Career Transition: From FEA to Safety & Reliability

Career Transition: From FEA to Safety & Reliability

September 19th, 2017


“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra

We all face forks in the road at some stage in our career, but to be confronted with this in our early years can throw a real spanner into the works. My own ‘great change’ was the transfer between departments here at Wilde, from Design Simulation to Safety and Reliability. Though applying Chopra’s statement to this situation may appear overkill to some, making the decision to step away from a familiar, enjoyable role into a new field can be daunting.

At university, I struggled to isolate my interests to one specific industry, which led to my final university years being harrowed by career choices. My decision-making process therefore became a skill-based approach; I looked back over the years at projects and topics I had enjoyed to see where my interests and strengths really lay.

Finally, I settled on simulation, such as FEA and CFD, as the focus of my job hunting. To then find an employer that worked across all industries applying these techniques seemed almost too good to be true.

Fast forward 10 months into working as part of Wilde’s design simulation team, and I have had experience of projects ranging from transient thermo-mechanical stress studies within solder, to buckling analysis of large process equipment, together with working with ANSYS users to solve their support questions. The position within this team had not disappointed.

Now comes the twist:

‘Wilde Analysis – Internal job opening: Safety and Reliability Engineer’

Here at Wilde we are a close-knit team, and I was well aware of the interesting work being done within the Safety and Reliability department. I also had an interest because of my experience within reliability during my placement year, working for British Sugar. I soon found myself very curious and intrigued by this new position. It was this conflict of interest that led to the ‘preceding chaos’ of the ‘great change’.

As mentioned, this was a tough, career-changing decision to make, leaving an enjoyable, fulfilling role and stepping somewhat into the unknown. After much personal deliberation and with masses of support from Wilde (for whichever route I chose), I made the decision to move. The main reason for this change was to explore an interesting, technically-challenging field that I personally feel lends itself to my skill set. Coupling these two factors, I felt I could make significant contributions to the Safety and Reliability department within Wilde.

Shortly after this decision, a well-timed holiday allowed me to reflect on my choices and then also to detach from work before hitting the ground running in my new role.

Upon return, it was soon apparent how beneficial working in structural analysis had been, and how well it serves as a precursor to Safety and Reliability. The systems-level thought process which is so essential to Safety & Reliability was an approach already familiar to me from my FEA work. The understanding of physics of failure and failure mechanisms is also directly transferable and invaluable when working with unfamiliar systems.

Overall the change has been a positive one; whilst it has been sad moving away from one team, it has been equally exciting moving into another – and we all work in the same building anyway! With the support of my colleagues and continuous learning from our expert reliability engineers, I envision enjoyable and rewarding times ahead, stemming from this great change.

Jamie Buck, Engineer

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