small company? Advantages and disadvantages with both. Ask yourself that question as well.


    @Jon Taylor – that Deep Energy video is excellent. Thanks for posting it.


    Have you read Not Much of an Engineer by Sir Stanley Hooker?


    I’d start at RR too. Offers like that don’t come along regularly in the current economic climate. Even if its not your ideal long-term career, it gives you experience, a wage, and time to think about what you really want to do.

    My first job out of uni (Industrial Design BSC) was designing premium office furniture. Now designing outdoor gear for a large UK brand, which couldn’t be more different! So don’t worry about being pigeonholed early on – if you show creativity and knowledge, lots of skills are transferable and potential employers should hopefully see this.


    Duane one other thing as jon taylor posted above with the deep water equipment

    One of the most interesting jobs I ever did was for a company that also did pipe laying ,trenching, rov’s rescueing submarines from the seabed etc

    they had one of the best graduate programmes i had ever seen and actively took on Uni Grads with a view to pushing them in terms of learning and in the direction they wanted to go (actively encouraged and supported them to go chartered later) well worth a look and absolutely varied in the scope of work


    Go to RR. You might really like it.

    Worst case, you don’t like it that much, and you leave, but when you do, having some experience with RR will go a very very long way when you move on somewhere else.

    Also, moving around within RR owned companies will be quite easy, much easier than going externally, and they do own quite a few different things.


    The advantage / benefit of working at RR is that you make a variety of contacts (people with expert or practical specialist knowledge) both within RR and the suppliers.

    The guys at HOPE managed to move on from RR OK.

    Plus it can be a bit limiting (ie boring) designing a product that you might think is of interest to you.

    Premier Icon cp

    Or will it just show that I am good at working in a large bureaucratic company which isn’t particularly innovative?

    RR is very very innovative, some of the stuff they do is amazing, from a manufacturing perspective. Some of the manufacturing processes they develop are staggering.

    They are also very large, I did a stint there and the amount of people who essentially do **** all all-day long is quite an eye opener. I guess that’s part and parcel with the process of slow development and making sure stuff is right.

    The end of my summer working at RR Filton, I knew I didn’t want to work for them, or likely any large company. I was offered a place on their grad scheme, but I declined. It all seemed a bit fake and cotton-woolly.

    If you want to get into general product development, I wouldn’t see RR as being a sensible move – you’ll be developed into a manufacturing engineer, developing processes, a technical specialist spending months devloping FEA models for a single widget, or you’ll go project management.

    I would say as a mechanical engineer/designer that SME’s allow much more scope for having an influence on product/device design. I would say you get much more exposure to a greater range of manufacturing processes, much more involvement in product/device/machine development, closer contact with end users & more direct feedback. I work for a company that provides manufacturing machinery to RR, automotive etc… every day is different, new challenges all the time, ALWAYS things to design, develop, test, make better etc…

    There are loads of small engineering businesses out there – look into companies supplying automotive and aerospace, as that’s where a lot of the interesting dev happens rather than with the big co’s themselves, who tend to be project managers.


    Hey, I make monitoring equipment for those jon, well I say make, I don’t make anything anymore. Technical manuals and shit like that now. In my experience the more i have progressed, the less hands on I have become which is getting pretty tedious now.

    Oh and remember, a job is just something that happens between the weekends, there’s more to life!

    I’m pinching this, ace quote. 😆

    Premier Icon gibber

    Short answer: go for RR. Gives you massive cred on your CV and will get you in for interviews for what ever you feel like in the future.

    Longer answer: Depends what you “feel like” doing. Is it practical problem solving, or are you as good at other things? (coding? business related ones?). I’ve got an MEng in mechanical and I used to work for a large company, but it got a bit monotonous after a while as the range of work was limited (lots of it, but very similar). Now I work for a smaller company (200 people) and do pretty much everything from pre-sales, costings, a bit of strategy, training internally and externally, plus all the analysis and design (including a lot of conceptual things) that are actually on my job description.
    We don’t have a lot of spare time to hand-hold people through an introduction process, so we hire people who have demonstrated that they can do more than they are just asked to (e.g. not what projects you worked on, what did you DO, and did you think of it yourself?).

    So if you want the most options in a few years, I think go to RR, but make sure you are very active in things – push boundaries, ask questions, don’t relax into it. Learn about the management/markets/sales/costings side of it too – you’ll need to develop that to be successful in a non-tech-expert role whatever happens.


    having worked for a v small company, then onto a larger one and back to a small – i have a little bit of experience. Both are very different, roles change and you can quickly become quite responsible in a small company – it takes slightly more time in the larger, obviously..

    But both i really enjoyed, both let me be an engineer and grow and develop in the work.

    currently in a small company as a ‘project engineer’ but doing everything from conception of ideas, CAO, client summaries presentation etc, lab work and tests etc.. all round really. And in French to boot too.. having the time of my life.

    start in RR and see what happens.

    For the pedants – sorry i miss all cap letters etc.. spelling might be off too.. sorry..

    Premier Icon ir_bandito

    ir_bandito posted on here many moons ago while I was doing a post-grad in Oxford that his company were hiring, so I joined them.

    Guilty as charged 🙂

    Place I’m at now is always on the lookout for bright graduates. If you fancy working for a small consultancy in NE England, doing design and analysis for a variety of customers and industries, feel free to drop me an email.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’ve got a MEng in Mech and Auto Engineering. Designed industrial printers for Marconi, taught people how to use Pro/E, done the same stuff as Jon Taylor up there ^, and now working for the afore-mentioned consultancy. Present project is a sensor and control system for a nuclear power station as there’s nothing suitable off-the-shelf.and after 13 years of professional life, I’ve finally got my chartered engineer interview in a couple of weeks…


    Off the back of the comment about the Hope guys, the chief design engineer at Norco bikes is also ex-RR.

    Premier Icon cr500dom

    You will not get a more professional start in the industry than the RR Grad scheme.
    I`d take it and suck up as much knowledge as you can while you are there.
    Experience is everything, because that’s what future employers are buying into.
    Do your time as a grunt, it will pay off long term.

    FWIW I am a “Powertrain Design Engineer” by trade, I design Base engines, mainly automotive, have done pretty much since I left Uni.

    I`ve also done the small consultancy route and got royally shafted while working on lots of different but interesting stuff.

    Now I am working in oil and gas, designing oil Rigs and the like, I love it !!

    The skills you learn at RR are transferrable across companies, disciplines and markets. they will stand you in good stead wherever you decide to go.


    Jon Taylor, I was involved with the hydraulic control for the ramp on Deep Energy before i left to go to my present role. Very interesting project to be involved with.

    OP, do you plan on staying up in Edinburgh? I know of a couple of very good companies up that way who I have been involved with in the past. Both provide cutting edge design, doing almost the same thing, but from very different perspectives.

    MacTaggart Scott produce a lot of items for the MOD. I’ll leave that there.

    Artemis are a very aspirational company who have a high percentage of very clever graduates and are developing new methods of doing things.

    Both, from my experience, are worth a look into.


    I don’t think you can go wrong with getting on a grad programme, especially in these times.

    I’m 12 years in after my MEng, although I’m still with the same company, I’ve worked on lots of diverse projects up and down the country from military, uavs, ships and now civil. It is what you make of it, I can’t fault the training I’ve had.

    Premier Icon cx_monkey

    Hey – BEng (mechanical) and BDes(product) here. Stuck record time, but go with RR – they don’t hand those things out to anyone, so you’ve obviously got talent.

    The other thing is that without a design degree, and a substantial portfolio to back it up, you really don’t stand much of a chance of getting into a good design consultancy, or deign department at a product orientated company. Far too many of my product design classmates got stuck as glorified mac operators for pretty dull companies, and they were the ones with the degree and portfolio!

    If you do want to move towards design, work on it in your spare time, do some courses, etc, and take everything that RR will give you during that time. And don’t worry about not being a natural pencil sketcher – some of the most successful people on my design course were terrible at ‘traditional’ drawing, rendering, etc – they just learnt CAD instead… So long as you can put down stuff that means things to you, and works your thinking for you, it doesn’t matter. It’s your thought processes that are more important.


    I think RR too. Very few design consultancies will want a fresh graduate who’s got little experience of working in a commercial environment – the economics are generally too tough to be able to carry much fat (sorry! 🙂 ) though clearly there will be exceptions.

    Give RR two or three years and if you really are a star then you’ll then be able to demonstrate that to a good design consultancy and you’ll be well set up to do that. Or even to set up your own consultancy (as friends of mine did after around 5 years on graduate programmes)

    One tip though – you’re going to be an engineer who is paid by a commercial company. Never forget that the goal is to make money, not do engineering. Far too many engineers haven’t got a clue about the reality of what they do. It’s the ones who do grasp that that are generally successful in the long term (with a few exceptions admittedly).


    RR definitely the way I’d go
    I can’t believe you’re even thinking of turning your back on a place on their grad scheme
    The world is your oyster from there on
    Good luck whatever you decide

    Dyson is very similar to your impression of Rolls Royce – I worked with people from there and people who’ve gone there. One worked on the floor tool for a cleaner – in a team of 4! So again, micro detail rather than complete ownership.

    I’ve also used DCA as consultants in the past but while one guy oversaw a project and was the key contact, he farmed out internally lots of specialist tasks.

    Especially as a graduate I think you’ll find this is the way most large firms work from a variety of reasons from necessity to hierarchy so don’t rule out RR on that basis, or you could end up turning down a great opportunity to experience a company with that kudos.

    Also don’t forgot nothing is fixed. Don’t be afraid to try something and change. I’ve done everything from component design, to detailing complete large scale industrial steelwork installations to taking engineering lead on consumer products from concept to market launch but am now working on a commercial level for a large consumer brand. A real unplanned direction change but it pays for the weekends! 😉

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