Joshua Barrett

What have you been doing since finishing your studies? What are you doing in terms of your career?

After finishing my degree in June 2013, I spent the summer working in Maine, USA as part of Camp America before returning to start on a Graduate Scheme in September.

What company are you working for, what is your role and what does it involve?

I work for Cobham, an aerospace, defence and technology company which offers an innovative range of technologies and services to solve challenging problems across commercial, defence and security markets, from deep space to the depths of the ocean. (www.cobham.com). 
I am on the graduate scheme, which is a 2-3 year programme consisting of 6 month placements in different areas of the company. So far I have worked as a Systems Engineer within Air to Air Refuelling, a Commercial Officer for Aircraft Mission Equipment and a Safety Engineer within Aviation Services. I aim to complete Sector and Project Management placements before my transition to a full time Engineering role in the coming year.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career/will help with your future career?

The Aerospace/Aeronautical course in particular is heavily influenced by its Industrial Advisory Board, concluding in a Masters project that is sponsored by Industry. This means that you don't have to just deliver a major engineering project, you also learn to present and communicate at an industry level. This was beneficial ahead of my transition into employment it and gave me my first exposure to engineering professionals.

I also worked as the Mechanical Engineering Employability Ambassador, which basically meant working as a liaison between the Careers Centre and Mechanical Engineering students. This allowed me to learn how to make myself more employable and definitely helped with job applications.

Looking back, why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I always enjoyed Maths and Physics whilst at school but was conscious that I didn’t want to get bogged down in theories and work in which I couldn’t see a real life application. Engineering seemed to me as the best answer to this, solving real world problems using an underlying knowledge of Maths and Physics.

I chose the Aerospace course because it stood out to me as the most challenging and as something completely different to my previously studies. I also knew that it was seen as one of the most employable courses at University, owing to the broad range of skills it provides you with.

I’ll confess Leeds wasn’t my first choice until I went to an open day. Once there I found that the staff were engaging, I was impressed with the facilities and enjoyed talking to the student helpers. Leeds also impressed me as a city and having a campus situated so close to the centre was a plus. 

What was the best aspect of the course/the University and why? Any highlights?

I would say Aerospace is unlike other courses, in the fact that you will need to spend a lot of time working with others to succeed. Not in the sense there is a lot of group work but that the work can be very difficult / diverse and no one is an expert in all areas. Different people have different strengths, so you learn to work together.

As an example, thanks to my dissertation I was stronger at MATLAB software, so was often asked by others for help when they were stuck using the program. Then when I struggled on a certain problem in Aerostructures, the same people helped me to understand and overcome that issue. I found this environment enjoyable and beneficial to work and learn in and it enabled me to build strong friendships with my course mates. At times the work can be stressful and full-on, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you all make it through.

I would also mention that going on the Cranfield Flight trip was an experience that not many other courses can offer. We were flown around in a converted test plane, undertaking various manoeuvres to better understand flight characteristics. It was a memorable day, though I’ll be the first to admit you need a strong stomach for high G turns!

I loved living in Leeds because it is a great city with over 30,000 students in total, meaning there is always something going on and lots to keep you entertained. The Union is one of the best I have been too and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Fruity Friday!

What other activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

I trained with the Leeds University Cricket Club for 2 years and joined the Leeds Student Paper in my final year, with 4 of my articles being published in the comments section. If I’m honest one of my biggest regrets is not getting involved in more societies, especially in earlier years when the workload isn’t as heavy. They’re a great way to meet new people, learn some different skills and get the most out of your Uni experience.

What would you say to students thinking about studying the same course at Leeds/thinking about the same career?

  • Join Societies / Sports Club, especially in years 1+2 when you have more free time
  • Make the most of the careers centre (I must’ve got my CV reviewed 20+ times)
  • Make sure you get a least one summer’s internship / work experience, vital to your CV and valuable experience ahead of full time interviews / roles.