Royal Academy of Engineering
After the exertions of D4 we were all in need of a well earned rest. However, before I headed home for the Easter break I had one more important thing to do. The Royal Academy of Engineering had invited me to a selection weekend at Warwick University’s Conference Centre for their Engineering Leadership Scheme Advanced Award, part of their Best Programme, which aims to “recruit, train and retain the brightest and most motivated young people into and within the engineering profession” .
Aside from an interview on the Saturday morning, there was very little scheduled activity across the weekend, but this was actually a good thing as it meant lots of free time to network with the 70 best student engineers in the country! I met some amazing people from all across the UK and who specialised in a whole range of different subjects, although surprisingly I didn’t meet any other electronic engineers or computer scientists. I made some really great contacts though, plenty of which I hope to stay in contact with both personally and professionally.
The highlight of the weekend though had to be the food! For a start, the lounge area where we spent most of our time was equipped with an unlimited supply of free cake, ice cream, fruit and oh so much more…there were two coffee machines with a bewildering array of options which one of my new friends and I took great pleasure in working our way through – probably one of the main reasons I didn’t get any sleep that night! Then there was dinner, which was without a doubt the most upmarket and fancy meal I’ve ever had in my life. You know it’s going to be something special when the dishes’ titles take longer to read than your average novel and you need to make good use of a dictionary to make much sense of it! For starters I had “Spiced pumpkin soup, with a whirl of double cream”, for the main course, “sea bass fillets stuffed with salmon mousse with a white wine and dill sauce” and finally for desert, “glazed caramel cheesecake with wild strawberries and cream”. Make sure you read it like the voice off the M&S advert or the narrator on Master Chef to get the full effect! Simply amazing. We were joined at dinner by various Fellows of the Royal Academy, who were amongst those who were going to be interviewing and assessing us, which was a brilliant opportunity to network with those individuals who have already made an enormous impact on the UK engineering scene. Things were spiced up a bit though when I was seated opposite the Chief Engineer of High Speed 2, the company who has been in the news a lot recently about their plans to build a high speed rail network right through my home town ! I would say I’m probably reasonably in favour in general, so he had no real reason to be concerned, but the look I got when I said where I was from was priceless!
With dinner over there was time for a few more hours of networking before heading to bed ahead of my interview in the morning. Before the interview though there was the small matter of the best breakfast I’ve ever had – I was told to expect something special from a former award holder I sat next to at dinner, but truly it was extraordinary. Think full English – and then some. It was probably a good thing that I had to go and do my pre-interview assignment at 8:30 otherwise I might just have stayed there all day! The interview itself went fairly smoothly I think, mostly based on my academic record and experience to date, with a particular focus on when I’ve had to show leadership and managerial qualities. This really was perfect timing, having project managed the winning D4 design team just days earlier (see previous blog)! They seemed fairly impressed and at the end said they’d “enjoyed talking to me” which I’m sure can only be a good thing hopefully! Also, they complimented by communication skills, which was something I stated was my main weakness so that was really good to hear! It’s something I’ve been putting a lot of work into over the last couple of years and I know I’ve made good strides, but for them to say that was really pleasing. I will hopefully find out the result in the next few weeks, so fingers crossed.
With the interview over I had planned just to head home, but I’d been having such a fantastic time I was in no rush to leave and decided to stay for a few more hours to meet more people and just generally have a nice day. A few of us went exploring around Warwick University campus which was very nice, but no match for Southampton of course! I did find it quite funny the number of multi-storey car parks they had though – literally every other building we walked passed! I know Coventry is the heart of the UK motoring industry, but still…
And finally, at the increased risk of this turning from a student engineering blog into a food critic’s restaurant review, I must just talk about lunch; one glance at the menu provided all the convincing I needed to stay a little longer if ever I was in any doubt: roast beef, Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings – my all time favourite meal ever, and I knew if the quality was half as good as all the previous stuff then I would be in absolute heaven. It didn’t disappoint. I can honestly say it was probably the best meal I’ve ever had (sorry mum!)!
So all in all, it was a very different way to round off an extraordinary term, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The people, food and location were all simply stunning. And somewhere in there the interview seemed reasonably good too. Good times!