Interview with Connor – Student Design Engineer Accessories

“I moved 200 miles away from home to get my perfect job”

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Currently I’m studying Automotive Engineering (BEng) at Northumbria University (Newcastle), on a 3rd year placement at Triumph Motorcycles (been here since 29/07/18, 7 months so far). I had no previous work experience but feel my passion for motorcycles and my education helped towards me getting this placement at Triumph. Even though I have moved 200 miles away from my family, which is something I would have never seen myself doing back when I was in School and University. I have enjoyed every moment of my placement so far and would take any opportunity to have a future here at Triumph.

What subjects did you study at school, and how do you think this helped your career up to now?

I studied BTEC Science, Mathematics and Engineering – although this was only for a year, because my school stopped offering this.

I also studied Art up to GCSE. I was really good at sketching and architectural drawings – I really enjoyed that. This taught me how to be creative, and I learnt sketching skills. My design project allowed me to take the lead on my own work. I can now look at the finer details of the designs in bikes and cars. Studying art has taught me to focus on the details. For example, I can look at the fine chamfers on a part I’m working on and focus on those details. It also helped me to learn to translate the sketches into something real that can be engineered.

BTEC Science taught me the fundamentals of mechanisms and the basic principles of engineering.

A Level Engineering taught me basic 3D CAD design. I use Autodesk a lot for this. I had to design a lock for a bicycle, including a combination lock. We started with sketches of our ideas first and decided from the four, which idea was the best. I then used 3D CAD to model this and then created engineering drawings. I’ve learnt from Triumph that you can go into even more detail with these, such as geometric tolerancing and so on.

What made you want to join Triumph Motorcycles Ltd?

My passion towards motorcycles was a big driver – I knew from when I started university that I wanted to go into 3D CAD design – it was the main thing that I enjoyed. Triumph is the biggest manufacturer of motorbikes in the UK – what’s not to love! I’ve always had the drive to build a future of myself in the automotive sector and I felt Triumph would give me an excellent start into this.

What are the most exciting things you’ve been working on?

I have recently been working on axle nut finishers.  It’s really exciting to see that it’ll be taken through to prototype and will end up on a real bike. It was my first solid CAD modelling project. I learned a lot of CAD skills – overlaying sketches onto my CAD and interpreting them into an engineered part. It’s great to start with sketches and then end up with a real CAD model. There is a lot of detail that goes into the design, such as tolerance stacks and checks. I enjoyed this because it proved that my design worked.

I like working at Triumph, because it’s taught me to go into the details- at A levels and even university, you don’t necessarily see all the details, because they’re teaching you the foundations and basics. Learning about these processes is really enjoyable and helps me to understand this.

At Triumph you have to prove everything works, and fits and is right. You don’t always go into this level of detail at university or even A levels. Maybe as I go into my later years at university, I can use these skills in my later projects.

I never expected my axle nut finisher to take me that long – I didn’t really know that a whole bike takes 2-3 years to make –a lot of time and engineers go into it!

What are the most exciting skills you’ve gained whilst working at Triumph?

Report writing, using MS Word and Excel – I’ve learnt more 3D skills using it at work than at university or by myself. It’s not until you go into the work place that you realise the extent and benefit of the software, and having real life examples to use the software helps my learning.

I’ve gained so much knowledge when it comes to report writing – how to make my reports concise and easy to get my point across clearly. My CAD skills have also improved so much, for example modelling complex surfaces in CAD. This will all definitely help with my final year university projects.

Working in a design office has also taught me other skills – communication with others – in and outside design and how to get your point across clearly. I have also learnt presentation skills – it’s given me a really good chance to learn how to act professionally and given me a lot more confidence when showing other people my work. Time management has been a big aspect of my work at Triumph. At university, you’re given a timetable and deadlines, but here you have to manage your own time within the project deadlines. There are a lot more factors – if you need to talk to someone, what’s their time like? There are so many deadlines, stages and aspects to projects. A big lesson for me was learning how to interpret the timing plans for projects and make sure I work within those. Going back to uni, I feel I can manage my time and prioritise my work better.

Have you enjoyed it and would you like to come back?

Yes! I’ve had such a great time and learnt so much, and it’s great to be able to say that I’ve worked for such a large and famous company.

I like being able to call on people and ask for help – everyone here is so easy to talk to and everyone wants to help each other. It’s not intimidating to ask for help or to query things when you’re stuck.

What would you recommend to someone who wants to be an engineer?

Seize opportunities – just go for it if that’s what you want – like my interview at Triumph; I knew it meant moving away from home, and that it would be competitive, but I thought I had to try. Don’t let the big brand names intimidate you, just have a go.  Planning out how you want things to go helps, but you have to be flexible about how things go. If you’re too rigid in your approach you may be disappointed. Stay positive, but be prepared for knock backs.

For engineering, Triumph is a great place to start. Art and maths are very useful for design engineering jobs as there are so many skills I’m realising are really useful.

Use work placements to understand if this is what you want to do – you may decide afterwards you don’t like it, and that’s ok because you’ve learnt from it. You don’t want to find you’ve wasted your time doing something you don’t want to do.