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Oliver Sowerby: From application to election: 33 days to gain Professional Registration

Oliver Sowerby is a consultant mechanical engineer at Team Consulting; a leader in medical device design and development. One of the company’s most recent projects has seen them work with the UK government to help design and develop ventilators as part of the fight against COVID-19.

“Every day is different, so I’m never bored. The work varies depending on which phase of a project I’m working on, but my main areas of expertise lie at the early stage of the project lifecycle. My day can be split between brainstorming, review meetings, idea generation for product concepts, mocking these up and building and testing prototypes.

“The best thing about working with medical devices is that it impacts the end user directly; it benefits lives. I think it’s really meaningful engineering work,” he says proudly.

Oliver Sowerby CEng, Consultant Mechanical Engineer, Team Consulting.

Oliver Sowerby CEng, Consultant Mechanical Engineer, Team Consulting.

From creative to technical engineer

Oliver began his engineering career after completing a BSc in product design and technology, and over the years he’s gradually moved into more and more engineering roles.

His first job was designing LED lights for vans and boats. This company was based just outside Cambridge, where the consulting industry is very prominent. After researching some of the consulting companies, he realised this was where he wanted his career to go, and to do that he needed more technical experience.

“I saw all the cool work was done by mechanical engineers, and I wanted to become one,” Oliver says. “This led me to start a job working for a company where I was responsible for designing the mechanical side of automated labelling machinery.

“My next role was working as a design engineer for a company who manufactured scientific equipment, where I led the development of chemical reactors. I then got promoted to head of design and innovation before leaving to fulfil my long-term career goal of working in consulting.”

External assessment of engineering skills

It took Oliver eight years of hard work to achieve this goal, but his journey wasn’t over. He was now able to call himself a mechanical engineer, but he felt something was missing; recognition of his ability. He considered returning to education, but with a full-time job and a young family, he ruled out that option. Then the answer came via an email from his boss.

“Our director of engineering sent an email out to all the engineers at Team Consulting, telling us that the company was willing to support any employees interested in working towards Chartered Engineer (CEng) Professional Registration. Team Consulting would cover the costs involved and allow us to complete our applications during spare working hours,” Oliver says.

Why join the IET?

In order to become professionally registered Oliver needed to join a licenced professional engineering institution (PEI). He chose the IET.

“I selected the IET because I felt it was more progressive,” says Oliver. “The message I got from the organisation was that engineering is about what you produce and the impact your work has on society; not just the degree you took at the start of your career. I think this is really important and that’s why I chose to register with the IET.

The CEng application process

Oliver was able to demonstrate his knowledge through both his initial degree and his work-based learning, providing information to show that he met all necessary criteria. This meant the initial work required for his CEng submission was significant and took some time to compile.

However, throughout the application process Oliver took advantage of the support available from the IET, including access to a Professional Registration Advisor (PRA).

By being briefed on what was expected, Oliver was able to complete his CEng application form thoroughly and correctly. This enabled his application, once submitted, to pass through the review process quickly.

“I met with my PRA several times,” says Oliver. “He regularly reviewed my application and showed me how to map my experience against UK-SPEC. This made things go much smoother and faster.

“In terms of the responsiveness of the IET and the speed of the process it was a breeze,” he continues. “Yes, putting my application together took some time because I had to provide more evidence than some others, but once I submitted everything online I was offered my interview within 20 days.

In both his Professional Registration application and interview Oliver used examples of the work he had completed and released as CE marked products as proof of his engineering knowledge and understanding. This included LED lights, automated labelling machinery and chemical reactors.

Just four days after his interview, the IET contacted Oliver to announce that his application had been successful, and he was now a Chartered Engineer.

“I’m really proud of achieving CEng, I think it puts me on a level playing field with people that studied mechanical engineering at the beginning of their career. It’s a great affirmation of what I’ve achieved,” he says.

It also helps his employer, as Oliver points out.

“Our clients are largely international. Being able to advertise that my colleagues and I are Chartered Engineers gives universal recognition that we’re qualified to a high standard.

What next?

Now he’s gained Professional Registration, Oliver’s next career goal is to work on a medical device from start to finish.

“At Team Consulting I’ve worked on projects both at the very early stages and at the very end, so I’d like to work on a project across all phases of development, where I’m able to see a medical device concept being generated and then being approved and commercialised. Some of the projects I’m currently working on have the potential for this to happen. Having done this many times in other industries, seeing your design reach end-users is very satisfying.”

He also plans to continue taking advantage of his IET membership in a variety of ways.

“When I visited Savoy Place for my interview I was amazed by the resources and facilities there, and I’ll certainly take advantage of these when I visit London,” he says. “I’ve also been checking out our IET Local Network and the online webinars. Both are great at keeping you connected to what’s going on within the engineering and technology sector. I’ll definitely be using these regularly.”