Gareth, Graduate Trainee Engineer: My experience

Added: 17th September 2019 by SSE

Can you tell us about your role and journey so far at SSE?

I joined SSE as a Graduate Trainee Engineer in 2014 after having graduated with an MEng in Electronic & Electrical Engineering from the University of Strathclyde. I worked across numerous teams throughout the Renewables business during the rotational two-year programme and joined the Renewables Electrical Engineering team permanently afterwards. In this role I worked primarily on the electrical design of onshore wind farm projects but also supported the Grid Services team. I then joined the Engineering Centre where I covered Thermal and Renewables projects and asset work. In my current role within Renewables I work on hydro and wind projects throughout the UK and Ireland as well as operational asset work. This asset work includes electrical testing, asset status assessments and condition monitoring of transformers, switchgear, generators and earthing systems. I was also a member of the 2018 Wholesale Shadow Board where I participated in quarterly board meetings discussing technical and non-technical issues affecting the Directorate and discussing business strategy.

How have you developed since joining the graduate programme?

There was a great focus on personal and technical development on the graduate programme. I was given the opportunity to develop my soft skills through various training courses, events and non-engineering projects. I have developed massively on a technical level since joining the programme due to the number of different teams and businesses areas that I have worked across. I have worked on Renewables projects from opportunity assessment through to execution and handover, meaning that I have experience of the whole project lifecycle. Electrical testing of operational assets has furthered my theoretical and practical knowledge of electrical engineering and this has been supplemented by technical seminars and training courses and learning from experienced colleagues.

Can you talk to us about the support provided to you to help you gain your Chartership?

The SSE Graduate Programme is accredited by the IET and I was enrolled on their Initial Professional Development scheme on the IET’s Career Manager website. On my first day at SSE, I was assigned an SSE Chartered Engineer as an internal IET Mentor with whom I had a very productive working relationship. I met with my mentor quarterly to review my progress and to set a development action plan for the next review period. My managers were very accommodating in allowing me to put these plans into action by tailoring my work accordingly. I was surrounded by Chartered Engineers within SSE who were willing to advise and support me throughout the process. It was particularly beneficial being able to talk to Chartered Engineers who had recently gone through the application and interview process. When applying, my line manager and IET Mentor verified and supported my application and also provided feedback on the structure and content of my Professional Review Interview presentation. My annual professional membership fees are also paid by SSE.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of having worked on over 1GW of renewables projects throughout the UK and Ireland which, when all operational, will be able to power around 800,000 homes. I am most proud of becoming the youngest Chartered Engineer in Scotland and becoming Chartered in under five years of working with SSE.

What is the work/life balance like at SSE?

I’ve found the balance at SSE to be great due to flexible and agile working. As long as you work your contracted hours, office-based staff can be flexible with their start and finish times. Agile working coupled with the use of Office 365 and Skype for Business allows you to regularly work from home up to two days a week. Annual leave is also generous (34 days a year) and you’re able to buy up to ten additional days a year through the Holiday Plus scheme. Outside of work I am a professional Thai boxer and train up to six days a week, with these schemes allowing me to more easily balance my time.

What would you say to someone considering applying to the graduate programme?

The SSE Graduate Programme will give you a great experience of the energy industry and will afford you the flexibility to pursue working in the areas you’re most interested in. The Graduate Programme is accredited by the IET, IMechE and ICE and the company is full of Chartered Engineers from every discipline. This support, coupled with hard work, will enable you to develop quickly and expedite your progress towards Chartership.