Holly MacDonald

Holly spent a year working for Scottish Power Energy Networks’ Network Technical Services department, where she helped with group projects and was put in charge of developing guides for engineers to use in the field.

Holly MacDonald Currently undertaking an MEng in mechanical engineering at the University of Glasgow, Holly wisely decided she wanted to find out what it was like to work as an engineer before starting her course. To do so she worked extra hard, getting the required grades to go to university a year early so she could spend what would have been her sixth year at school gaining real-world work experience.

“I chose to undertake a Year in Industry (YINI) placement as I saw it as a good opportunity to gain some experience in the field of engineering, which would help me after university when finding a job,” she explains.

Holly’s Year in Industry experience

Holly’s placement was within Scottish Power Energy Networks’ Network Technical Services section.

“I did some research for some projects that the section was involved in and I also did my own project which was to create task sheets for the department. This was because the equipment that the department works with is very complicated and the manuals for the equipment are even more complicated. Therefore it was my job to create simple and easy step by step guides for certain maintenance tasks regarding the equipment including pictures and lists of equipment needed for each task,” she says.

Holly’s project at Scottish Power Energy Networks

Her objective was to create an effective and safe support tool to help operations staff undertake specific technical activities. She set out to achieve this by interpreting the complex information contained in the technical manuals and reproducing it in a series of easy to use guides that would be used in the field.

To enable her to communicate highly technical information Holly first had to gain a good understanding about electrical generation, transmission and distribution and the work undertaken by electrical engineers. She then researched, designed and created task sheets that showed step by step how to undertake specific activities. She also ensured these were rigorously tested, and monitored feedback after they were distributed.

The results of her work

Now in operational use, Holly’s work has provided a real asset in helping field staff work more efficiently, effectively and safely and her documents have been circulated across the company, having become Scottish Power’s standard approach for assisting staff to undertake specific technical activities.

The experience had its high and low points but Holly believes she gained a lot from her year in industry.  She was able to go on a course to learn how to climb telephone poles and towers for example, but she didn’t like the quiet periods when there wasn’t a lot of work for her to get her teeth into.

Gaining a wide range of skills and experience

But Holly didn’t just walk away with a new selection of technical skills, she became more confident in herself and gained a good few soft skills - something that is always good for an up and coming engineer to put on their CV.

“I gained a good look into what it is like to be an engineer and I also learnt valuable skills which included talking to new people with confidence, learning presentation skills and also how to act in a professional manner,” she says. “I have learnt how to behave and what it is like to be in an office environment. I have also learnt how to communicate effectively with other staff.

“My year out has definitely helped me to gain numerous skills in the workplace, and a lot of experience as an engineer,” she continues. “It has helped me to become far more confident when meeting new people and has also helped me to gain summer placements.

“I think [taking a gap year is] a great opportunity to expand your knowledge in the field you want to work in, and to gain a peek into the world you will be working in after you complete your education,” she concludes.