Published: Fri 7 May 2021
Published: Fri 7 May 2021
John O'Connor is a Senior EICA Design Engineer at Southern Water.
On any given day you might find him reviewing documents or drawings from contractors, speaking with suppliers, liaising with different areas of the business, or getting hands-on and undertaking design work himself.
“There’s a wide scope to my work, which is something I hugely enjoy,” he says.
John’s always had a deep drive to understand how systems work, which was why a career in engineering appealed to him.
At 16 he started an indentured apprenticeship within the petrochemical sector at the Associated Octel Company, which enabled him to become a qualified industrial electrician, and spent the following ten years working as an electrical contractor in a variety of industries.
He then joined Southern Water as an Electrical Process Technician, at the same time started studying for an HND after three years working at Southern Water.
“I really embraced studying and wanted to progress onto a degree,” he says.
“I was offered a place on an electrical and electronics engineering degree at the University of Portsmouth and was able to make an arrangement with Southern Water to continue working with them during the university breaks. This really helped in a number of ways.”
On completion of his degree John returned to Southern Water full-time as an Investigations Engineer, before moving into the role of EICA Design Engineer.
Having gained both academic and industrial experience, John felt it was the right time to apply for Incorporated Engineer (IEng) Professional Registration and was awarded the accreditation that same year.
“I’ve been a member of the IET since college so knew about Professional Registration for a long time and it was something I had always wanted to work towards.
My end goal was achieving Chartered Engineer (CEng), but I felt the best way to do that was to prove my competence as I progressed and work towards IEng first.
“I know a lot of engineers do a graduate scheme and then focus on CEng, but I felt there was a lot of value in taking an alternative route of gaining IEng and then CEng.
For me therefore, Professional Registration has been a continuous process; a journey through the accreditations as I gained the experiences that match the competences.”
Southern Water has been very supportive of John’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD), giving him opportunities to take on work that would help him meet the specific competences he was working towards.
“I was given work on different framework tendering processes, more detailed design work, and the opportunity to lead the electrical design of some pretty large projects.
These roles helped me tick the boxes of certain competences I needed to apply for Professional Registration. The company really helped me on my journey,” he says.
Once John felt he was ready to take the next step, he began his CEng application.
This was quicker and easier than with IEng; not only because he’d already gone through the process, but also because he applied entirely online.
“With IEng I completed a paper application – this time around I used the IET’s Career Manager platform, which was so much easier,” he explains.
“I was advised to do this by the IET’s Registration Engagement Manager (REM), who also put me in touch with a Professional Registration Advisor (PRA), they both provided me with a lot of guidance throughout my journey,” he says.
“There’s so much support and so many services available from the IET,” he continues.
‘I’ve been using the IET Library regularly since I was a student member, and they also host some great webinars. I’ve also done some courses through the IET Academy, which I’ve found really good.
The IET’s really great at enabling you to fit in study and CPD around your busy work and home life.”
Personally, John has gained a lot of confidence from achieving Professional Registration.
Professionally, he believes it’s afforded him more responsibility, more detailed work and helped him to gain his curent position as a Senior Engineer.
“It meant so much to achieve both IEng and CEng. You spend years working toward these goals and so much work goes into them.
When you get that phone call, or receive that certificate, it’s a fantastic feeling!”
But having achieved these targets, what’s next for John?
“I want to become a Professional Registration Advisor (PRA) and support other engineers on their Professional Registration journeys.
I’ve applied to become a PRA, which is a volunteer role within the IET, so I can provide feedback and help fellow engineers to hone their applications.
“I found this very helpful during my applications, so it’s time to give back. Achieving your goals gives you the impetus to reach out and help others do the same,” he concludes.