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Aspirations and Learning; my graduate journey by Process Engineer, Kirsty Sloan
Right here right now
If you asked me what my aspirations were when I was in university, I would say that I wanted to be here, now, doing this, my dream job. Reflecting on my journey, as I pass the halfway point in my graduate programme at DBD, I can confirm that it has been a year of highs and lows, diversity, opportunity and most importantly, learning.
The first few weeks were hard going. There was a lot to learn and a lot to read but slowly and surely, I started to understand what was happening in the projects that I was working on. My first project was a blessing, as it was a study focusing on past, present and future radioactive waste management, across all 17 of the NDA’s sites. This required researching the history of nuclear in the UK; the types of waste package across the NDA estate; the history of each of the 17 sites; the future plans and progress of each site; as well as the radioactive waste inventory each site held.
Equipped with my newfound radioactive waste knowledge, I set about the project head-on and within 6 months I found myself holding full conversations with experts, about UK radwaste management and discussing various opinions on the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) plans. It was like learning a new language by living in the country in which it is spoken! I was living in waste management land, speaking radwaste lingo.
From that point forward, I had a newfound confidence, that there was nothing that I couldn’t learn, when I had the support and advice from DBD. I became a sponge, soaking up information, wherever it was available, knowing that it would stand me in good stead at some point in the future.
But it wasn't without it's challenges...
I make the first year sound like plain sailing, but it had its challenges! As I moved on past the radwaste projects, I seemed to gather small, short-term pieces of work that other people in the office were too busy to do. This was fiddly and not something to get my teeth into, however the diversity of work allowed me to get a view of the projects that DBD has been involved in over the last five years. Again, although this work was a bit unpredictable and fragmentary, every day was a learning day.
Finally, towards the end of summer, a package of fusion work came my way after DBD won the bid to assist in the documentation of the H3AT facility design at UKAEA. This was an amazing opportunity to work on a complex and innovative project, with a large team of experienced engineers. H3AT brought new challenges.
Simple tasks, like report writing, all of a sudden weren’t so simple, everything had to be articulated clearly and precisely. Working with flowsheets became one of my favorite tasks but also one of the most stressful and information on the systems within the facility, appeared in many different forms, within various and numerous documents.
The H3AT project brought new challenges for a graduate like myself. I was faced with a wealth of knowledge that I needed to absorb quickly and in addition, I was required to produce detailed documents and carry out tasks which were new to me. On occasion, no matter how much I tried, my documents weren’t hitting the high standards required but the positive outcome from this was, that my more experienced colleagues spent time demonstrating how to develop my project skills.
Aspirations moving forward
Having achieved my original aspirations, my aspirations for the future have now moved forward. I can now say that my aspirations are to firstly; spend every day learning more and secondly; to have the patience to grow into an even better engineer with every year of my career that passes. Finally, the advice I would give to anyone reading this blog- at any stage in their career- is to regard every day that you learn something new as a success.
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