Jonathan Bird became a Fellow at the age of 38, making him one of a small group of under 50 engineers to achieve this status before turning 40.
Bird has gained 21 years of topside and subsea oil and gas experience both offshore and onshore within the UK. The vast majority of this was held serving various roles at Shell, work that entailed project delivery, subsea engineering, subsea controls and production operations. He then moved into project consultancy work focused within the engineering and project management arena.
Bird is currently working as a project manager for an electrical submersible pump (ESP) project with EnQuest, a newly formed independent oil and gas production and development company with a geographic focus on the UK continental shelf. “This is a technically challenging environment and demands complete focus on delivering the right project at the right time. There are many varied interfaces to manage, so it’s an interesting environment to be part of,” he highlights.
In parallel to his hands on experience, he has spent a total of ten years undertaking part-time study and developing the knowledge that successfully underpins his experience. Coming away with a BSc, BEng (Hons) in Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering and an MSc in Project Management, during this journey Bird has also been awarded CEng, Eur Ing, and now, his Fellowship.
“I used to say I could be going out [socialising] with everyone else, but I actually really enjoy the process of learning,” he explains. “I think if you enjoy something then its not a chore, you just want to do it more. I know that eventually it pays dividends; the qualifications I’ve worked towards throughout my career will all add up. Determination is key.”
Although studying whilst working must have taken its toll on Bird he was still able to find the time to support his application for CEng with voluntary experience. Adding to his skillset and competencies, Bird took a place on the Aberdeen City Children’s Panel, a child protection scheme in Scotland. As a member of the panel he was there to support children at risk. Meetings would be held where a panel would meet with the children, families and social workers involved to help decide what the best plan of action would be to keep the children safe and well.
“I wanted to give something to the local community and getting involved also helped develop the ‘people’ side of my career: the softer skills,” he says. “The reason why I got involved was that although I could prove myself technically, gaining experience in managerial and people skills would support my application for CEng. It worked both ways however, I felt like I was giving back to the community as well as developing myself.”
After 18 years with Shell, and having achieved both CEng and Eur Ing status, Bird felt he’d gone as far with the company as he could. He took a position with an engineering contractor, working as a systems engineering manager for two years as well as completing his MSc. This then led to his move into project management.
Bird has been lucky enough to have professional development guidance from his brother, a mechanical engineer 11 years his senior. Using him as a role model, he felt that achieving Fellow status was the next natural step for him.
“The institutions provide a framework for your career progression to follow. They reward you for your achievements,” he explains. “For me, becoming Chartered meant that my peers automatically knew I had an honours degree, that I’ve responsible experience and take my profession seriously. It opens doors, puts you one step ahead.”
“I’ve only just achieved Fellowship, it’s the ultimate goal. It was a very personal thing for me. If it helps me get a better job that’s a bonus, but for me it’s about working with my peers and improving myself, and then being rewarded for my hard work and effort. My new path has only just begun.”
Bird has no plans to sit back and relax; he’s still got a checklist of new accomplishments to work towards.
“There are a few things that I haven’t done which I would like to do. I haven’t written a paper before, for example,” he says. “I’d also like to do some more volunteering. Every September Aberdeen runs something called Techfest, an event that aims to get five to 18 year olds interested in science and technology. I’ve been along as a visitor and think it would be quite good for me to get involved more proactively. I’d also like to help at the local academy and provide an opportunity for school leavers to talk to someone from the oil and gas industry to promote engineering and technology.
“I’ve also volunteered to become a mentor for the IET and become more involved in the local IET branch. I’d also like to work towards becoming a Fellow with the Association of Project Management too. Finally I’d like to learn a language,” he says. Sounds like he’s got enough to keep him busy for a few more years…