Ozak Esu, graduate engineer

Ozak started work as a graduate engineer for Cundall, a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy, whilst finishing her PhD in electronic and electrical engineering. Her current role involves designing buildings’ electrical services.

Ozak Esu, graduate engineer Currently based in Birmingham, 24-year-old Ozak Esu moved to the UK in 2008 to study an IET accredited BEng in electronic and electrical engineering at Loughborough University.

Graduating in 2011 with first class honours, she was awarded a research studentship to undertake a PhD, again at Loughborough.

“My research investigated the instrumentation of low-cost electronics for vibration-based condition monitoring of wind turbine blades. The motivation for my research was to contribute towards reducing operations and maintenance costs associated with wind turbines,” she explains.

Finding work when you require a work permit or visa sponsorship

Ozak joined Cundall in 2014 whilst completing her thesis, and passed her PhD viva last year. Though she had little problem finding suitable vacancies, she did find the application process daunting!

“There was an endless supply of vacancies via the E&T Jobs website, Gradcracker, Student Ladder and graduate recruitment fairs etc., but it was daunting. I was an international student and required a work permit and visa sponsorship. Most of the engineering companies I was interested in joining, although listed by UKBA as registered visa sponsors, were unwilling to sponsor international students. I presume to avoid the hassle and costs associated.”

Lacking industry experience

“Completing a PhD with zero relevant industrial experience was also a problem when I passed the work permit stage. My options were to remain in academia, apply for graduate engineering roles or leave engineering completely for general consulting roles where my PhD is viewed as high-level transferable skills experience. I decided to apply for graduate engineering roles.”

“My current role was advertised on Gradcracker and I found the job description interesting, so I applied. I completed an online application, which asked competency-based questions and I was invited to take an online test, which I loved. My application was then put on hold, which was something completely new to me.

“After a month, I received a call from Cundall’s HR department inviting me to an assessment centre at the head office in Newcastle. It was a busy day consisting of tests, interviews, presentation and a series of group activities. I was successful and I got my offer the following week, which I accepted.”

Settling in

“I settled into the office and my team very well. Everyone was really nice and friendly. I felt very comfortable. As the practice is a partnership, the team dynamic is ‘we are all in this together’. As cheesy as that sounds, it means we support each other to ensure projects are delivered to a high standard, on schedule and with a balanced workload for everyone within the team.”

Ozak’s role as a graduate engineer involves designing electrical services such as lighting, electrical power, fire detection, CCTV and security systems, for workplaces, schools, retail and residential buildings.

“My role involves concept to final stage design, calculations (by hand and via software), liaising and meeting with architects, clients, contractors and manufacturers, coordinating electrical services with other services within a building, and regular site visits,” she says.

A varied working life

“The day-to-day experience is varied. Depending on the design stage of the project I am involved in, I could be designing electrical services or performing calculations to improve an existing design using different discipline specific software. I could be on site undertaking inspections of ‘as-built’ projects, conducting site surveys or attending design team workshops with third parties.”

“There are many daily design team briefings and workshops. Information is also distributed via email and these need to be considered. The salient points are captured from these meetings and emails, as the design of a building progresses. Contributing to the writing of progress reports and specifications is also part of the job, depending on the stage of the project”.

“Some weeks, my hours are spread out across three or more projects, and other times, my entire focus could be on only one project - especially when there are imminent deadlines looming,” she notes.

“Life as a working engineer is practical, dynamic but also with challenges. I initially dread the challenges, but the moment I scale them, I love the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction I get until my next challenge.”

Focusing on professional development

Ozak’s current career goal is to attain Chartered Engineer (CEng) status with the IET. As well as attending technical and soft skills career development training, she’s also supported and encouraged at Cundall to pursue charitable and voluntary opportunities like tutoring and engaging pupils in STEM. This aids her further development while encouraging others to consider a career in engineering.

“I am a STEM Ambassador and have been actively promoting STEM careers in schools through STEMNET for five years,” she highlights. “I am also a volunteer GCSE mathematics tutor with The Access Project in Birmingham, helping to support pupils towards achieving higher grades, with the hope of leading on to a STEM career. I am also a Cundall mentor to a Year 12 Arkwright Scholar. I am responsible for organising work experience placements and rotations for my mentee within the various engineering disciplines at Cundall, as well as overseeing her academic progress towards gaining a place at university to study engineering.”

Ozak believes giving back to the community is very important and offers this final piece of advice to other young engineers starting work full-time.

“Find a mentor to guide you through your career, and be a mentor to guide the younger ones into a career in engineering. In giving back, you develop skills and expand your network, which influences your career in many positive ways.”