Image of Luke in Berlin

July 30, 2021, by indybamra1

If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

Many University of Nottingham students want to work abroad after they graduate. We asked Luke how he achieved working for Rolls-Royce Deutschland and if he has any key advice to give to students who are keen to work abroad.

By Luke Harrison – Thermofluid Systems Engineer, Rolls-Royce Deutschland, and UoN Alumnus

During my MEng in Mechanical Engineering with Aerospace, I decided to pursue a career in a field related to my studies by joining a structured training scheme after graduation, working towards achieving chartered engineer status and eventually moving overseas as an experienced professional.

As early as my second year, I planned to gain relevant work experience through an internship, which could lead to a place on a graduate scheme before negotiating an international move within the same company.

Although there were a few bumps in my journey, I’ve achieved my goal and am currently working as an engineer in Germany. Here’s my story and some advice if you see your future in another country.

Building skills and experience during university

After many unsuccessful applications during my second and third years, I eventually secured a project management position within the engineering software department of Rolls-Royce through the Year In Industry (YINI) scheme. While the experience was valuable and I was competent in the role, I realised that I was more interested in the technical side of engineering.

While still completing my internship, I secured an unexpected place on the Nottingham Summer Engineering Research Programme (NSERP) by asking a potential final year project tutor. As a result of the skills and experience gained during my time in both management for Rolls-Royce and in technical research at Nottingham, I secured a place on Rolls-Royce’s graduate scheme for 2017.

Growing my career

The graduate scheme provided a rich environment for me to grow my career by being able to collect experiences over the whole engineering lifecycle through Design (performance analysis), Manufacturing (assembly support) and Verification (flight testing).

A personal support network was also available to me from the start which included HR personnel, a career coach and mentor for Chartership, plus a network of 150 graduates to socialise and train with during the two-year scheme. Although international travel was limited for graduates during my time, the one trip I did manage to take to the Airbus Toulouse flight test facility cemented my desire to work abroad.

Applying overseas

After completing the graduate scheme in 2019, I made several applications for roles within the Berlin-Brandenburg branch of the company, Rolls-Royce Deutschland (RRD). Whilst the interviews were promising, a role was unavailable to me due to internal restructuring.

Although the experience was disheartening, I decided to re-focus, work hard in another part of the company, and was eventually offered a full-time position in RRD. Everything fell into place this time, even through restructuring, and I moved to Germany in early 2020.

In hindsight, I maybe wouldn’t recommend moving to a different country immediately before a global pandemic. However, the experience has been great nonetheless and I’m still living in Berlin, working with a great team on the next generation of UltraFan® engines.

Advice for securing a role overseas

My main advice is to be bold and ask for what you want from those around you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  • One key moment was discussing a fourth-year project with a potential supervisor and directly asking for an NSERP project, giving me relevant experience in the field.
  • When I arrived at Rolls-Royce, I continuously asked everyone in my network for opportunities to go abroad, which is exactly how I got to visit Toulouse and eventually secure my current position.

Having a strategy is helpful, but not necessary to collect experience.

  • My plan developed as I went along, especially through different experiences on the graduate scheme and when dealing with circumstances out of my control.
  • A useful guide for me was that if I enjoyed something, or if someone told me that I did a good job, it was a good direction to take.
  • Don’t miss out on overseas opportunities at Nottingham. I would have liked to do a year abroad, but only realised when it was too late.
  • Volunteering or undertaking a summer internship abroad is also a great way to try it before committing fully.
  • Talk to others who have done what you want to do to share tips and experiences.

Lastly, be mindful of your mental health along the way and speak up whenever it feels like too much to manage.

If you’re thinking about working overseas and want to explore your options, take a look at our working abroad webpages (organised by continent).

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