Mathew Wassell, a student on his Industrial Year from  Electronic and Electrical Engineering working for  Jaguar Land Rover as a Production Development Engineer

Mathew Wassell

Mathew is an Electronic and Electrical Engineering (BEng) student from the University of Leeds. Mathew has undertaken an industrial placement year as part of his degree working as a Product Development Engineer at Jaguar Land Rover. Choosing to do an industrial placement year gives you the opportunity to develop your own skills, and gain a real insight into working life in a particular company or sector.

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I work for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) – the UK’s largest car manufacturer with over 500,000 customers in 2016. JLR has two key sectors; Jaguar and Land Rover. Jaguar specialises in luxury saloon, sport and sports utility vehicles. Land Rover specialises in premium 4x4 vehicles and luxury sports utility vehicles. The company currently has 6 main facilities, five of which are in the UK with one in India.

What is your role within the company?

I am a Product Development Engineer in the Product Analysis and Verification sector, specialising in Hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) systems. This means I design and develop the electrical hardware and software for HIL test rigs that will be used to test different components within the vehicles. The main basis of these tests is to turn road load data into virtual data so smaller components of the vehicle can be tested on a work bench instead of on the road. This effectively reduces the testing procedures time and costs.

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

For me, a typical day will involve various activities, however I will usually be working on the project I was set when I first started. The project is to design and build a HIL test bench and cabinet that turns road load data into virtual data. The cabinet will contain various units such as a ‘DSpace’ and ‘Speedgoat’ controller. These controllers will communicate with each other to ensure vehicle components on the bench are tested safely and to the correct guidelines. The software used to program these controllers is MATLAB Simulink which I am currently in the process of learning. At the moment I am designing and building the test bench and cabinet on AutoCAD. This is a computer aided design tool which I have learnt to use through working at JLR.

Other tasks include attending meetings to get updates on my sectors targets and deadlines, creating meetings with my manager to give him feedback on how my project is going and liaising with team members for their input on what the test bench and cabinet should consist of. Any spare time I have is used to complete smaller projects and fill in the ‘Eng. Tech’ documentation which will eventually lead to me becoming a qualified engineering technician.

What are you enjoying the most and are you involved in any interesting projects?

I am particularly enjoying working on my main project and the freedom I get when it comes to the design of the HIL system. I feel motivated by the fact that something I have created will be used to test JLR’s future vehicles.

One of my more interesting side projects has been designing and making a cooling system for an observation camera that is mounted inside a climate chamber. The temperature in these climate chambers can be set between -20 degrees and 85 degrees. When the temperature was getting over 80 degrees, the camera was malfunctioning. To overcome this fault I installed a cooling system inside the camera housing using flexible pipe which would blow pressured cold air at the camera. The air turns on at 40 degrees and is controlled using a temperature sensor and solenoid. I particularly enjoyed this small project as it let me get hands-on experience with some equipment, as well as giving me a change from an electrical based task.

I also enjoy going on training days set up by the company. These can range from software training to creativity courses. I feel these are useful to learn new skills and network with other JLR employees as these contacts may become useful when future opportunities arise.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I felt like a year in industry would be useful when it came to finding a graduate job. When it comes to a career in engineering, work experience is key and a placement is the perfect opportunity to build this experience, as well as expanding your contact base and building up a project portfolio. All these assets will look incredibly attractive when employers are looking at your CV.

Another reason I chose to work for a year is that I believed that getting an insight into an industry would help me in my final year project. Not just through giving me ideas on what project to do, but also with how to go about planning and developing the knowledge and equipment I need to finish the project before the deadline.

As an avid car enthusiast, this placement at JLR is a very exciting opportunity for me to find out if working with one of my passions will help me in becoming a valuable member of the JLR team.

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

I hope to get a clearer insight into an industry I have a great deal of interest in. I feel this will help me when it comes to future employment as it will give me a foundation of understanding in the automotive sector and prepare me for my future career. I also hope to come out of the experience with plenty of ideas for my final year project. I feel like this opportunity is the perfect chance to find out what my strengths and weaknesses are then use these strength to my advantage. Finally, I hope to leave JLR with a number of contacts who may be handy in years to come if I’m ever stuck for a job. I feel that building a strong working relationship with many people will increase the chances of getting a future role or promotion.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

I would definitely recommend doing an industrial placement. The knowledge and experience gained from an opportunity like this is invaluable and it will give you great insight into how industries successfully function. It will also help you decide what industry fits your interests the most so you could think of it as a tailoring service!

The placement will help you develop various skills that are essential in employment. It will also look great on your CV as other employers will be impressed that you have previous industrial experience.

I’d suggest applying for companies that fit your interest, but don’t be too picky! There are many other people also looking for industrial placements, so the more you apply for, the more likely you are to get a place. When you get through to the interview or assessment centre make sure you do your research, dress smart and be yourself!