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How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

(OP)
Hello all

I have been trying to land my first role as an aircraft structural designer but am really struggling. I was just wondering how everybody else managed to get started ?

I have a BEng in Mechanical Engineering, a MSc in Aircraft Design and a PhD in Aircraft design. However, all the jobs I look at are requesting 5 years experience at least. I just can't seem to find a way to get the experience that I need. I have looked into graduate programmes but have the following difficulties,
a) I am deemed too old at 37
b) The big companies are all making cut-backs at the moment
c) Competition is fierce for such schemes
d) I want to stay in a technical role and don't want to go into management.

I have also been trying to get into the US but have now given up trying as they only want US citizens. What am I doing wrong ?

Thanks

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

i wonder if you're looking for the right job.  "designer" = CATIA-jockey ... you certainly don't need/want a PhD for that ... you need alot of practical experience.  Aerodynamists and Stress Analysts get into the "higher math" of analyzing the airplane.  Advanced Design develops preliminary airplane conceptual designs.

Spacecraft involves a lot of "higher math", as the environment is quite different to the typical airplane (ya think!) and because they'll spend a lot of money to get the minimum weight possible.

Military airplane similarly, they tend to have a lot of money to throw around.

GL

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

- where are you located?
- entry level jobs (at least in the US) are typically not advertised; rather they are filled by recruitment at uni's
- how you used your uni career/placement office to obtain job interviews?
- I would think Airbus would be hiring with all of the new programs on their plate
- you are likely overqualified for a "designer" position with a PhD; you might look into research jobs are government agencies
 

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

(OP)
Thanks guys, there was some interesting points.

I have tried endlessly to get into a aircraft conceptual design office and have given up as there just doesn't seem to be the oppertunities over here in the UK as there is in the US. The US seem to refuse to even consider your application if you are not a US citizen. I started looking at structures as they also really interest me and there is a lot I could learn in this area. The opportunities seem a lot better as well.

I was thinking that structural optimisation jobs would have a lot of technical maths involved and am interested in working in this area. In industry, who would have responsibility for optimisation, would it be the stress analysist or the structural designer?

Out of interest what is the daily activities of a structural designer versus a stress analysist. Do the stress analysist have a say in the structural layout for example? I have heard that the designers at airbus have to deal with wiring routes etc and the airworthiness documentation. To be honest, I would be interested in doing both design and stress analysist and conceptual design. I enjoy them all and am currently putting some ideas together for my own homebuilt.

I have tried Airbus UK but they have closed their scheme for direct entry graduates for this year. Also tried structures suppliers like Spirit and no luck there either. My biggest downfall seems to be my lack of industrial expience.

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

- have you tried Qinetiq?
- Bombardier in Montreal
- Airbus in Wichita, Kansas?

- structural optimization is probably done by specialist stress analysts, using FE codes and/or proprietary sizing codes. Probably not heavy duty math, just a lot of computation

- stress analysts do have a say in structural layouts; sometimes there is lots of arguing with the designers - says a stress guy ;)

- designers deal with form/fit/function and spend a lot of time on a CAD program; they typically have to work with the manufacturing engineers to address producibility

- in a large company you will likely not do both design and stress; in a small aircraft company you might have to do both plus a bunch of other tasks.

- if you want to get into aircraft configuration in a large company your bet path is to hire in as a stress analyst or designer, then transfer jobs later.

- you might look into some job shop companies - Volt, Butler, etc

SW


 

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

wind turbines ??

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

Ady2010.

Without US citizenship you are all but wasting your time looking at working for any major US aerospace/defense company.  Even many smaller ones will have second thoughts.

Also, your background not being cookie cutter US can cause issues.

In the UK when I graduated I got hold of a directory of SBAC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_British_Aerospace_Companies) members and just wrote off to any that looked remotely interesting.  You may want to try similar with the agency that replaced SBAC and the advantage of the web.  

Check out smaller companies to get that first year or two of experience if you can't get in at any of the big boys.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

In addition to the suggestions above, I would suggest the experimental aircraft market.  With your high level background in aircraft design and performance, that's where you would be most valued.  You could bring a lot of analytical knowledge to a very small group (i.e. 1-3) of self-made designers and vastly improve the performance of their next project.  I would say, however, that such a position is not likely to be very lucrative.  

Your PhD combined with lack of practical experience makes you virtually unemployable in the minds of most (especially HR hacks).  

You need to find those companies willing to take a chance on you.  They won't be large OEMs.  Look for the really small companies.

I find myself on the opposite end of that spectrum- strong practical experience with design, stress analysis, and certification but lacking a degree...so I certainly empathize with your problem.
 

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

(OP)
Thanks everyone, there is some good points for me to consider.

I think I will aim at a stress analyst role. I really enjoy design but this has all bought back memories of a project I worked on within the university as a designer and I was constantly being refered to as the CAD monkey. Hopefully I can find something in a small company that is design and stress.

I am trying to get actively involved with homebuilders and feel like it is the best oppertunity to really push myself. I have been looking around for full time opportunities but there isn't any so it look like it will have to be a weekend hobby. Small companies sound great, a chance to be a decent sized cog in the machine. In the UK, such aircraft design companies seem scarce. The U.S. on the other hand seems to be the land of opportunites, but the doors to that country are firmly shut.

I was also looking at Graduate Schemes but I think a direct entry gradate job would be the best idea as I don't want to end up in management. I enjoy the technical aspect too much.

Thank all

Ady
 

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

You seem to aim at the US or UK, but you might want to try Canada as well.

Bombardier Aerospace is hiring a lot of people from Europe recently. You can try Bell Helicopter (medium size company), Pratt & Withney Canada (medium size - Engine), Heroux-Devtek (small size - Landing Gear), MDA (satellite antenna) etc. Province of Quebec in Canada as a lot of medium to small size aerospace company.

Don't be afraid of the language barrier, they all work mostly in English ;  )

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

Ady2010

Some UK companies worth looking at may be:

Portsmouth Aviation
EDO MBM or whatever they are now called - based in Brighton last I heard.
INSYS - now part of LHM
Thales
Flight Refueling/Chobam

Now, they may not be designing AC as such but are in relevant fields.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

smaller companies are good if you want to do a range of things, bigger companies give you the opportunity (restriction?) to specialize in an area of interest.  some groups withn big companies work like small companies ... ground test ... the guys who design the rig, usually stress it, oversee construction, use it, and report on it.

a lot of people will be overawed by your degrees (and anticipate that they would be able to engage the intellect they associate with advanced degrees.

designing wind turbine blades i'd've thought would provide an inntellectual challenge.

GL

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

(OP)
Thanks for all your feedback, it is good to interact with people who work in the trade.

I have had time to look into things a bit more and although I enjoy design work, I think a stress analyst role is more likely to keep my brain occupied for longer. I am the sort of person that quickly gets bored and there seems to be a lot to learn on the stress side of things. I am particulary interested in getting into composites.

As well as this, there seems to be a lot more jobs being advertised for experienced stress analysts than structural designers. It therefore seems sensible to target my skill towards this area to make sure there is plenty of work for my future career.

If anyone works as a stress analyst, I would be really interested in hearing a bit more about the duties and responsibilites of the jobs.

Many thanks, Ady

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

if you like doing calcs, then a stress analyst is a good place to be, IMHO.  there is some "brainy" work and there is lots of "donkey" work, like in any job.  Composite structures lend themselves to more "brainy" work, if you go into tailoring the structural properties.  FEA can be either very brainy or very donkey ("just playing with pictures").  Some (most?) companies have developed "analysis methods" groups who prepare (as you'd expect) methods to analyze structures (so they get a uniform type of analysis, a uniform presentation) ... so they'd be the brains, and the rest of us are the galley slaves.  Smaller companies tend to give you more room for maneouvre/expression. Finding the internal loads is oftern the easy part; the difficult part is determining the allowable.

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

rb1957 do you work in the wind turbine industry?

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

A lot of good advice. I'm a US citizen but I am spending a lot of time in Montreal and there are a lot of English ex-pats here. Although the major hiring might be about over, I'm sure there sill still be attrition.
I got my first job out of school working with our campus outplacement service. It was with a large aerospace company. After a few years of meeting people I transferred into the discipline that I wanted to be in in the first place.
My last semester I had a CAD class, which I mentioned in my resume and that helped me land that first job.  

RE: How did you land your first role as a structural designer?

My background is Aerospace also I worked in R&D for one year in aerospace sector mainly in FEA. But I work as stress analyst in small company which manufactures barriers for automotive sector. For me it doesn't matter whether it is aerospace or automotive main thing is FEA for me. If you are really interested in CAD and also you have spent sufficient time of your life on CAD then apart from aerospace why don't you try automotive sector? There are plenty of oppurtunities in UK for design engineers . My all university friends got placed this year some even without design expereince in some of giant companies in UK as design engineers. Since you have PhD I would suggest try automotive field as well. During these tough economic times its better to find a job first, once you get experience you can switch over anywhere you want.
And finding graduate level stress engineering job that too in aerospace is very difficult in UK. There are loads of vacancies for experienced stress engineers but definitely not for graduates.
I can understand your desperation to find a job coz i went through such pahse as well but I will suggest you to have flexible approach just don't hang yourself to aerospace.
Wish you all the best Andy2010.

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