I studied Chemistry at the University of Manchester and graduated with a BSc(hons) degree in 2010. I am currently employed as Technical Graduate on a 2 year graduate scheme, nucleargraduates. I am extremely fortunate to be on a very dynamic graduate scheme, so for me, everyday really is different! As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the office after just been away for the past 3 weeks doing training with other graduates on my scheme. This ranged from lectures on the history of the nuclear industry, to team work and leadership workshops, to team building archery sessions. Ultimately ending up with a trip to Geneva to visit the United Nations and the CERN laboratories! Today, I’m back in work and back to day job number 3. After 2 previous placements on the scheme working in the technical team dealing with nuclear legacy at Sellafield, and in the Plant Operations team at URENCO UK, I am now enjoying a stint in Project Management and Business Development at DBD Ltd. Despite being a graduate and fairly new to the industry, I have been trusted with the responsibility to run my own projects vital to the development of the business, involving managing and delivering a schedule, considering budgets, tasks and resources.
I have been given the opportunity to work for different companies in the industry, gaining a much wider breadth of experience and knowledge of the entire industry, not just one project in one area, of one company. It has also been very insightful to see how different companies operate, how they tackle problems and deal with clients and stakeholders. I honestly feel my experience on the scheme has been invaluable for my own personal development.
Why did I choose a life of STEM?
It really is as simple as I really enjoyed Chemistry at school. I was lucky enough to have great teachers who were both encouraging and enthusiastic about science. I have always been very eager to learn more about the world, constantly asking ‘why’ and trying to understand ‘why does that do that’ or ‘how does that work’. When I started my Chemistry degree I was in my element. For me it was like my own little language, you spend hours in the library trying to understand it all, asking question after question, but when you do finally get it, it all just seems to fall into place. I chose a career in STEM simply to continue doing this, to continue answering more questions about why and how… only to open up a whole new realm of questions!
Working in the nuclear industry I am faced with some of the most challenging and interesting technical problems currently being tackled by scientists and engineers. Given the very nature of some of the projects I have worked on, these challenges are very often something that has not been come across before; hence it has been a very interesting sector for me to be involved in so early on in my career. I have had the chance to mix both project management and technical work, which I have found incredibly useful when thinking about my future career. I enjoy getting a project and being able to scope out the work, developing the schedule and working with multidisciplinary teams, and pulling everything together to produce a high quality and successful piece of work. My scientific background also gives me the ability to get involved with, and contribute to more technical aspects of the project.
Challenges of the industry:
Well... something I have learnt in my current placement is that even though I’m a Chemist in the nuclear industry, not all problems are technical based. I am currently the lead on a project to implement a business improvement for the SME Company I am working for. My secondment host started off as a very small consultancy offering engineering expertise to their clients and as their reputation has grown, as has the business. The task I have been faced with is aligning the business with more structure in terms of performance management; pay structure, competency and employee career progression. As you can imagine, for a company which currently doesn’t have any of these systems in place, it’s very much a ‘chicken and the egg’ dilemma when it comes to solving this problem. Luckily for me, this is actually the kind of work I love! It has involved a lot of different people from different backgrounds, with different information and has allowed a significant degree of innovative thinking to come up with a system that works, but also remains simple and not too labour intensive for the employees to implement. When working on projects like this, I like to brainstorm a lot of ideas, feeding off other team members for ideas and ways to formulate a plan of what will work best. It has involved a lot of trial and error, and consultation of the work force, as ultimately whatever is implemented, will affect them directly.
What I am most proud of:
I am currently a member of a team of graduates who have set up a Small or Medium Enterprise called Isotopes Innovation Ltd. launching our project calendargrads. As a company, we aim to attract and encourage more young female science and engineering graduates to pursue a career in the industry. We are doing this through a national campaign and 10 UK launch events at the top science and engineering universities, which aims to reach 1000s of female graduates across the country. The focal point of our campaign will be the calendargrads calendar. Each page of the calendar will be sponsored by and feature a top science or engineering company in the industry, celebrating successful women in their company and highlighting different career opportunities available to new graduates.
As a team of recently graduated scientists and engineers, we know all too well how difficult it can be to decide what to do with your degree. One of the biggest problems I faced was simply not having a clue about the different types of jobs or roles I could do with a Chemistry degree. It is our main aim to address this and provide more information to students and try and answer all the questions that were left unanswered for us as students.
“My advice is based upon my own meandering experiences…”
My advice would quite simply be: never give up. Along the way people will hinder your plans, knock you down or generally make life difficult, but if you have an idea, or want to do something, just do it. In the short time I have been in the industry I have found that there is no substitute for someone who is ambitious, enthusiastic and willing to get up and go and do something for themselves. It’s all about being proactive, working hard and taking on board what other people say, but never let it slow you down and always make sure you turn any negative into a positive.
Kate Adamson, MWES