I chose Loughborough for two reasons. Firstly, the campus: I really wanted to go to a campus university where you could live and study on one site. I was really happy with this decision, being in the ‘Loughborough bubble’ was a great experience. Prior to Loughborough I did one year at a big city university and I found out being spread out across the city wasn’t for me.
Secondly, automotive reputation: at the time of applying I did a lot of research about which institutions had good partnerships with industry (when I applied to university, I was very conscious that I wanted to come out the other end employed!) Loughborough does very well in this respect, they’re keen on industry placements and sponsored dissertations.
I have always liked cars and motorsport so the Automotive element was a no brainer for me, I wanted to study something I was passionate about. When I was looking at the various courses offered at the university the size of the Materials department appealed to me. Some of the lectures are a little smaller than other courses and I think that resulted in good relationships with the staff, the department was really supportive through all four years of study.
The module I enjoyed the most that linked to cars was Automotive Crash Protection, which gave me a taste and enthusiasm for the subject that is now my career specialism. In my final year we also did a module about recycling and sustainability, that really changed my world view, and I would thoroughly recommend it.
The other really enjoyable part of my course was the industrial placement, I got a one-year placement at the Mini factory in Oxford. From there I got to travel to Rolls-Royce in Goodwood and the BMW engine facility in Hams Hall. This placement was directly linked to Materials as I worked in their laboratory division, it gave me a great grounding in the Automotive industry. I also walked away from that year with an industry-sponsored dissertation and invaluable work experience which helped me apply for graduate jobs.
The department was supportive: we had a personal tutor from year one and I always felt that the lecturers made time for you if you had a question about the content, even if this meant coming to see them during office hours. The department was small, and I think that meant supporting the students was one of its strengths. The facilities and teaching quality were both excellent. I remember that the department had really good laboratory equipment, I enjoyed the hands-on nature of the laboratory work especially.
I was really fortunate to get two placement offers, from Vauxhall and Mini. In the end, I chose Mini which was a great place to work. My role at Mini was specifically in the Material Laboratory where I got to put my degree into practice. During my placement year, I was responsible for a preventative maintenance project looking after the Paint Shop, in addition I supported all manner of day-to-day Material investigations. The lab at Mini had incredible test facilities, I really felt the benefit of this when I returned to do my final year lab sessions as I had built up a lot of hours conducting experiments on placement.
When I applied to do my degree, I was very focused on getting a job in the automotive sector upon graduation. To this extent it was a successful endeavour; I was fortunate and upon graduation got three different graduate job offers (all of which were in automotive). I chose to go and work for Aston Martin, which was just as I would have wished when I filled out the UCAS form four years earlier.
Following graduation, I completed a three-year graduate scheme at Aston Martin. During this time I worked my way around a few different placements in various departments, which is a great way to learn how the whole business works and a real benefit of graduate schemes in general. At the end of the second year, I settled into a role engineering the steering wheel and driver’s airbag for the DB11, I was really happy to land this role as I had always wanted to work my way back to the safety division following my studies. That job meant I got to travel all over Europe looking at the entire production process, I also felt that it meant I finally got to put into practise years and years of education! I should mention to any prospective students… Yes, we did get to drive the cars we designed; a career highlight involved driving an Aston all the way to Scotland so we could look around a leather tannery.
After Aston, I moved just a few hundred metres to Jaguar Land Rover (the two companies share a site in Warwickshire). At JLR I developed the seat belt and child restraint system for Jaguar I-Pace, this was another highlight for me as at the time EVs were cutting edge and I finally got to play a part in designing a EuroNCAP compliant system (NCAP is the leading consumer test programme for vehicle safety). Since then, I have done seat belt systems for new vehicle programmes, from the virtual series using computer software to design and test right the way through to industrialisation (building the cars) and physical testing. Working at JLR meant I could access their MSc programme to do more modules specific to my current line of work. I am now the seat belt and child restraint architect; I oversee the design and application of these systems for several carlines which all spawn off one vehicle architecture. I have been working at JLR for over four years and continue learn new things each day. All three of my automotive employers are great places to work, I really like the automotive sector as it never sits still – we are always pioneering.
I think completing a degree has helped me professionally in the workplace, and while I don’t have a role that sits in materials day-to-day any longer, I still fall back on that knowledge often. I think there are some key skills you develop at university that help you to become a good project manager; the group project and dissertation are some of the best work experience you can ask for.
Loughborough graduates are everywhere; Loughborough has a strong reputation in industry. My old housemate (who was also a course mate) works just a few rows of desks from me at JLR. My other housemates ended up at Bentley and McLaren, so I think that is a strong testament to this course.
While I was at university, I was very keen: the more that you throw yourself into, the more rewarding the student experience will be. During my time at Loughborough, I played handball and IMS sport, tutored at the local secondary school, went on a ski trip, was treasurer for my hall, course chair and learnt basic German - I did so many extra-curricular activities that I won the Loughborough Employability award! Having left university, I realise Loughborough did a lot more for me than just gaining me employment. Loughborough has always targeted the student experience and I believe this was second to none.