Jake Wallis, a design engineer at Lontra.

I'd like that job: Jake Wallis, design engineer, Lontra

Jake discusses the benefits of working for a smaller engineering company, the other job roles he flirted with before finding his home at Lontra and how Formula Student was a great start to his engineering career.

What’s your name?

Jake Wallis.

Age?

28.

Where do you work?

Lontra ltd.

What's your job title?

Design engineer.

How did you get there?

After flirting with the idea of becoming an architect, my engineering career started following my A levels. I secured a Year in Industry placement at Rolls-Royce Plc, working within aero manufacturing. I then went on to study an MEng in mechanical and automotive engineering at the University of Birmingham.

When I graduated, having only ever worked in engineering, I thought I’d try something new and accepted a job on the IBM graduate scheme as a technology consultant. While this was a valuable experience I found that all of the challenges were around time pressure or people management, with none of the analytical challenges that I relished in engineering.

Having joined Lontra, I feel I’ve come home.

What's the work and day-to-day experience like?

As a design engineer, I’m responsible for applying the principles of Lontra’s technology to our new products with an ongoing focus on efficiency.

My day-to-day work is mechanical design, from draft concept sketches through to detailed design on CAD, and engaging with our suppliers.

The rest of my time is spent doing the background calculations and simulations that support my design decisions and working with our analysis team to manage our mechanical and thermodynamic limitations.

Because Lontra is still a small team, I have also recently found myself on sales visits with our commercial director, representing the company at the Innovate UK Conference and even going for the occasional pub lunch with our CEO Steve Lindsey.

What's the best thing about the job?

Lontra is a small company with big ambition, so it has a great atmosphere of innovative thinking. Trying to do something that hasn’t been done before can be really challenging at times, but having the freedom to have an idea and develop it through is incredibly satisfying when it all comes together.

And the worst?

Being part of a rapidly growing company is great, although after successfully raising funds through investments and grants, we are waiting for our new design offices to be built here at Lontra HQ. In the meantime, the current temporary accommodation can get pretty cold now the weather has started to turn!

What standout projects have you had the opportunity to take part in?

Whilst I was at university I was heavily involved in Formula Student, which is by far the most worthwhile thing I have done during my engineering career prior to Lontra. It gave me a unique opportunity to design and develop a whole product from scratch, without which I am sure I wouldn’t have got my job here. I still volunteer as a scrutineer at the events to try and help current students have the same great experiences that I did.

Since I have been at Lontra, I have seen our first product go from prototype parts to being a licensed product on sale worldwide. When I visited the new production line for the first time, it was a great feeling that I had had a hand in getting it there.

How would you describe life as a working engineer?

Engineering will always be about problem solving, so I come to work every day with new problems to solve. They are often difficult problems, but it wouldn’t be as rewarding if they weren’t.

What did you expect when you started work?

I saw the engineering industry as very hierarchical and expected designers to be far more protective over their area of work. I was surprised by the autonomy that I was given from day one to manage my own workload. We have a very flat management structure here and a highly collaborative engineering team who are all happy to get involved and share their expertise.

Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?

If you don’t think something is correct, don’t be afraid to challenge it. You may well be wrong but it will get the engineering team thinking, you will learn more and a better end product is the likely outcome.

What do you think you'll do next?

Lontra is expanding with new products and market opportunities, so I am looking forward to getting stuck in to the conceptual design and analysis for the next product in the Blade Compressor range.

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