Name: Gareth Kennedy
Degree and university: BEng (hons) Electronic Engineering, at the University of Hertfordshire (2002 with a 1st class). The degree was a 4 year sandwich course, which involved spending the 3rd year working in industry, and I did 12 months with the Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch. I then went on to study my PhD at the Camborne School of Mines, in Cornwall, submitting my thesis entitled "High resilience wireless mesh networking characteristics and safety applications within underground mines" and then graduating in 2007.
Job title: KTP Associate, Research Project Manager for Mines Rescue Service Ltd.
What do you actually do? I am currently near the end of a three year project, which has been tasked with developing wireless mesh networking technology for underground mining, for safety applications including tracking of personnel and sensor monitoring. I have been responsible for seeing this project through from the concept and the early research stages, to proof-of-concept. This has involved both typical lab/office based work and considerable field work and testing in underground mines. My position has been funded through the Government’s Technology Strategy Board scheme called a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which has enabled a collaborative project between the Mines Rescue Service Ltd (MRSL) and Camborne School of Mines (part of University of Exeter), who I jointly work for.
Were you always interested in engineering as a career? Actually no, I wanted to join the RAF as a pilot. However, that didn’t work out and I pursued a career I felt I was, or at least could be, good at. I always enjoyed Maths and Physics at school and was always quite technically-minded and seemed to be the member of the family who liked tinkering around with and fixing things, so engineering seemed like a natural choice. I certainly have no regrets and find this field fascinating and challenging.
How did you find out about this particular position? I found out about the KTP through already working on my PhD at the School of Mines. My biggest move was to go from the electronics/telecoms industry into mining graduated in 2002, the same year Enron went bust, and so graduate jobs in this sector suddenly became quite scarce. I simply saw an online ad and thought I’d give it a try. The PhD enabled me to further my qualifications but also gain further electronics and general engineering experience in what is actually quite a technically challenging field.
The KTP position has since been an excellent opportunity for me to bridge that gap between academia and industry working on an applied research project. I certainly feel that it has given me the opportunity to progress my career, whether I wished to pursue the academic or industrial path
Would you undertake further study to gain promotion? Having studied already for the best part of eight years to achieve my BEng and PhD, I’m not in a rush to undertake any more degrees. In fact, the KTP scheme actually provides an opportunity to study an MPhil or PhD whilst working on the project, but this was not for me. However, I do, and always will, consider relevant training and personal/professional development for my career. I am currently working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer. In this field it’s very important to stay up-to-date in your knowledge. The KTP actually provides a very healthy development budget for training, and also provides management and leadership training courses.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? I like the challenge and the variety, and the fact it takes me out of the office. I’ve spent a lot of time carrying out field testing in various mines, which I very much enjoy. This job has also involved a considerable amount of travel, around various European countries, South America, Australia and China, for conferences and industrial mine and technical visits through both the PhD, and the KTP.
I do spend a fairly large proportion of my time working on my own. As someone who very much thrives on working as part of a team, this is somewhat of a challenge. However, my work is part of a larger overall team effort, and it certainly helps to meet up with colleagues as often as possible.
What skills do you need to succeed? Staying focused and being able to get the job done. Also, the more practically based jobs certainly require you to be versatile and inventive in what you do, and this is something you only learn with experience.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to enter this sector? I would highly recommend the KTP scheme to any graduate who can find the right partnership; the latter is very important for the scheme to work successfully. It’s an excellent opportunity to get the needed work experience whilst having the opportunity to further your study/training with the offer of a career in both/either academia and industry at the end. Also, graduates wishing to pursue an engineering profession could certainly do very well in either the electronics or mining sector, or both as I have done. They are two fields that are certainly very much routed in our future. There is currently a very high demand for mining engineers around the world.
Is there anything you would like to add? Whatever career you choose, make sure it’s something that interests and motivates you as you actually spend quite a large proportion of your life doing it, but must importantly always remember "work to live" not the other way around.