Stirling Dynamics sat down with some of our 2022 Graduate joiners, to discuss their experiences from their time with us so far. Topics included flexible working, an average day at Stirling Dynamics, the company culture, and the transition from university.
Q1. How was the transition from university to Stirling Dynamics?
Cameron: ‘It was a good transition from Uni I thought. The difference, is what we are taught here relates more to the real world; we got taught a lot about regulation here, which of course you don’t touch at Uni. It’s essentially like taking what you’ve learnt at Uni and applying it to reality. Working with what’s relevant to the business.’
Bart: ‘I remember the first week or so felt overwhelming in terms of the amount of change that had occurred since Uni and I remember thinking “wow, there’s a lot to pick up on”. The Loads and Aeroelastics graduate training included introductory lectures for the first month, which were a lot more comprehensive, and we did a little bit of this at Uni, but then suddenly we’re thrown into this deep world of complexity and responsibility as well, working on real projects. But I think during that introductory month, having these lectures and then being slowly eased into project work – and then also having the culture at Stirling Dynamics where everyone is friendly and willing to help – that really helped!’
Ajmal: ‘Yeah, here we’re learning about more specific technical aspects, for example, with what we’re doing with Airbus: all the documentation has to be kept internal, so obviously the first time we’d be seeing it was when we were actually starting to work on it. And to actually understand it, you need so much help from Senior Engineers. In Uni, they give you a wide base of tasks, but it’s just to help you understand the principles of it, whereas here you apply the principles to methodise what you’ve learnt.’
I just got stuck in straight away which I didn’t actually find that difficult, but that was fundamentally because of the culture and the friendliness of everyone around Stirling Dynamics and everyone’s willingness to help.
Lewis: ‘I was on the rotational graduate scheme, so every six months, I’d change department. So, I didn’t have any of the same lectures, with my scheme I just got stuck in straight away which I didn’t actually find that difficult, but that was fundamentally because of the culture and the friendliness of everyone around Stirling Dynamics and everyone’s willingness to help. So, I would be supporting someone on a task that I would have no experience of, but it didn’t make me feel like my confidence was taking a hit because of that, I always had a chance to ask questions and the people who had experience were always very happy to help me out, because at the end of the day, it’s a team effort.’
Ildem: ‘The great thing, is that there’s a lot of people I can talk to when I’m stuck; if it’s a question about the company in general I often go to Jordi (Engineer), and if its task related or if I’m nervous about a meeting or something I go to Nadjib (Senior Engineer) and he can help me out.’
Q2. How is your work/life balance at Stirling Dynamics?
Charles: ‘Stirling Dynamics has recently started a new flexible working policy which is great! I usually finish work around 5pm, but what’s nice is that I have the opportunity to break up my day into a structure that works for me. Some days, I’ll go to the gym a little bit early around 4pm, miss all the crowds and then come back and just continue working until around 7pm. Flexi-time means that I’m not constrained to 9-5 working, I can get back home in the evening and I might think “now’s the perfect time for me to crack on with this” and then just do an hour quite late at night and I don’t feel guilty, because I know that this is going towards something. It’s not overtime, you can take it off on the Friday and you can get that time back! It’s wonderful having that flexibility and freedom!’
Bart: ‘It’s really good to have the freedom to spread out the work as you want. I aim to work from around 8.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Thursday so I get a shorter Friday as a reward.’
Ajmal: ‘Which gives us time to plan a social or something for the Friday!’
Q3. So, we have previously touched on this in places, but how would you describe the Stirling Dynamics company culture? And what has it meant to you?
Ildem: ‘The company culture is very friendly, it’s really good! From the minute I started working here, I felt very welcomed, and I felt as if I had been part of the team for a very long time. It was very embracing! People are very respectful as well. It’s wonderful, even though we’re still graduates, everyone still likes to take our opinions on board and hear from us. Which is great!’
Bart: ‘People are always ready to answer your questions and they always find time for you. As a new person, you do try to figure things out on your own sometimes; I remember Martijn (Senior Engineer) telling me in the first week or so, “they won’t let us drown, but they’ll let us swim”. It’s very nice to feel like there is support, and not just from the people who work immediately with you. Anyone. You can talk to anyone, even if you’re not in the same type of team. I was talking to Michelle (Project Manager) earlier during lunch and she said, ‘Does anyone have a question? Even if it’s not in systems?’ just ask. Everyone’s really friendly.’
Ajmal: ‘It’s the fact that they know that we’re new Graduates and they’re understanding in case any of us need to ask for help. And they’re happy for us to ask, because it shows that we want to learn and that we’re there to do it right, and that’s why they’re all really appreciative. Out of a seven and a half hour day, I probably spend at least half an hour on a call with a Senior Engineer asking questions. A good seventh of my day is asking questions.’
Lewis: ‘Also, the people want to give you an environment where you can open up and where you do feel confident enough to ask questions. Whereas I’m sure in some places you’d feel as if the person’s just going to ignore you or tell you to look it up for yourself instead of just helping you out. It’s not like that here.’
People are always ready to answer your questions and they always find time for you… they won’t let us drown but they’ll let us swim.
Keshav: ‘There’s a guy, his name’s Abdel (Engineer), and I can ask him a question at any time. He gave me his WhatsApp. It can be 10 o’clock at night, I can drop him a message and if he’s free he’ll answer a question. He’ll quickly just answer it, it can be 7 o’clock or 10 o’clock and he’ll jump on teams with me and explain to me for example a certain type of code to look at. He’s always there to help and support.’
Bart: ‘Obviously as well, the people here have got a lot to say, they’re really professional people, so it’s actually quite inspiring and motivating the fact that they’re so willing to help. It motivates you to raise your standards.’
Q4. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on so far?
Keshav: ‘It’s interesting working with data from the customers, you’ll get some data from the customer, for example an aircraft model and then you’ve actually got an aircraft model which is a real thing. The most real thing you can get to without changing or doing something to the actual aircraft. You feel that sense of responsibility, that you’re doing something very important, and you have to get it right and that’s quite cool.’
Cameron: ‘All the projects we work on are pretty impressive, for example, we’re currently helping the modification of a test bed for a next generation fighter jet for an aircraft modification company. It’s very cool, even if when you’re actually doing it, you’re modifying NASTRAN models or something.’
Lewis: ‘In the case of Airbus, we actually went to visit them and see test parts of their landing gear and it was surreal, because that was a part that I was actually working on. It’s definitely cool to see the work you’re doing contributing to something that’s actually flying around with thousands of other aircraft in the sky. Your contribution may be to a very small part of that, but it’s still going towards something big.’
Ajmal: ‘It hits you when you see things up close. You suddenly think “we’ve only seen diagrams before” but when you actually go and see things, the gravity of your contribution hits you. At the moment, I’m doing a retraction study, so I’m looking at all the previous aircraft and seeing what kind of principles can be implemented to improve their landing gear retraction time. It’s really cool and useful because we get to speak to Senior Engineers, that actually work on rigs and are on hand to speak and answer questions.’
It’s definitely cool to see the work you’re doing contributing to something that’s actually flying around with thousands of other aircraft in the sky.
Charles: ‘One project which I found really interesting was an internal project, which was the acquisition of the German company. That was a really interesting project because it was really ‘businessey’. There was engineering involved in as much as we had to get the right quality and standards and the EASA DOA certification, which was the big thing with this company. Being a part of that and the fact that it wasn’t just Engineers I was working with but the directors of the company, our marketing department, Lawyers, and people from legal teams. It was really interesting!’
Lewis: ‘There’s definitely a lot of variety in projects!’
Q5. What is your favourite thing about working at Stirling Dynamics?
Ildem: ‘The best thing is definitely the people; I really like working with the other graduates and everyone else is really friendly and hospitable. The flexibility is great too; although I do like coming to the office, it’s nice sometimes to still have that option to just stay home for a few days if I want. Because sometimes, it’s nice to have that extra hour of sleep you know.’
Lewis: ‘Flexible time is nice. I like the company size a lot; I would say that it’s better to be in a small to medium sized company like Stirling Dynamics, than a large company where you’re going in as a Grad and you’re just a number – you’re not going to be exposed to the different parts of the business. Stirling Dynamics’ size allows you to have more meaningful contributions. In large companies, you’ll be more of a cog in the machine so to speak.’
Ajmal: ‘I like the task variety at Stirling Dynamics and the different types of tasks you get to work on. They really want you to develop.’
The size has its benefits; you can be put on the spot a lot, which can be quite uncomfortable, but that exposure will just massively drive up your confidence, which is a huge thing especially for grads.
Charles: ‘The working environment is great! Everyone is really friendly, and it has a nice family feeling to it! Also, as Lewis said, the size has its benefits; you can be put on the spot a lot, which can be quite uncomfortable, but that exposure will just massively drive up your confidence, which is a huge thing especially for Graduates.’
Keshav: ‘You’re talking to different groups of people at every stage of development in a project, whether it’s an Engineer or a Project Manager. It’s a lot more linear in larger companies, you may be working on a certain aspect of something, but you don’t know who the customer is or what the end deliverable may be, it’s really too filtered-down. Whereas at Stirling Dynamics, we know our impact and all our meetings include the whole team for a project, they’ll communicate to us what the whole product is.’
Q6. What is one piece of advice you would give to any prospective graduate joining Stirling Dynamics?
Ajmal: ‘I think I would say that if you don’t feel like the smartest person in the room, it’s okay, that’s normal.’
Charles: ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so ask loads of questions!’
Ajmal: ‘And if you don’t know, ask again!’
Ildem: ‘Like most people, in the beginning I was afraid to ask questions, but it’s important to ask questions, no matter how basic they are. If you’re stuck on something and it’s affecting your workflow, just ask because the nice thing here is, nobody judges you.’
Bart: ‘I think I would say maybe, don’t pressure yourself, enjoy your surroundings, it’s cool where you are, you’re in a privileged position in the world so it’s good to just take it slow and enjoy your working really. It’s not a burden, it’s a privilege.’
Keshav: ‘I would say, when you get stuck on something, take a step back, make it simple, think about what you’ve learned previously and try to work from that. It is quite difficult what we’re doing, so simplify the task and it will help you get to the end result.’
Lewis: ‘Although it sounds cliché, don’t stay in your comfort zone, stay eager. Do things that feel challenging, and you’ll find that when you get into it, you’ll grow, and you’ll get more experience. You’ll enjoy it more as well.’
Cameron: ‘A lot of the stuff I’ve been working on, especially with coding and stuff: When I started it, I’d be like “I have no idea how to do this” but when you spend some time just having a go at it, eventually, it might take weeks, but eventually you will get to the stage where you know things inside and out cause you’ve been doing it so much. Looking at something in the beginning and thinking, “I’ve got no idea, is normal”. Don’t be scared, eventually you’ll get it.’
Bart: ‘Try and fail, you’ll learn by your mistakes.’
Stirling Dynamics’ next Graduate Scheme launches March 2023, check back regularly on our jobs page for more information.
Engineering | Project Management
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