Our Alumni: Making the world a safer place through innovative technologies
Colette Bell graduated from the Materials Science & Engineering MEng course just a couple of years ago. She caught up with the Materials Blog to tell us about her time here at Manchester and what she’s been doing since!
Hi Colette, thank you so much for joining us! Tell us what you are doing now?
It’s great to speak to you! So since graduating two years ago, I’ve been working for Roke, a leading technology company that is innovating digital technologies to make the world a safer place. I’m on their two-year Graduate Development Programme as an engineer using the skills from my degree and placement year at Airbus to help develop cutting-edge products that help service personnel, amongst others, navigate the most hostile environments.
Roke has a history of delivering original solutions. It has developed household-name technologies like those in Hawk-eye, ANPR, and DAB radios, and has more under-the-radar expertise in things like acoustic sensing of drones and artillery, adversarial AI, electronic warfare and cyber security.
“I’m taking every opportunity I can at Roke to grow my skill set”
I have been involved in research around deploying AI on edge devices, developing physical hardware products to tight tech specs, and shortly I’m moving on to a software engineering project, which is completely new for me! I’m taking every opportunity I can at Roke to grow my skill set.
Alongside my engineering responsibilities I am a site co-ordinator for STEM outreach: organising career talks, practical workshops and mentoring with local schools. I believe ongoing engagement with young people is really important and I’m pleased that Roke supports this and encourages us to spend time in the community.
How did your degree help you to get where you are now?
Writing technical documents like bids and research reports is essential to my job and is a skill that all science and engineering degrees develop. I regularly use my materials knowledge in hardware development. Also I’ve been able to utilise the CAD skills I picked up as part of the ManSEDS Rover design team. Most of all, I was able to talk about the work I did for my master’s research project during my grad scheme interview, to demonstrate how I approach problems and stay motivated on long tasks.
What advice would you give to young people considering a career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths)?
There is so much to say here! Inspiring a diverse pipeline in to STEM careers is vital to keep the UK’s industries world-leading. A room full of people with different backgrounds and experiences will always come up with more innovative ideas than a room full of the same type of people.
STEM industries are facing skills gaps across the board and are looking to invest in and train up people with a range of interests and educational backgrounds. Embrace your individuality and bring it to the table!
“A room full of people with different backgrounds and experiences will always come up with more innovative ideas than a room full of the same type of people”
It’s completely fine to not know what you want to do in your career. I don’t think many people ever do for certain (I don’t!). Your choice of degree will not define your career path. The non-technical skills you gain at university are just as, if not more, important than the technical ones.
The right employer will not expect you to do your job perfectly on day one. They will see your motivation and willingness to learn and should be investing in training to achieve your full potential.
“Knowing that what I do in my day job contributes positively to society makes me feel good about going to work every day”
I have found my job satisfaction comes from working for a cause I care about. Knowing that what I do in my day job contributes positively to society makes me feel good about going to work every day. There are so many opportunities for this in STEM!
What was the best thing about studying at The University of Manchester?
The University’s dedication to research and innovation really inspired me, which became a deciding factor when looking for grad jobs. The facilities and teaching staff are excellent. I’m gutted to have just missed the opening of the new MECD campus, it looks like an incredible space to study. Having lecturers who incorporated their research into the taught material gave us valuable context to what we were learning. Outside the classroom there are so many clubs and societies, some of which I only discovered in my final year and wished I’d joined earlier!
And what do you think of Manchester as a city?
It’s such a fun and exciting place to be especially with its emerging ‘Tech Hub’ status. I was in Manchester for 7 years before relocating to Southampton for my graduate job. Manchester’s got a unique buzz I’ve not found anywhere else. I’ve missed it enough that I’m shortly moving back! Roke is growing and we have a new office in Salford Quays, which I am looking forward to being a part of. To the North!
We look forward to welcoming you back to Manchester Colette and wish you the best of luck for your future career!