Michael Cookson

Michael Cookson

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

On completion of my studies I worked as a freelance sound engineer for almost a year before joining my current employer, Radio Design. I have now worked at Radio Design for a little over four years, during which I have been promoted twice, travelled internationally for work and made key contributions to numerous major projects.

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

I currently work for the Hardware Services division of Radio Design, an RF/telecommunications engineering company based in the UK with facilities in Finland, India and China.The primary remit of Hardware Services is to provide technical support and equipment repair services to mobile telephone network operators and equipment providers. Having started as a Graduate Engineer, I have been promoted twice and now occupy a senior engineering position.

Most Hardware Services projects require equipment or systems to be analysed in order to understand both how they work and how they are likely to fail.This information is then used to develop test solutions and component level debug methodologies to enable repair and/or improvement. Depending on the requirements of the customer, this capability is then transferred to one or more of our international production facilities.

It is usual for apparatus that undergoes the above process to be the product of many different engineering disciplines. As the technical output of a project is often produced by a single engineer, it is therefore necessary for Hardware Services Engineers to be conversant with a range of such disciplines. For example, a single project frequently requires knowledge of RF electronics and theory, control electronics, embedded systems, power supplies, telecommunication theory, electronic measurement and automated test development, as well as aspects of mechanical, process and quality engineering.

In addition to contributing to projects as outlined above, I am also responsible for monitoring and reviewing the technical output of all Hardware Services engineering projects and production facilities in order to ensure they conform to internal procedures and standards, customer requirements, and relevant national, EU or international standards and/or legislation. I also provide technical support and guidance to other engineers, management, production facilities or the customer as and when required.

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

The ability to tackle difficult, unfamiliar problems has to be the most important skills I honed whilst at Leeds. Success in engineering, at University and the workplace, frequently depends on your capability to quantify a problem, conduct relevant research of a theory or subject, and then use the gained knowledge effectively to reach a solution. As an engineer you should never stop learning.

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

I chose to study at the University of Leeds because of its reputation and heritage. Many interesting and successful technologies and companies have their roots at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Leeds. In my mind this is a good indication of academic prowess and industrial/commercial awareness, both of which I believe are important for success.

I chose to study Electronic Engineering due to my long held, deep interest in the subject. Whilst there were other courses of interest available at the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, I selected Electronic Engineering because of the content of the course. I think it is very important to make decisions like this based on what you find genuinely interesting, inspiring and challenging.

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

Looking back, one of the best aspects of the course was having the time and resources to develop a deeper understanding of theories or concepts. Whilst this continues in the work place, University presents an unparalleled opportunity for this kind of personal development.

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

My main extracurricular activity was involvement in the Leeds University Union Backstage Society.The society provides technical production support to most of the theatrical and performing societies of the Leeds University Union and supports a long and diverse list of shows and performances each year. I was involved in many of these events during my time and Leeds, also holding the position of Secretary of the society during my final year.

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

I think it is important to have a genuine passion and interest in the subject before embarking on studying or working within it. There will be elements of electronics, or any engineering discipline, that you will enjoy, but there will also be others that you find difficult and dislike. In those instances it’s important that you can draw on a true interest and passion for the subject.This, coupled with patience and persistence, will enable you to overcome such challenges, and ultimately yield greater satisfaction and, in many cases, a deeper understanding of the subject than those it comes to easily.

The field of Engineering is challenging, but can also be very rewarding.