Find out how Peter Waitland turned his love of cars into an automotive engineering career with Jaguar Land Rover.
First, could you summarize the basics of your job for us?
I am a project engineer in the Jaguar Land Rover product development seating department. My job is to manage a seat design from paper to mass production, something which I am currently doing with three new Jaguars. I liaise with engineering teams responsible for other parts of the car, financial teams, testing teams, suppliers and quality teams to name but a few.
Can you describe a typical working day?
To be honest, I don’t have a normal working day! Typically I’d arrive at 7:30, check through my emails and prioritize my work for the day. The day could then be spent visiting a supplier, attending meetings with other teams or reacting to whatever the day brings. There may be some travel between sites, or travel to university if I’m recruiting. An average finish time would be 16:30. Friday is a 12:30 finish (perks of the industry, although this is now changing for a lot of people).
Why did you choose the career path you have taken?
I have always been a petrolhead, so a career in the automotive industry was a natural course for me. It gives me a buzz to know that I can put my name to a product recognised all over the world. After university, I went to work at a company selling mining machinery in Russia and Africa. Although I enjoyed the travel, it wasn’t for me and I wanted to get into the automotive industry as soon as possible!
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BEng (Hons) in Automotive Technology from Coventry University (this included a year long placement at Nissan Technical Centre, Milton Keynes). My A2 levels are in Physics, Design and Technology, History and General Studies, with an AS level in Pure Maths. I didn’t do that well in Pure Maths (got an E), but that didn’t stop me!
What other skills do you need?
Being an engineer means you have to have good time management skills, organize your work effectively and be flexible. The pace at Jaguar Land Rover is electric, with timing gateways and financial constraints to meet so you must keep your wits about you all the time! Computer literacy is a must and a degree level knowledge of engineering is extremely important. Companies have excellent training structures to help you learn any specialist tools required.
What’s the best part of your job?
I enjoy coming into work knowing that each day might be different to the last. The variety of the job keeps you on your toes (as well as my day job I work with university recruitment teams, mentor undergraduates and work with local schools). The best thing about the job is developing something that you know will eventually go into a car which will be driven by people all over the globe
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
In my job, everyone wants something different, and each team has their own agenda. For example working on a small vehicle, there is limited space so each component owner works to get the best they can get! The other challenge is time management – there is a huge amount of work to fit into a small space of time, and this is extremely difficult to manage when you are called to lots of different meetings, all more important than the last!
Was it hard to get your first job in the industry?
Yes it was. I left university and because of the impending economic downturn there were very few automotive industry jobs available. To get an engineering job at all I had to search for four months, whilst doing contract jobs to keep me going. If you keep searching and applying though, you will get where you want to go! The market now is tougher because more graduates are applying, but it’s not impossible!
What advice would you have for people who want to follow in your footsteps?
To get into engineering, my advice would be to get a good engineering degree. For the automotive industry it generally doesn’t matter whether it’s automotive, mechanical or even aerospace engineering, as long as it’s relevant! People who joined the graduate scheme with me had Master’s degrees, however this isn’t always needed, as I’ve shown. My placement year was extremely valuable along with my A-level grounding, however academic routes to a degree can vary (diplomas are another route). If you put in the hard work during education, you will reap the rewards later on when you get a job – good luck!