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Emily Pilgrim

MEng (Hons) Electrical and Electronic Engineering (2016)
Graduate Trainee Engineer, Schneider Electric, various locations.

Emily Pilgrim

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? What was your first impression of the university and the city, and what did you enjoy most about your time in Bradford?

It was the Electrical and Electronic Engineering course that attracted me initially, and then when attending the Open Day, I just felt that the university as a whole had a really lovely, friendly atmosphere where I could fit in and be happy.  The Green accommodation really impressed me and I liked how convenient it was, being situated on campus.

The city itself also had a nice feel to it, Centenary Square had just been constructed and it seemed like Bradford was entering a new regenerative phase. I have very much enjoyed my time at Bradford, particularly how open and friendly everyone has been; you feel like you can talk to anybody, be they student or staff.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about your course?

Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Bradford offers a large range of modules from large scale power distribution and networking to programming embedded systems.  This appealed to me, as it enabled me to experience many different areas and then narrow down my interests to what field I would like to enter, upon graduating.

For a small course, there are many experienced staff who have offered me huge amounts of support throughout my time at Bradford.  The part that I have enjoyed the most is being able to work in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering labs to develop hands-on skills such as soldering and PCB board design, programming and robotics. These are skills which can be applied directly to industry.

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at University of Bradford and the university itself?

Taking a placement year is always a good idea. Although it seems intimidating and may push you out of your comfort zone, the skills gained are second to none.  I managed to secure a placement working at ARM based in Cambridge. When returning to university after placement year, I found that my attitude to my work had changed greatly and I was much more mature as a person.

The skills gained on placement enabled me to push myself academically and made all the difference to my grades, pushing the 2:1 grades I was achieving before placement up to 1st class grades.  Even if a year’s placement seems slightly too much, I would definitely recommend getting summer work, even just casual work.  I worked over the summer at places such as Clarkes and Chessington World of Adventures which gave me confidence and much to write about on my CV to help me secure both my placement and graduate positions.

How did Career Development Services support you during your time at University?

During second year, I attended lectures to help with placement year applications. This taught me a lot and helped me make these applications.  It is easy to get disheartened when making applications and either not hearing back or receiving rejections.  Talking to the Career Development Services helped me stay positive and put it into perspective that you do have to make a lot of applications to receive even an interview. I was also helped to develop my CV; this is often the first thing that companies will see, so it is important to get it checked over. Some changes that the Career Development Services suggested were just minor formatting changes, but I believe they made all the difference. 

Tell us about your current job (brief responsibilities of what you will be doing).

For the first 12 months (commencing Sept 2016), I will be undertaking three 4-month placements in different Schneider Electric office locations.  I will be spending time in key business areas during these placements to get some hands-on experience. Personal skills development and commercial insights will be part of these placements to accelerate development and ensure I am ready to move into a role at the end of the Graduate Programme.

Schneider Electric is a global specialist in energy management, focused on making energy safe, reliable, efficient and productive. This structure of work appeals to me as it allows me to gain experience in different areas of the business before making the decision as to where I want to work at the end of this year.

What action did you take to improve your employability whilst at University?

Extracurricular activities can really boost your CV.  In the first couple of years of my degree, I enjoyed getting involved in sports and societies within the university. It is important to prioritise your degree over these activities, however, so I took a step back from this to concentrate on my degree during my final two years.  I was part of the SSLC (Student Staff Liaison Committee) during the final two years of my degree, so I could be part of departmental decisions made and having the opportunity to practice leadership skills and voicing my opinions.

Whilst completing my degree, I also completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition through scouts which can be put on my CV and demonstrates further skills. It is important to complete activities to demonstrate your interest in a subject area. While I was on my placement year and earning money, I decided to build my own desktop and put a Linux operating system on it to enable me to develop new skills and practice using Linux.

What advice would you give to current students wishing to enter this type of career?

It is important to get organised early on and start making applications a year before you expect to start in a graduate position.  I started making applications September 2015 and was interviewed from November. I applied to Schneider Electric in November 2015 and had the assessment in February 2016. I found out that I had secured the job the day after my assessment centre.

Starting applications early meant that I had already had a few interviews before the Schneider Electric assessment centre which boosted my confidence and gave me an idea of what they expect.  Securing a job in February meant that I could concentrate on my studies for the rest of the semester.  Many people don’t think about making applications to graduate jobs until they have finished their final year, however, by this time many companies have already closed their application process.  Start applications early in the final year while your work load is still fairly low and you have time to dedicate to make these applications stand out to secure a good graduate job.