Going strong: IET Somerset and West Wilts YPS

8 October 2012
By Keri Allan
IET’s Somerset and West Wiltshire Young Professionals Section out paintballing

Spanish passion reinvigorates Somerset and West Wiltshire’s young professionals.

Elmer Moncada single handedly brought the IET’s Somerset and West Wiltshire Young Professionals Section back to the life, putting together a dedicated committee that has developed appealing events for its peers.

Having had a tough start to his career, Elmer’s determination to succeed shows what you can achieve with sheer hard work and tenacity. Originally hailing from Girona, Spain, Elmer had trained as an electrician, but nurtured dreams to become a consultant electrical engineer. He knew he had to stand out in order to succeed and so saved £300 and bought a ticket to the UK.

Overcoming the language barrier

“When I arrived the only words I knew were hello, goodbye and the end. So the first thing I undertook was an English course,” he says. “After three months I applied to do a National BTEC in mechatronics and had to bring my English teacher to the interview with me. The head of department said that I’d fail due to my English, however, I told him I’d study ten times harder than my classmates to get that qualification.”

Two years later Elmer had completed his course and his English had markedly improved. His next step was to get a degree and so he applied to study electrical and electronic engineering at Bath University. By the time his final year had begun he had applied to work at Buro Happold and a job as a consultant engineer was in place before he had even completed his degree.

Funding his education

Elmer’s parents hadn’t been able to help him pay for his education, so throughout his time in study he took any job he could to help him get by.

“I worked as a waiter, kitchen porter, cleaner, night porter and in a burger van to pay for my degree,” he highlights.

After completing his degree Elmer knew he wanted to continue to hone his skills and since then has completed an employer-sponsored MSc, achieved Chartered Engineer (CEng) status and has been nominated for the Paul Fletcher Award for his hard work and commitment to the IET.

Bringing a YPS back to life!

And deservedly too. Elmer’s passion and commitment to the engineering community has led to the reinvigoration of the Somerset and West Wiltshire Young Professionals Section (YPS).

Interested in the concept of sharing knowledge, Elmer first interacted with the IET as an attendee of several Local Network lecture events. He met with some of the committee members there who invited him to the next meeting. It was then he found out that the network didn’t have its own YPS but had merged with the Bristol section and local members headed over to the city to attend YP-focused events.

“I said to them that I thought it would be a very good thing to have a group for the YPs in this region,” says Elmer. “Things were happening in Bristol, but not Chippenham, Bath, Yeovil etc., so I wanted to take these towns and develop a Somerset and West Wiltshire YPS. I discussed this with the committee which said everyone was too busy with other tasks to take on this work and so I said I was available.”

Putting together a committee

Elmer’s first job was to put together a new committee for the YPS, and he knew he had to find other passionate people like himself in order to make this a success. Firstly he asked IET community relationship manager Deborah-Claire McKenzie to send out an email to YPs in the region asking for committed people to come forward as possible YPS committee members.

Richard Mildiner, now the YPS’ chairman, was the first to join him, a work colleague who did a lot of training work and who wanted to share knowledge. He wasn’t then an IET member, but after a talk with Elmer he signed up and became the YPS’ treasurer.

Thanks to Elmer’s determination the committee began to grow. He contacted his old university department and developed relationships with other groups, including the Society of Engineering Students at University, the chair of which, Gemma Hatton, is now also a committee member.

Learning as you go!

As more members joined the YPS committee, it began to develop its first series of events.

“To be honest when we held our first event we didn't really have a clue how to do it, although it did go well,” Elmer admits. “We had someone come in and give a great lecture on waste management, which I introduced by saying a little bit about the new committee. After that we learnt a lot more about how the budget is calculated, how much we can spend on events etc.”

Through the committee members work in promoting the events, more young professionals in the region were becoming aware of the YPS. Elmer decided he wanted to “go bigger” by getting more students on board and he began looking at ways of making the YPS – and the events it held – more appealing to his growing audience. First on the agenda was pizza and beer.

Pizza and beer

“Committees are allowed to spend £5 per person on events, which is spent on sandwiches, tea and coffee. I thought hold on, these guys are students, they’re young, they don’t want that! We’re gonna spend that budget on pizza and beer instead,” Elmer explains.

The network’s committee was slightly cautious about Elmer’s move, but allowed him to try out his interesting approach, which seems to have gone down well.

“We’re seen as a serious committee but at the same time have a very open, welcoming environment,” Elmer says. “We’ve managed to show this to the students who’ve come to our events and more people now know about the IET. Students now see our logos around and know what we stand for and what we can offer them.”

Entertaining and informative

The YPS’ events are definitely fun, but they are also hugely informative. As well as brewery tours and paint-balling events, it has run workshops on what next after university and held several events on what the IET is and what it can offer you.

“People come along to our events and free training and tell me they’ve never been to anything like this before. They have a lot of fun and many ask when the next event will be and how they go about joining the IET. It shows our committee is doing something good for our area, it’s brilliant,” Elmer enthuses.

Teamwork = success

Now the YPS is going strong, Elmer’s moving on to a new job and IET volunteer role, although he plans to stay involved with the committee as a member and advisor. He nominated Richard as the new chairman and Chris Thomas as the vice chair.

“I’m very impressed with the team, we all share the same IET values – to help our community and share knowledge. Without them there’s no way I could have achieved this. From having nothing to becoming a strong network has happened very quickly and I think it’s something to be very proud of,” he continues. “We’re a young committee and have achieved a lot of things, plus we already have some great plans for next year,” he teases.

For more information about the YPS visit IET Somerset and West Wiltshire Young Professionals Section.

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