Alumn Profile – Liz Sherratt, Lifing Development Manager, Rolls-Royce

In celebration of International Women’s Day we’re profiling Liz Sherratt, who graduated from the University of Exeter in Mechanical Engineering 2009. She is currently Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce

Liz Sherratt, Exeter alumn and Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?               

Following graduation I joined the Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace graduate scheme. The scheme places graduates around different parts of the Civil Aerospace business so they understand the various functions and how they work together to deliver engines to market and service those engines.

During these placements I worked within Development Engineering which I particularly enjoyed and so I returned to this area upon completion of the scheme. Development Engineering define and deliver the testing required to demonstrate new engines are suitable for entry into service and that changes to existing engines are acceptable. During my time in Development I worked on engine tests, both in the UK and abroad, and completed flight test campaigns to make changes to the engine mounted hydraulic system. After a couple of years in this role I took on a team lead position where I lead a small team delivering changes to the compressors of the Trent 900 as part of an improved efficiency package. Within these roles I got hands on experience of gas turbine engine hardware, build procedures as well as gaining an understanding of the airworthiness regulations and how to demonstrate compliance.

“I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning.”

Looking to increase my breadth of knowledge I moved into the Engineering for Services function taking on the role of Trent 900 Lifecycle Engineering (LCE) Team Lead. In this role I lead a team understanding and resolving issues encountered by the Trent 900 airline customers in service, from simple questions about how to interpret maintenance instructions to understanding why an in-service event has happened. I was involved in leading root cause investigations and working directly with airline powerplant teams, as well as with the aircraft manufacturer and the airworthiness authorities. This role evolved into leading the LCE team responsible for ensuring a new version of the Trent 900 engine would be mature at the point it entered service and thus free from reliability issues throughout its life.

Currently I am the Lifing Development Manager within Engineering for Services. This role is about managing any in service issues with engine critical parts and delivering new methods for predicting component life in service. This role sits across the different engine projects with an overview on how we best use the data we get from our engines to accurately predict when those engines need to be removed from wing thus improving operational reliability and getting the most life from our parts.

The next time you go on holiday it could be Liz’s team keeping you in the air! Photo credit: Hrishit Jangra (Unsplash)

 

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?            

I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning. Working in such a large company allows for lots of different opportunities and Rolls-Royce are very supportive of people moving into new areas. We also have many people who have chosen to focus on one area for a long time and are experts in their field, and they are always happy to share their knowledge.

 

Were you a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?  

I was a member of the University climbing club throughout my time at Exeter and was club captain in my final year. This gave me lots of useful skills outside of my degree and was a brilliant source of examples for competency based interviews.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I very much enjoyed the various group projects like the pelton wheel in the first year and the buggy project in the second year. Overall my biggest highlight was the individual project in the penultimate year as I found getting really stuck into something novel where I was completely responsible for the direction really engaging.

 

What did you enjoy most about studying here?               

In terms of the university as a whole I think the location was a real highlight, near the sea and Dartmoor and with a lovely campus environment. In terms of my degree I always found the staff very supportive and enjoyed the range of different modules.

 

“Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.”

 

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?              

I was initially not sure about the type of Engineering I wanted to go into so the general first year allowing me to keep my options open until I had an improved understanding of the various disciplines is what particularly appealed to me about Exeter. Additionally I attended an ‘Insight into Engineering’ course at Exeter during my A-Levels and found the University and department very welcoming, this definitely influenced my decision.

 

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?    

I think you pick up a lot of the specific knowledge you need for your role when you start, however university really prepared me for teaching myself and being able to learn efficiently. Things like learning how to read research papers, write clear, concise reports and present well have all stood me in good stead at work. Also the group work that you do throughout your degree prepares you for the teamwork required in most Engineering roles.

 

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?   

Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.

 

What are your plans for the future?      

Given the range of opportunities at Rolls-Royce I don’t currently have any plans to move on. So far I have taken roles based on the learning available, thinking I would enjoy them and that I could add value to the team and I plan to continue in this way. There are a few specific jobs I have my eye on but like to keep my options open.

 

Do you have any tips or advice for beginning a career or working in your industry/sector?          

For starters apply early; applications are reviewed on a first come, first served basis so the earlier you apply the better chance you have – start looking in the summer before your final year and apply early in the first term. The same goes for summer and 12 month internships. Beyond this I would follow what you enjoy as I think people perform best doing jobs they enjoy.

Unknown – Being a student with a hidden disability

Hannah O’Dowd, Final Year student studying BA English and Drama with Study Abroad.

Hannah O’Dowd is Final Year student on the Streatham Campus, studying BA English and Drama with Study Abroad. She talked to us about her experience of being a student with an invisible disability caused by a traumatic brain injury.

When I began university I was excited to continue my studies having completed my IB. I had no experience of cognitive deficits until on my Study Abroad year, when I sustained a traumatic brain injury. My brain could no longer process things the way it used to, and I’ve had to learn how my brain now works.

Before my injury I used to take pride in my independence, confidence, and seemingly endless amounts of energy. These are things which were snatched from me. I now question everything I say and do. I am far more analytical and I question other people’s actions and words, when before I wouldn’t have. I used to try and fit in more things in a day than was ever going to be possible before my injury; now I can only consider trying to do a fraction of the things I used to do. It is very difficult to explain to people why I have to do the things the way I do, this is because my brain injury is an invisible disability.

“I used to try and fit in more things in a day than was ever going to be possible before my injury; now I can only consider trying to do a fraction of the things I used to do. It is very difficult to explain to people why I have to do the things the way I do, this is because my brain injury is an invisible disability.”

One symptom of a brain injury which affects me is decreased verbal fluency. I have word finding difficulties (particularly when I am fatigued). The time taken for me to get frustrated (with myself or others) has also dramatically decreased since the injury. ‘Dropping an issue’ or ‘moving on’/’forgetting about it’ is a response which cannot be done with ease for someone with a brain injury. It’s often embarrassing to experience an angry response to something which I then later reflect to be unfitting for the situation. I have so much self-doubt about the placement of my anger and as a result I often seek confirmation from others to check that my feeling is founded. I used to be a dramatic person, but I was never an ‘angry person’. It’s difficult, but this reaction is because my brain no longer has the ability to process the information fully and quickly; I might misread something and react, and others won’t understand why I have that reaction.

Harsh sounds and lights can be very distressing to someone with a brain injury. But simultaneously trying to read something in dim light will exaggerate fatigue as it works the brain harder. Managing this is difficult and is a challenge every day.

Another common result of a brain injury is for someone not to be able to recognise what is or isn’t socially appropriate. For me, I frequently have ‘no filter’. So the things you think but don’t say, someone with a brain injury might say it. My brain no longer compartmentalises information the way it used to. As a result, I might disclose information which is not obviously relevant to the conversation being had. This can put me (and anyone with a brain injury) in a very vulnerable position; it is something I must monitor as best I can. This filtration that I now must consciously do, is a contributory factor to my fatigue. My energy levels have depleted massively. This is another change which I unfortunately have to get used to. Not only does the brain injury mean that I am far more tired, it also means that I experience pain on a regular basis. I might look like the same person but because of this invisible injury everything is very different. Every brain injury is very different, but all symptoms are exaggerated by fatigue.

“I am very fortunate to have a graduate role lined up for when I finish my undergraduate degree… I am comfortable knowing Accenture have supported me in my return to work over my summer internship and am confident they will continue to do so after I have graduated.”

I am very fortunate to have a graduate role lined up for when I finish my undergraduate degree. Before my injury, I worked for Accenture during my gap year and was meant to undertake a summer internship with the company in the penultimate summer of my degree. Due to my injury, I was unable to undertake the internship in 2016, but the Accenture invited me back to take part in the scheme when I was recovered enough. They were fully aware of my traumatic brain injury; with this in mind they placed me with a client located most conveniently to minimise my fatigue and avoiding the need for me to have extra travel.

When I began my project, I informed my line manager of my brain injury. I did this so that if I struggled with certain scenarios (for example: divided attention exaggerated by fatigue) he would be able to understand why I might find some things more difficult than others. He was very professional and understanding. I also was given the option to work remotely if I needed to and the company has policies in place to ensure I was able to attend necessary medical appointments around my work timetable. Remote working is something the company was very supportive of, for many employees and for varying reasons. At the end of this 8 week internship I was pleased to have been offered a graduate position with the firm. I am comfortable knowing Accenture have supported me in my return to work over my summer internship and am confident they will continue to do so after I have graduated.

While I was in hospital I wrote a blog (initially as part of my speech therapy) and have written a few posts since being back at University. This was something I found to be a good outlet for what I was experiencing. It was a way of me coming to terms with what had happened, and a way of explaining the situation to others.

As I complete my degree I am also creating a show titled ‘Unknown’  about my time in hospital and living with my injuries. I will be taking this show to Edinburgh Fringe in August 2019. I hope it will help the audience to understand the difficulties faced by trauma survivors.

Passion, Ability and Confidence – a Career in Law

Andréa Hounto graduated from the University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, with BA (Hons) History and Politics in 2016. She’s currently a Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg. 

Andrea Hounto, Exeter (Tremough Campus) Graduate and current Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg

After graduating from Exeter, I went on to do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, also known as the law conversion course). I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the law school (BPP), which covered the majority of my course fee. I then obtained a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and decided to do an integrated Master of Laws (LL.M). Upon successful completion of the BPTC, I’ll be getting called to Bar of England and Wales. I’m currently undertaking a six-month internship at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as the lucky recipient of the Hon. Sir Peter Bristow Scholarship. I was given this opportunity by my Inn of Court, who is funding me to be here. It is an amazing opportunity to develop both my legal experience and use my French language skills.

When I return to the UK, I’ll be seeking to obtain pupillage in a London-based chambers, which is the final step to qualifying as a barrister. Ultimately, I am planning to become a human rights barrister and then qualify as a judge.

“I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system.”

I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system. What I enjoy most about my work is knowing that I am using my skills to impact lives in a positive way and bring hope to those who may have lost it.

My degree put me in good stead for career at the Bar in that it developed my critical and lateral-thinking skills. I particularly enjoyed writing my third-year dissertation titled: ‘Is Margaret Thatcher the Ultimate Feminist Heroine?’, which explored the significance of Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister. Due to the largely polarized opinions of Thatcher, I was required to extract objective facts from tendentious material; a skill which will be invaluable at the Bar. Academics aside, being president of the African and Caribbean Society during my second year significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee in my third year gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.

“..being president of the African and Caribbean Society significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.”

I would advise all current students who wish to pursue a career in law, regardless of whether they want to be a barrister or a solicitor, to start their research early. Try to find out what the difference between a barrister and a solicitor is as early as possible, and then work towards building your experience in that field. Don’t worry too much about specialisms, just try to get whatever legal experience you can get your hands on. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to ascertain which areas of law you like and which areas you don’t like. I would also recommend applying for as many scholarships as possible to fund your legal studies (GDL, LPC, BPTC, LL.M etc.). Lastly, I would say: don’t let the statistics scare you. Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!

“Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!”

Volunteering is key at the beginning as you will be very inexperienced. As you build experience, you can look for paralegal roles or legal internships which will benefit you greatly when it comes to applying for pupillage (barristers) or Training Contracts (solicitors).

Marion Milne – Director, Writer, Producer

It’s Never Too Late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Career Zone.

Marion Milne is a Documentary Film Maker as well as an Emmy Nominated Director, Writer, Series Producer and award winning Producer. She graduated from Exeter with a BA in French and Drama in 1979.  Read about a day in her life filming one of her most recent documentaries about Martin Luther King.

This photo was taken last summer while shooting in America on a documentary for ITV about Martin Luther King.

Marion Milne and camera man on location in Memphis, Tennessee

We were in Memphis, Tennessee, and I’m directing from the back seat, while my camera man is in the front seat wielding the camera.

The reason we are filming in this way is that our presenter, Sir Trevor McDonald, has finished shooting for the day, and we are picking up what are called Point of View shots (POVs).

We’re inside a gorgeous 1955 Cadillac (from the Martin Luther King era) because we wanted to add a period feel to the documentary. We also used lots of music from the time. While shooting, with our driver, we covered many miles in the American South in the Cadillac, taking Sir Trevor from place to place of relevance to the Civil Rights Era.

It’s standard practice in TV (and even in feature films) to shoot the POV shots separately. So you film with the presenter (or the actor) to capture them sitting inside the car, you film something called ‘up and pasts’ to see them go past in the vehicle from outside the car, and then the last thing you do are the POV shots – as if the camera is seeing what the presenter is seeing.

Sometimes we get caught out. If you shoot everything in sunshine and then the POVs later in the day when it’s getting dark, the Editor (whose job it is to cut it all together) is most unimpressed. Ditto for rain!

Day to day shoots like this one are a combination of hard work and great fun. You get access to places you might never otherwise go to, and meet people you might not otherwise meet.

On the Martin Luther King shoot we interviewed his God Daughter and some of the brave people who marched alongside him in the Civil Rights Marches.

We learnt some amazing new facts. For example Martin Luther King never planned to say “I have a dream” in his famous March on Washington in August 1963. The truth is he was slightly running out of steam in the speech when a singer called Mahalia Jackson called out ‘tell them about the dream Martin, tell them about the dream’.

We also interviewed Martin Luther King’s secretary who typed up his words for the March on Washington. ‘That’s not the speech’’she said ‘that’s not the speech we stayed up all night typing’.

Sir Trevor McDonald, OBE

Another funny incident on the shoot was when we were in New York interviewing Harry Belafonte, the legendary singer who was also part of the Civil Rights movement.

We picked a location on the Upper East Side inside a building that is normally very quiet. When we got there, to our horror, there were construction workers outside, drilling. They were basically digging up the road and needed to get the job done that day. So much noise the interview would be impossible.

I spoke to the foreman, who was African American, and explained the problem. ‘For Mr Belafonte’ he said ‘we’ll stop drilling’.

When Harry Belafonte arrived (bearing in mind he is ninety) he happily posed for photos with all the construction workers as a thank you.  And true to their word, they stopped drilling as a thank you.

When we got back to the U.K. we had one more celebrity to track down. Naomi Campbell – who was also an honorary Godchild to Nelson Mandela – is a champion of Martin Luther King. When we learnt that one of the world’s most famous Super Models was keen to be interviewed for our documentary, we cleared our schedules and set up camp in the Dorchester Hotel during a brief break in Naomi’s busy day.

We learnt that Naomi was in her way to a Vogue shoot and would need at least two hours with her stylist and make-up artist before she appeared.

We waited on tenterhooks. Super Models are not really known for their punctuality and our window of opportunity was narrowing as the minutes ticked by.

Then, just when we had given up hope, the phone rang. ‘You’ve got fifteen minutes’ barked one of Naomi’s minders down the phone. In swept Naomi. In swept her entourage.

We were poised, waiting ready to roll. Naomi – looking amazing – gracefully sat down, switched off her phone and took off her sunglasses.

Action’ I said.

Ten minutes later we had our scoop. Naomi on MLK.  ‘He was fearless’ she said. ‘He lived what he said, breathed what he said, did what he said. His name will never be erased from the history books. Martin Luther King will never be forgotten’.

And with that she was gone. Bravo Naomi. Bravo Martin Luther King.

You can find out Marion’s Top Tips about how to gain a career in her sector: here.

Getting into Cyber Security

Eneida Morina is a current BSc in Computer Science student at the University of Exeter. After graduation she’ll be working as a Cyber Security Specialist at IBM. 

Eneida Morina
Eneida Morina

“I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where I was introduced to a fantastic mentor. She worked in the IT sector and guided me through the different career options that I could pursue with my degree; reassuring me that it wasn’t just coding jobs out there! My mentor encouraged me to apply for a summer internship in one of the areas we discussed, and I luckily got an internship in cyber security at the Met Office.

The internship was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the field as I didn’t actually know as much as I thought I did! It was a good glimpse of the professional working world as well as an insight into the career. I enjoyed the nature of the work and the diversity of it, so I applied for the graduate role of Cyber Security Specialist at IBM.

“Cyber security is evolving fast and is more important than ever. Companies and organisations need protecting, so I feel that my work will be really valued.”

Cyber security is evolving fast and is more important than ever. We’re constantly hearing of cyber-attacks on companies in the news, and there’s a real need for more cyber security specialists. This area is exciting as there will constantly be new ideas and issues to work on, and it’s an important field that really matters. Companies and organisations need protecting, so I feel that my work will be really valued.

The company I’m working for really stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair. They promote women in tech which is something I’m passionate about, and they offer great graduate opportunities. They also support continued development and the opportunity to gain further industry recognised qualifications.

The role I’ve taken on is really exciting; I get to continue learning and further build my knowledgebase. I’ll be working within an organisation that’s a market-leader and offers the best products as well as having a great reputation. Furthermore, the organisation is really ahead of the game so I’ll be exposed to all the latest cyber security news and products.

I want to be able to work with impressive clients and make a difference. That’s as far as I know for now – who knows what the future holds!”