A blueprint for graduate success

Published:  23 August, 2019

PWE’s Aaron Blutstein caught up with Arron Farghaly, lead applications and business development engineer at Atlas Copco, to discuss his recent experiences on the company’s Graduate Programme.

In an increasingly competitive market, Graduate schemes and internships are an excellent way to begin an engineering career. You’ll receive all the training and support you need and you’re likely to progress quickly. Often, you get the chance to work across different parts of the company so you can find out which areas of work you’re best suited to.

In addition to the opportunities for training and development, the chance to work for established names in the engineering industry is also a big attraction, and not to forget the fact that you’ll get paid.

Engineering schemes come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in most areas of engineering. Generally speaking, some have a more technical perspective; others might be designed for those who want a more commercial focus.

One young engineer who has benefited from such a scheme is Arron Farghaly who spoke to PWE about his experiences on Atlas Copco’s Graduate Programme.

Arron Farghaly

Arron started his career in engineering by studying a master’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Manchester. During his time at university, alongside his engineering focus he pursued further study in a wide variety of topics at several institutions around the world including USA, China and Egypt.

Following graduation, in step with his engineering and global business interests, he chose to apply for the Atlas Copco Global Graduate Programme. During the two-year scheme he did four placements, beginning with working on strategic projects in the Atlas Copco UK head office. His second placement was as a proposals engineer for custom designed compressors within Systems Hemel Hempstead, which focussed on global large oil & gas projects. He then went on to work on an R&D project to optimise the methodology and formulae for sizing Liquid Ring Vacuum Pumps at Edwards Vacuum in Bolton, UK. Finally he worked as an applications engineer at Atlas Copco Mafi-Trench Company in Santa Maria, California, working on global projects to supply Turbo-Expander Compressors industries such as Geothermal, Oil & Gas and petro-chemicals.

Flexibility

One of the interesting aspects of the Atlas Copco Graduate programme is the flexible ethos it encourages.

Arron explained that he didn’t really know what to expect from the scheme and like any new role was slightly daunted at the prospect, but after joining he could see the Programme was far less daunting than he had first envisaged in a positive sense. He puts this immediately down to its structure, which he says encourages you to find your own path at your own pace, and “because it’s your path it’s really not daunting at all”. Arron highlights that Atlas was his first exposure to working in the manufacturing industry: “I had work placements and work experience before but not really at this scale of industry and in a large company. “

After completing the Graduate Programme, Arron decided on a career within Atlas Copco in the industrial gases business. Since April 2018, he is the lead applications and business development engineer for Oxygen and Nitrogen products in the UK. His mission is to make Atlas Copco’s onsite Nitrogen and Oxygen generators first in mind and first in choice for users of Industrial Gases.

He strongly emphasises that without having completed the graduate Programme he would not be able to do this job.

Arron explains that the Atlas Graduate Programme exposed him to enough different applications and manufacturing processes/ types of products that he now understood the industry and the technical side of it: “The technical side of our products; the technical side of the industry we’re working with, and the different processes – how they use nitrogen and how they use oxygen.”

In addition he explains that this technical knowledge wouldn’t have been possible if Atlas hadn’t allowed him to move around the world and UK with the company during the Programme. Arron also highlights that it is very decentralised: “You don’t have a manager in a particular function who’s always looking after you. Because if I was working in California on gas and process turbo expanders somebody over here might not even know what that even is and how to advise me.

“We have HR competence and development managers who will oversee the scheme and they basically make sure that it fits the components to develop us to go into other roles. Because I was working in different divisions, I would be assigned a mentor who was usually somebody very senior who will take it on themselves to help develop me in the different placements and different projects.”

Arron again emphasises that none of the placements, which he undertook during his time on the Atlas Copco Graduate Programme, were assigned by one person in the company telling him to go here and then there: “Every single placement I found myself through networking and with the mentors who I found along the way who helped advise me. But none of the powers that be decided the path I took.”

He says the scheme is purposely designed in this way so the individual drives their own path and the onus is on you to put yourself out there through networking: “That really develops a lot of skills and has enabled me to go to different customers and different sites to have the confidence to advise them on their processes.”

Arron concludes that he would encourage anybody to go through a similar rotational graduate scheme: “I think you gain so much from it. Particularly my experience with Atlas Copco - it was so open and designed by myself – it was great. I could basically choose what was the best project for me and in the end it allowed me to find the perfect role for myself.”

Arron added that he believes the flexibility he found on the graduate scheme also flows through the rest of the company: “We don’t have specific desks. We don’t need to confirm to normal hours. We can work remotely and can live anywhere in the country.” The company, he says, has a philosophy of giving employees responsibility and letting them figure out what’s best to fit their schedule and what they need to get done.

Ultimately, the Atlas Copco Graduate Programme, which encourages a flexible and independent work ethos, is a reflection of the overall changing nature of the engineering working environment. In the future the world of work will be very different from past traditional working structures and the format of this particular Programme is a positive blueprint for other employers to take note of in order to compete for the best engineering graduates in an increasingly competitive market.

Image caption: Arron Farghaly

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