Tamaryn Thomson

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

I undertook a placement with Philips Respironics for my industrial placement year. Philips Respironics is part of the healthcare group within Royal Philips, and specialises in Sleep and Respiratory Care. Part of what they do, and that I had the opportunity to work on, is nebulizers for people with lung-related diseases. The nebulizers developed by Philips use advanced mesh technology to break down liquid medication into miniscule droplets which are easy for patients to inhale, therefore making the drugs more effective, by getting them directly to the lungs.

What is your role within the company?

I joined the company as a Research and Development Intern, for the engineering department. This department is broken down into 5 key areas; R&D, Mechanical, Electrical, Software and Sustaining. I was tasked with supporting the R&D function, but on occasion was required to assist on projects within the other departments.

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

My projects and daily routine were quite varied, depending on which projects required my attention. I worked on “desk-based projects” such as research projects, projects that required the use of coding and, in particular, Matlab, as well as design projects using Autodesk Inventor. I also worked on “lab-based” projects which included building and testing rigs, circuits, devices, etc. For the most part on a given day I tried to ensure that I worked on at least one desk-based and one lab-based project. This meant a change of scenery and pace.

So far, what have you enjoyed the most, and did you get involved in any interesting projects?

An interesting project I was involved in included the design and manufacture of a display stand to be used by Philips Respironics for their national and international exhibitions. This allowed me to use the knowledge and skills developed during my years at Leeds, in order to complete the project which will then travel the world, allowing Philips to showcase the aerosol that their nebulizers are capable of generating.  

What I enjoyed the most about my placement was the opportunity to develop myself as an engineer in a real-world environment, where deadlines are met in order to help the business as well as the client/customer, and not just for the purpose of getting a good grade. I was able to develop my skills in coding, was exposed to new software and developed my problem solving and critical thinking abilities through the mentoring provided by my manager. 

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

There are several reasons I wanted to undertake a year in industry. The most important reason is that I wanted to gain valuable experience, outside of supervised labs and assignments at uni. Work experience, not only looks good on your CV, thus increasing your chances of being hired in the future, but provides a unique opportunity for personal development of both non-technical (teamwork) and technical (programming) skills. 

Another reason was that this experience can be included in my application for Chartership, thus putting me one step (year) closer to my goal for my future. Typically, it takes anywhere between 3 and 6 years to gain chartership and so by doing a year in industry I can not only develop myself to become a better engineer but I can add my experiences to my profile and gain chartership that much sooner. Further, a year in industry is an amazing opportunity to apply what I’ve learned thus far to a real-world application, that doesn’t count towards a grade average. It requires critical thinking, application and development of knowledge but also professionalism in delivering quality work within a set time frame.

Finally, it provided a welcome break from University allowing me time to focus on what aspects of engineering I enjoy most; where my strengths and interests lie. This was a great opportunity to find out which engineering field I would like to focus on in the future. I am already drawn to medical robotics and R&D and so this was the perfect opportunity to see if “the shoe fits”. 

What do you feel you will get out of this experience?

A sense of respect and pride in myself and my work knowing that the work I do contributes towards helping people, and in some cases keeping them alive. As well as, the chance to obtain insight into the industry I hope to find myself in, one day soon. 

Personal Development – A key part of developing is knowing yourself, knowing how others perceive you and then trying to convert some of your weaknesses into strengths. That is definitely something that I will gain from this placement in Philips, through training days, presentations, meetings and general day to day business. There will be ample opportunity to learn and develop technical and non-technical skills.

Professional development is yet another key aspect to this placement. I am already learning so much about what it means to be a professional and how the way in which I present myself, also presents the company I work for. 

Finally, I feel I will gain plenty of engineering experience due to the flexible nature of my work at Philips. I will be able to develop both hardware and software skills, alongside research skills. 

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

The phrase “Just do it” comes to mind. An industrial placement is beneficial to you both as a student and future engineer. Furthermore, the benefits impact every aspect of your life, in terms of social life, work and home life and experience in the field. The year in industry is an opportunity to explore the relative unknown, in that you get to apply what you learn at uni to new and different projects and applications, as well as learning new practices, software, and skills which you might otherwise not gain in the lecture theatre/lab. What I’m finding more and more these days is that as much as the industry is trying to flood itself with young engineers who are capable and willing, they also want experience, which typically is hard to come by outside of a degree course. So take the opportunity and find a placement, I was really strategic about finding mine, by only applying to placements that I had the required skills for and that were of interest to me. I didn’t want to be stuck doing something I wasn’t passionate about, for a full year. Each person is different though so apply for a few or apply to all, but do apply for the year in industry.

Most important tip or piece of advice is to do something you love or are passionate about. Passion for what you do gives you the drive to succeed, allows you to enjoy the work you do from day to day and the enthusiasm you bring to the interview can be the difference between you getting the placement or not.