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Last summer, having just finished my A levels, I chose to take a rather different path to most of my peers. Whilst they headed off to university or to travel the world, I opted to work for a year at an engineering company as a Year in Industry (YINI) student. So in August 2015 I started working at Cambridge Design Partnership, a product design company that has been taking YINI students for around 10 years and that seemed to work in range of interesting and diverse areas. Through a year’s placement at a technology and design consultancy, I hoped to gain some valuable industry skills which would complement the degree from Bristol University where I’d gained a place for the following year.

I relocated to Cambridge and began living with five other YINI students from other companies in the area – as a tech hub, Cambridge has a few companies that offer these great opportunities to school leavers like myself. And so, ten months on, I can say it’s been exciting, challenging, valuable as well as tiring – but completely worthwhile and a great experience overall (including the less glamorous but realistic life skills gained from house-sharing!).

In this time I have had the benefit of working in all areas of the business, from sales research and presentations, and through all the phases of product development. On projects that are at the start of these development phases, I have been involved in brainstorms, studied user research, created initial CAD designs and researched areas of business opportunity. In more established projects, I have helped design and build prototypes, create test rigs, drawings for manufacture and run data analysis. Some of the highlights of my year have been presenting to clients, running an internal training session on a major year-long project and travelling with the team to London to take part in a pitch to a prospective client. I have even travelled to Basel, Switzerland with a project team, which is an opportunity I wouldn’t have imagined I might get to do.

More recently, I was shortlisted for the YINI Contribution to the Business Awards – an award for students to showcase their placement projects and highlight the benefit to the hosting company. At the semi-final in London I presented a short presentation to a panel of industry experts – and I found the whole experience valuable for practising public speaking and reflecting back on the achievements of my year.

And now, with only a few weeks left of my placement, I’m looking forward to travelling to Tanzania with Raleigh International to work with local communities on environmental and sustainability projects for 3 months, before starting at university. This will of course be a very different working environment! But I hope that it will be equally as rewarding as the rest of my year.

I will take a lot away from my time at CDP. Not only have I learned some great engineering skills such as structuring root cause analysis investigations, CAD design for manufacture and techniques for data analysis, I’ve also gained some key business skills including presenting, structuring meetings, clarity of communication and working in diverse teams. The creative, smart and vibrant culture of CDP has allowed me to meet and work with some amazing people. The friends and mentors I have made have given me a great network of people to contact in the future. I can say with great assurance that I am one of the 99% of students who believe their year in industry will have a positive impact on their career.

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