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David Armstrong

Career Path: Mechanical Process Technologist, AkzoNobel
Location: Felling, UK

David ArmstrongI previously worked in mechanical maintenance and wanted to progress my career into engineering project management. AkzoNobel gave me the opportunity to work as an engineering project technologist while studying for a degree part-time. They covered my university fees and gave me on-the-job training to support my university studies.

What are you doing now?

I am now an Engineering Process Technologist for the Powder Coatings division. I run engineering projects that develop and implement new and innovative engineering solutions to AkzoNobel's sites globally. I provide engineering support to these sites to ensure they are running efficiently and using the most up-to-date technology in the industry.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

As I was studying part-time, I needed a university that was within an hours drive from my home. I researched the potential universities and decided on Northumbria University as it offered excellent facilities for both theoretical and practical study. To add the research I commenced, I have friends who have graduated from Northumbria University and they have always spoken highly about their time studying there.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

Studying at Northumbria was very challenging, there was a good mixture of lectures and seminars. During the seminars the lecturer was able to to work one-on-one with the students as the class numbers weren't excessive. I was always given good and timely feedback on my assignments which helped me to progress and improve each time.

How connected was your course with industry?

My course was very well connected to industry. As a part-time student, my company sponsored me through the degree which meant that they were in contact with the university and worked alongside the University for some of my assignments. This made my assignments current and relevant to the industry. We were also given guest lectures from Northumbria Alumni that now work in leading engineering companies (e.g. Shell and BAE Systems). These showed us what our degree could potentially lead to. As part of the course, I attended engineering an engineer conference in Birmingham which showcased new technology from the industry from a wide range of companies. This gave the students an insight in the potential careers that lay ahead after graduation.

What was the best thing about your course?

The best thing about my course was the people; I made some excellent life-long fiends. This was good for both the social side of university, and the studying aspect. There wasn't one exam we didn't help each other to revise for. Everyone helped each other out.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

My company sponsored me through the course so I was already on my chosen career path when I started my studies at Northumbria, however my CV is now leagues ahead of what it was previously. I am now able to apply for jobs that I could have never done without studying at Northumbria.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

As I am now leading engineering projects, I find the planning and organisational skills very useful. Planning and executing my dissertation project was an excellent stepping stone into the type of planning I do for my current role. Preparing business cases and planning project timelines are things I do on a daily basis. As part of my current role I have had to calculate flow rates, design new machinery etc. I was able to do all of this from the knowledge gained at Northumbria. I am able to apply my knowledge to solve complex engineering problems.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

As I was studying part-time, being at university was a huge contrast to my work-life. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of being on campus. From studying for group projects in the library to having lunch with friends, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of university life.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Take in every moment and enjoy both the study and social side of being a university student. However, don't let the social side affect your learning. This is easily done and I have seen it many times with students on our course who had to drop back a year. If you are ever struggling, speak to your lecturer or course leader. There is always someone there to help and you will find that other students are feeling exactly the same as you. Don't bury your head in the sand, seek help as soon as you think you're struggling.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Life-changing Challenging Fun

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