Joining BAE Systems as an apprentice at 16, Michael Mallia is now a qualified assistant test engineer. Here he shares the highs and lows of the job and what life is like as a full-time working engineer.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
BAE Systems, in Portsmouth.
What's your job title?
Assistant test engineer.
How long have you been doing that?
How did you get there?
I started out as an electrical test apprentice. After the apprenticeship finished I became a test technician, then through achieving further qualifications funded by the company, I subsequently received a promotion.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
Being an assistant test engineer I have a sole purpose, which is to test the product. As a result of this things can become somewhat repetitive when working on the same product, however there are many different projects and products which I work with. This helps to add variety into the daily routine, and when dealing with diagnostics, things become very interesting and different.
What are the people you work with like?
There is a diverse workforce with many differing personalities, however they are a very helpful and friendly group, who are always willing to answer any enquiries and help out wherever possible. When I was recruited as an apprentice it was alongside thre others, and having the support of people who were learning on the job as I was has been extremely advantageous to my development.
What's the best thing about the job?
In my opinion the best part of my job is the diverse range of projects which I work on, and learning about these projects and their operation in the field. The technology used is fascinating, and although at times challenging, it is very rewarding when you get to grips with it.
And the worst?
One of the worst aspects of the job is that I will work on these products, get to know their operation etc. but I never get to experience their application in the field and see the units you’ve tested operate on the final level.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
Life as a working engineer is very interesting, but also equally challenging. There are always new challenges around the bend; however there are also new opportunities.
One thing I hadn’t fully considered when I first started work was the social aspect, having a full-time job and doing a part-time qualification means you don’t always have as much free time as you would always like, and as I came straight out of school, this was a big shock to the system. Obviously it is far from impossible to maintain a good social life, however with the responsibilities of work and studies it does it make it slightly more difficult.
What surprised you the most about working life?
One thing that surprised me was how friendly and willing to help the workforce was during the earlier stages of my employment, making me feel welcome and happy in the working environment.
What do you think you'll do next?
I look to keep learning as much as I can from the skilled workforce around me, develop myself through further studies and progress within the business wherever possible, possibly even look at a different route within the company, such as project management.