Melissa Keogh

Graduate Materials Engineer

"I really liked the opportunity to discover different areas of the company, as it allows you more time to develop, and work out what type of work suits you best."

Degree: Undergraduate Degree Chemistry, PhD Materials Science (in progress), University of Manchester.

Profession: Technical and Strategy

Job Title: Graduate Materials Engineer

What is your role on the graduate programme?

I started the scheme in the Inspection and Certification Group at Risley (Warrington). This placement was a great starting point as I was able to be involved in projects from all over site, and went out into the supply chain on numerous occasions to aid with inspections, or just for a tour. It showed me how vital collaboration and a good relationship with the supply chain is for the future of the Sellafield Site.

I am currently working for the Legacy Ponds Innovation Team on-site. This placement is very different and has challenged my transferable skills rather than my technical knowledge. We are here to deliver solutions to problems on some of the most problematic and hazardous plants on-site. I have been given my own projects to deliver and be responsible for which has been a fantastic learning curve, and it feels reassuring to have been given such responsibility so early on.

It’s been a great opportunity to come to site and see how different things are compared to the Risley office; even down to the small things like having to get a bus to the canteen, rather than just walking down stairs. During the graduate programme you get a real feel for the challenges that face Sellafield Ltd to decommission such a complicated site.

Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities?

The Graduate programme really encourages you to get involved and gives you plenty of opportunity to do so.

Everyone is encouraged to become a STEM Ambassador, and this really helps towards your 10 hours of social impact time, as there are always opportunities to promote STEM within the local communities; both in Warrington and Cumbria.

Within my first 6 months with the company I went to the Big Bang Fair 2019 in Birmingham as a volunteer to deliver activities for students at this celebration of Science and Engineering where over 80,000 young people attend. I am now part of the lead team for 2020, and so it’s now my responsibility to arrange a team to attend the fair in 2020 and all the activities to go with it.

I was also part of the team which organised the Nuclear Vision Conference 2019. The NVC is a conference aimed at early career nuclear industry personnel and aims to give them an overview of the variety of tasks and teams that are within the nuclear industry. We had 280 people in attendance from Sellafield Ltd and 60 different supply chain companies.

How did you find moving to a new area after University?

I have just moved to Cumbria for my 6 month on-site secondment. I found talking to other graduates, and those from previous cohorts, to be really useful in finding an area to live in. The Sellafield Intranet also has a page where people can post about house vacancies, which is where we ultimately found our house. Whitehaven itself has all your amenities and it’s really lovely to be a short walk to the beach and harbour.

What is the graduate community like at Sellafield?

The graduate community will be your strongest ally whilst on the scheme. Everyone really looks out for each other, and there’s always someone to lend a helping hand; both professionally and socially.

Just by talking to your fellow graduates, the graduate community is a great way to discover different areas of the company – even if it’s just over lunch!

What do you think it takes to be successful on the graduate programme?

You get out what you put in. Get involved. Get to know everyone. Take advantage of the opportunities the graduate programme gives you, and don’t be afraid to do something outside of your comfort zone. This is a development scheme and part of that is pushing yourself to try something new. Whether it’s conquering a dislike of heights on Outward Bounds, or having a go at project management by leading the Welcome Event team. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

What initially attracted you to the Sellafield graduate programme?

I really liked the opportunity to discover different areas of the company, as it allows you more time to develop, and work out what type of work suits you best. It also provides more opportunities to be involved with extra-curricular opportunities. Also, from starting my PhD with a cohort of people, I knew how important starting your career with a group of like-minded people could be; and that I would receive more support in my transition from academia to industry from the Graduate Development Team than if I’d have just applied for a direct role.

How did you find finishing your PhD and working full-time?

I’m not going to lie, it was hard. Really hard. But I had the full support of the company. From my line-managers, to the Grad Development Scheme, to the Capability Lead; everyone just wanted me to do the best I could, and they gave me the best they could to facilitate that. So if you find yourself in this position, don’t be afraid to speak up.

If you could give a future graduate some advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help or support. The transition to from being grades and exam driven to a different meaning of success comes with plenty of questions and wobbles. Everyone is here to help, and the Graduate Development Team are wonderful. I’m still asking myself the question ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’ and sometimes it’s nice to have that reassurance from someone else that not knowing the answer to that question is okay.

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