Standing beside electric vehicle by University of Brighton sign

Journey from foundation engineering student to Lead Electric Vehicle Engineer

My name is Emmanuel Sakyi, my journey at the University of Brighton started in 2016 on the Aeronautical Engineering (Foundation Year), now Aerospace Engineering with Integrated Foundation Year. I gained a place for a year in industry as Mechanical Engineering placement student with Network Rail after my second year of studies. After the completion of my project I switched from Aerospace to Mechanical Engineering MEng and carried on through till my final/ master’s year of study. I returned from my year out to most of my year group graduating and the migration of lectures from in-person to remote, due to the pandemic.

At this time, the STEP Lab (Sustainable Technology and Engineering Projects) played an essential part, as it created a sense of ownership and belonging as well as a great welcome back to “normal” learning. Initially, I shadowed projects to gain a deeper understanding of the level of projects happening at the Lab. I gained a placement opportunity the STEP Lab during summer 2021 where I learnt to read and interpret electrical schematic diagrams. With this skill, I installed wiring for sensors and actuators to a junction box which was then incorporated into LabVIEW

I currently work at JLC EV’s LTD as the Lead Electric Vehicle (EV) Engineer. Electric is a promising way for the future light-duty transportation and we are here to help make that transition as seamless as possible. My role varies from quality control, vehicle design and development, as well as upgrading vehicles to customer specifications. I enjoy what I do, as a result most days I go to work to have fun. I enjoy implementing bespoke ideas to customer requests, I also get to travel around the country and sometimes internationally. The early years of my career are dedicated to learning and gaining as much experience as possible. This will end with the practicing and implementing all the techniques and technologies learnt which will lead me to the achievement of my goal as a Chartered Engineer.

The STEP Lab was, and still is, a place I learn and refer to as I progress with my career. This is because the Lab encouraged me to make as many mistakes as I could. If I had interest in another aspect to a project, I was allowed to explore it and make mistakes along the way. Time management, taking the initiative and most importantly the mentorship I received during my time at the Lab are among the skills I cherish dearly. For those who lived away from home the Lab created a sense of home away from home. We had autonomy to create the experiences we wanted, including people from all levels and backgrounds, some of which have becomes friends for life. Since graduating from the university, I have worked on multiple high voltage projects which I would not have considered prior to working in the Lab. However, the opportunity to work on multidisciplinary projects built a foundation which made me confident and competent for such projects. Yes, I have had more training to develop my knowledge in those areas, but the STEP Lab set the foundation for this to occur.

For those thinking why?

It’s a great way to push boundaries and get out of your comfort zone. Unlike the real world where every activity in most cases is expected to yield a financial return, you can get things completely wrong and that is also fine. In fact, I encourage you to find new ways to fail at these activities because we learn much more from our failures.

Is it worth it?

Yes, every little detail of activity in the Lab and outside my academic criteria was worth doing. Because of the Lab, I got the first Job I applied for in December before I graduated. I had a guaranteed place, and I even went on to start working 1-day at the week at the company (with a salary and all expenses paid) from February till I graduated and started full time.

What can I do and how does this apply to me?

It doesn’t have to just be the STEP Lab, or a university society. I encourage you to find something you might be interested in, walk into a company near you and ask for a week’s placement. Get out there, try different organisations and activities and it will pay off.

I wish you all the best in your studies, failures, and fun times at the university. Remember if you can find a way to make anything you do fun, you’ll never have to study or work a day in your life. Enjoy the very little time you have at the university. Believe it or not, there are some great people around you, looking over you, and will guide you along the way.

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