Speculate to accumulate: unconventional approach opens doors at KWSP
Ionna Preza arrived in the UK from Greece in 2015 as a result of sending a speculative CV to high-precision engineering specialist KW Special Projects (KWSP).
Having successfully completed a two-month trial at the Brackley-based manufacturer, the 26 year old is now a full-time member of the growing team of 15, specialising in light-weighting and structural engineering.
Hello Ionna, can you tell The Student Engineer where you studied and what you read whilst you were there?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, specialising in Mechanical Design and Automation. This was a five-year degree course, equivalent to a masters in the UK.
What roles have you been fulfilling so far at KWSP?
My current role at KWSP involves the mechanical design and assembly of special purpose machines. These are typically custom made industrial or R&D machines. Working at KWSP, I get involved in every stage of the process, from concept to final commissioning, which I found hugely satisfying. Also, given the diversity of projects KWSP undertakes, I’m also involved in mechanical design projects for F1 teams and the high performance sports engineering sector. Project management is also another valuable skill I have acquired since joining the business a year ago.
What does your typical day look like?
Every day is different and often presents me with new challenges. Typically I work as part of a small team focusing on issues of mechanical design implementation. This can also entail me developing assembly CAD models, reviewing designs, developing mechanical drawings or contacting suppliers/technicians. Generally we keep reasonably normal working hours, but when a major project deadline is approaching, things can get pretty intense!
Are you satisfied with your salary and benefits package at KWSP?
I am happy with my salary, though I firmly believe that for an engineer at graduate level, the amount you’re paid shouldn’t be the first criteria when considering a career in engineering. What is important at this stage is to understand the skills that you need to acquire. To secure a role in a business like KWSP – which often operates at the cutting edge of engineering technology – you need to demonstrate a very contemporary knowledge set. You also need to show an ability to work as part of a team.
As a dynamic and fast growing business, for me the biggest employee benefit is the support and relaxed culture here. We often meet up together as a team out of work and there’s a very strong, positive mood in the business.
What was it about your CV that led KWSP to give you a two-month trial, and what did you do during those two-months that convinced KWSP to give you a job?
I believe my CV attracted the company because I was a student engineer with some previous experience in mechanical design. Having already worked on similar design projects gave me an extra boost when job hunting. Also, part of my thesis involved work undertaken with the systems bioengineering laboratory at the University in Athens. Here, we used cutting edge technology and non-conventional methods to develop point of care devices for the medical sector. This kind of experience helped me to stand out from the crowd, making me more employable.
When I first joined KWSP as an Erasmus internship trainee, I immediately got involved with the design of an inkjet industrial printer. This was a challenging design project that involved the development of a bespoke, customised R&D machine that integrated novel print heads that applied adhesive. My role was to manage the design and fabrication of the motion and mounting system of this unique machine that is now used in the industry.
During this project I had the chance to work quite independently and I was very pleased with the result. This experience taught me the importance of a ‘can do’ attitude, the ability to learn quickly and embrace diversity with enthusiasm.
Ioanna Preza with KWSP’s Stuart Banyard (left) and Kieron Salter (right)
Placements can be really important in making a CV stand out. Did you undertake a placement prior to joining KWSP? If so, what did you do, where did you do it, and what key skills has it given you?
Prior to KWSP, my placements included Heineken on a two-month internship (Athenian Brewery, Athens). This was an internship in preventive maintenance, which taught me a lot about factory management. It involved me fulfilling everyday tasks on the production line, participating in maintenance procedures and acting quickly in the event of line failures.
What extra activities helped you get your job at KWSP?
Taking a proactive approach at events such as university seminars – demonstrating my work through papers or posters – proved effective for me to get my first few internships. My experience at the systems bioengineering lab at Athens was invaluable.
What advice do you have for engineering students who want to work for KWSP and are thinking about applying?
Find out as much information about the company as you can. Examine the company’s profile via the web and then compare this to your competencies. The better the fit, the better chance you have of securing a position. I have found that relevant practical experience is vital to get onto the first rung of the ladder.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I really want to enrich my skills in the field of machine design and automation. I’d really like to be able to run a team and manage a major project in the next few years. Looking further afield, I’d like to develop my design skills in other sectors such as composite material design or product design.
Thank you, Ionna!