Alumni Profile – Alex


Name: Alex
From: Bovey Tracey, Devon
Secondary School: South Dartmoor Community College
Attended EMS: 2015 – 2017
A-level Subjects: Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and AS Geography
Next Step: Currently: Graduate Engineer, Nova Systems Europe 

What does Nova System Europe do?

Nova Systems in Europe provides and develops capabilities within the defence and security sector, particularly in aerospace. While the company does not have or sell products, the value from the business is generated by the knowledge and expertise of all employees. We work as a collective group of project managers and specialist engineers for a wide variety of customers all over the world – giving the opportunity to travel to places from Australia to Norway!

What does the role of graduate engineer involve?

An engineering grad at the company supports other senior engineers so that you have the chance to stand back and learn, but also get involved at the same time. Since joining the company, I’ve been focused on two projects, an F-35 training simulator (look it up!) and an aerospace machine learning project. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of training to begin with, but even then, this is all experience that goes on the CV for later. 

What attracted you to it?

After applying to countless grad schemes in my final year of uni, you get a true sense of a company even through something as simple as an interview process. For me, it was important to find a company that was interested in my own development but that also cared about me as a person. Compared to other grad jobs, I knew I would be given more responsibility, which, while scary at first, now means I’m making fast-jet simulators rather than coffee, just about worth it, I reckon… 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Having the freedom to choose what you work on and how to go about it is one of the best things, but knowing that the problem you work on will eventually change something for the better makes it worthwhile. 

What do you find most challenging about your job?

Aside from sometimes waking up at 6am to do meetings with Australians, there is a huge amount to learn and no matter what degree you did at uni the learning curve is huge, so don’t worry if you don’t understand anything at first. 

How did you choose what to study at university?

I was better at maths in college so for me it made sense to go with what I was best at. I wanted to study stats at uni but realised after a year it wasn’t for me, so having the ability to change the focus of my degree was incredibly helpful. In terms of uni, I wanted to move and travel away from home. I went to Durham because of the course, the city and the more intimate college system. 

Do you have any advice for students interested in engineering?

It doesn’t really matter what degree you do. I got hired as an engineer because of my specialised skills in maths, even though an engineering degree may have been more useful, just do what you enjoy the most! Knowing what you want to do is almost impossible straight away, so any experience you can get, whether it’s online courses or summer internships, will be extremely useful, plus the more experience the more likely you are to get a job (generally)! 


Even if after three or four years at uni, you still don’t know what you want to do, believe it when I say there are others in your position. The focus of my degree changed three times at uni. I applied to do aerospace engineering, statistics and maths. The whole point of working after graduating is to find something you want to do, it could be something that you’ve always wanted to do that doesn’t work out or something you never thought to do that you enjoy the most, either way, it’s all good experience, plus you get paid! 


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