Andy W.

Technical Product Manager - Materials & Lubrication
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Andy W.
Theoretical Physics
United Kingdom

My employment

Technical Product Manager - Materials & Lubrication
AutoForm Engineering GmbH
United Kingdom
Engineering and manufacturing
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Technical Product Manager - Materials & Lubrication in the United Kingdom

Take all the training on offer to you.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

Currently employed by the largest provider of Finite Element Analysis software for the prediction of material failure when forming metallic components in the Automotive industry - everything from the roof panel to the copper busbars used in EVs.

What do you do?

Primary role is to ensure that the mathematical modelling of Metals is aligned with academia and the needs of the user base. Outside of this, the work is varied - teaching Materials Engineering, presenting at international conferences, liaising with material producers & automotive OEMs, directing the development strategy of the software, working with software developers to implement the new functionality, software testing, managing a global support group - the list is endless.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

I fell into this work after joining a first tier automotive supplier after graduating in 1993. They needed someone with a good understanding of mathematics, physics, engineering and computers.... At the time I was working my way through the Graduate Training Program, and I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. As one of the first users in this field of work and having a broad knowledge of the various codes I had a very marketable skill base. To expand my knowledge of materials and their production (something I was missing from my physics background) I joined the worlds largest producer of Aluminium in 1998, just as the use of this material to lightweight vehicles exploded. I worked directly with car manufacturers around the world on how to use this material. Between 1998 and 2016 there is virtually no car produced anywhere in the world (using Aluminium) that I did not have some involvement in or on. During this time the UK operation closed down and I was asked to relocate and work in Switzerland initially for 12 months - Five years later I made the tough decision to leave and return to the UK. Headhunted by my current employer to be in charge of the material modelling aspect of the software I first used some 25 years previously.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

No - I had hoped to go into the Aerospace / Space industry. However in 1993 the UK was in the grips of a recession and work was hard to find in the Manufacturing industry.

Describe your most memorable day at work

Two days really stick in my mind for completely different reasons:

I was delivering a two days training course in Materials to Volvo Cars. The organiser, a good friend, and a highly respected member of the research community, turned to the group of students and engineers after two days and expressed his gratitude over a very clear, concise and well structured training course the likes of which they will probably never come across again. He went on to state that they would do well to learn all of the course by heart and to use the last hour to question me about anything they didnt understand. Not bad for a topic that has been virtually self taught.

The second was an opportunity and not necessarily work related. I was in Hiroshima for a meeting with a potential customer - the morning meeting had to be cancelled. I took the opportunity to visit the museum and gardens dedicated and in memorial to those whom died when the first nuclear bomb was dropped. Humbling, it was an experience I will never forget. But without the job, I would never have had the opportunity to visit such a place.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

Probably too many to list. I work in a constantly evolving environment, therefore trying to keep pace with this is a challenge particularly when travel has not been possible for the last two years. Time management is always a challenge as you have to balance a wide variety of tasks and roles, from daily tasks to projects that can last several years. Pre-COVID the amount of travel was excessive - this can cause problems outside of work.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

For the last five years I have worked from home - something that comes with its own unique challenges, particularly that home-work balance. Its also surprising how quickly the novelty wears off.

As previously written, I have spent a lot of time working abroad. Foreign or domestic travel (for work), is not all it is cracked up to be. Time pressures rarely allow you the opportunity to explore the town or city you are visiting, so the most you see is the car journey from the airport to the hotel, hotel to plant and back. It is also fair to say they don't put big hulking production plants in the nicest parts of the city... Being away alot also puts immense pressure on relationships with family and friends.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

Absolutely none. I was heavily involved in the Rock-Soc, RPG group and several others. I even joined the Norse Film and Pageant Society through a friend I made on my corridor. Yes these made me a three dimensional person when it came to interviews, but they did nothing to help my career directly.

What would you like to do next with your career?

At the moment nothing. I have reached a good level of responsibility / remuneration so I am happy to tread water for now. The automotive industry is also going through a very interesting period with the transition from ICE to EV that keeps my interest.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

What do I wish I had been told?

First off, your CV is very important - but you know that. After recruiting staff for several years, you soon realise what makes a CV stand out. Firstly, language, grammar, spelling - if you cannot be bothered to run a spell / grammar check then I'm not interested in you. Realise that you are up against many other candidates with a similar education to you. For your first post grad job, what makes you stand out is what else you do in your spare time. Oh and after your first proper job no one cares about your degree. I have never ever been asked what class of degree I got. Think of it this way, when was the last time you got asked what GCSE or A level grades you obtained?

Try and stay at your first job for 18-24 months minimum. After that its time to investigate your options and look to either change company or get a clear idea of your promotion route in your current job.

The fast track to senior positions in a company is through the commercial route - purchasing, account management etc.

Don't be afraid to change track if it doesnt work for you.

If you and your boss dont see eye-to-eye its time to move on.

Take all the training on offer to you.

Never forget the work-life balance.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?


Next steps...

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