The Toshiba Fellowship Programme offers fellows the chance to take part in leading-edge research activities at one of its Research and Development centres in Japan.
When you reach a postgraduate standard of education, fellowship opportunities should not be overlooked. These give you, as up and coming engineers, the chance to gain specialist experience in your field, often within some of the top global engineering and technology companies.
Allowing you to generate new combinations of ideas and technology, as well as being published, fellowship benefits are almost endless for the career-minded individual. Both personal and professional development will always be paramount, but as ever, you get what you give from the experience. Many are out there for the taking, but to give you a feel for the experience, we caught up with former Toshiba fellow David Gleaves, who's now chief executive of MidTECH Innovations.
The Toshiba Fellowship Programme nurtures cross-cultural understanding between the UK, Europe and Japan by offering fellows the chance to take part in leading-edge research activities at one of its Research and Development centres in Japan. Those awarded a fellowship gain up to two years' experience in an industrial laboratory and are able to develop their chosen specialist area, whilst receiving a generous package that includes relocation assistance.
"When I completed my PhD, my supervisor recommended that I apply for the Toshiba Fellowship Programme as he thought it would suit my experience. I really felt I could gain a lot from spending time in another culture and the commercial experience really appealed to me," Gleaves explains.
"The application process was really straight-forward. I simply needed to fill in the application form and then attend one interview. The panel let me know shortly after that I had been accepted. Toshiba helped me with everything I needed in order to set up a new life in another continent; from accommodation, to Japanese lessons, to where to get the best sushi."
Gleaves found that the Toshiba Fellowship Programme was a complete change from his previous experience in academic research. It gave him the chance to channel his skills into a more commercially focused field - speech technology, and he found it really interesting getting involved in research that had a direct impact on the real world. He could see how his work could end up in any home or workplace.
"Research fellows are highly regarded within the Toshiba Corporation and the company frequently demonstrated this importance," he highlights. "Our contribution was appreciated and we were given the opportunity to travel to conferences around Japan, move in influential circles and meet important officials in our field.
"Japan was an exciting frontier for me. When I applied, travel to Asia was rarer so it really was an opportunity to experience a new culture as well as a fresh method of working," he adds.
"I have a number of special memories from my time with the fellowship programme," he tells. "Many include the camaraderie shared with colleagues who took part in the programme. The experience was new to all of us so I made some life-long friends. I still stay in touch with my Japanese teacher and he actually came to the UK to visit me recently. In an environment of such intense learning it is impossible not to make strong connections.
"My most prominent memory of my time in Japan was of course the birth of my first child while I was out there. Everything was so new to me, it was an important stage of my life and has broadened my view of the world and people. It gave me a new attitude to life," he enthuses.
As well as being an experience of a lifetime for some, fellowships almost always are great career accelerators. Helping CVs to stand out, the work experience, paper publication opportunities and research undertaken are all sure to grab potential employers' attention.
Gleaves' next move after the Toshiba Fellowship programme was a role at the Ministry of Defence. The position involved working with the Far East and as knowledge of his experience at Toshiba became known, he was increasingly drawn into projects that involved liaison with Japan.
"This was obviously great for me as it was a position I wouldn't have even considered or been accepted for if it wasn't for the fellowship experience," he notes.
"Today as Chief Executive of MidTECH Innovations, which is part of the Department of Health's commitment to commercialising R and D and innovation arising from within the NHS, I feel I have taken my experiences and knowledge and put these back into the UK's investment into innovation and R and D.
"And from a personal perspective, I feel the experience built my confidence greatly. I took a huge step putting myself and my family out there in a whole new culture. I learnt a lot in a short period of time and felt a huge sense of purpose and achievement at the end of the two years.
"I would definitely recommend this opportunity to others. As well as providing the opportunity to work and live in a new, exciting culture, the programme is a confidence-building experience. You are treated as a guest but also challenged as a professional, which greatly enhances your knowledge and skills over a relatively short period. It equips you for life and is perceived by others in the industry as a real badge of honour," Gleaves concludes.