Royal Navy as weapons engineer (Various ships and postings, promoted through the ranks and then commissioned as an officer). Sonardyne International
Manage the global training activity and coordinate technical trials and training activity in our Plymouth facility.
Could do better with a little more effort, as my school report used to say… or to put it another way… good, but always room for growth! :)
I live in Plymouth with my wife and 4 border collies (yes four!), we compete at dog agility trials most weekends and this “hobby” that we started for fun has now completely taken over our lives… but we love it! I play the guitar (I have 4 of those too) and have a growing collection of other instruments in my spare room including a number of ukuleles, a mandolin and a banjo. I used to play and sing in pubs now & then and keep meaning to get back out there, but I’m a little out of practice so wouldn’t want to inflict myself on an unsuspecting audience just yet. I really like rubbish food, rubbish TV and rubbish jokes, but I know they’re not good for me so I limit myself to the occasional treat.
I manage and coordinate the global training of offshore surveyors, engineers and scientists in how to use acoustic positioning systems or “underwater GPS” and coordinate in-water trials in these systems
I work for a company called Sonardyne, a British sub-sea engineering and technology firm that has been pioneering and developing the most advanced underwater positioning systems in the world for over 45 years. I work at the trials and training centre in Plymouth where we have 3 fully equipped vessels as well as a lab, workshop, training room and a lot of amazing kit. Underwater vehicles, such as Remote Operating Vehicles, Automatic Underwater Vehicles, manned submersibles, need to be tracked to enable them to navigate safely… the trouble is GPS doesn’t work underwater, so we use sonar. Transponders are fitted to the vehicles and they can be used, not only to track the object, but also to send digital information between the vehicle and the surface support vessel… all using sound! There are lots of other amazing things ours systems can do, including data acquisition and communication (underwater wifi), inertial navigation (sub-sea gyros for drones and submersibles) and intruder detection sonars but high precision sub-sea tracking is what we are principally known for. It’s clever stuff and I get to use it in the sea off Plymouth all the time, either training customers how to “drive” the software or conducting trials and tests on new or updated technology.
My Typical Day: Getting out on the water and playing with some pretty advanced technology
Working at the Trials and Training Centre for Sonardyne means there is no such thing as a typical day. This week for example started with showing some primary school children how to use our systems to find submerged “treasure”, the next day I was testing a new version of our subsea inertial navigation system – a highly sophisticated laser-ring gyro based sensor. After that I was delivering a lecture to the Royal Navy Hydrographic Surveyors’ course in HMS Drake, Plymouth. Later in the week I was preparing and delivering a webcast lesson to some off shore engineers in Houston Texas. Another week I could be flying off to an exotic location such as Singapore, Norway, Brazil, Mumbai or even Aberdeen to support and train our clients. And other times I will be catching up on admin… you can run but you can’t hide from paperwork!
What I'd do with the money
Increasing the awareness of career opportunities in the off-shore technology and hydrographic/ocean science sectors.
Representing Sonardyne, I am a key stakeholder in a new initiative called STEM@Sea led by the Hydrographic Society and supported by a number of tech companies and scientific establishments. This will be an annual week-long event held in the Southwest UK, with the aim of showing school children the vast array of amazing, fascinating and rewarding career opportunities out on, and under, the world’s oceans and seas. From exploration, charting and ecological/environmental research, to underwater archaeology, subsea engineering in the energy markets (Oil and Gas, wind farms, wave and tide power etc), all offer great options for young people to forge a great career. If you don’t fancy life on the water then the technology companies that design new kit and systems to support these industries are a way of developing your skills while staying on dry land.
This initiative is very worthwhile and so i would donate any winnings to the STEM@Sea fund to help make it the success it deserves to be.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, friendly, diligent
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
As a guided missile specialist/technician in the Royal Navy my system fired 6 supersonic anti air missiles in a single day for a hgh profile trial – It was a lot of work to prep the equipment and make sure it was all working perfectly. All the missiles hit their targets and I was so proud at how well the system performed.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My step dad – he was a truck mechanic and showed me how to repair my bike
What was your favourite subject at school?
Actually biology but I took physics instead (my second favourite) as I knew I wanted to be an engineer
What did you want to be after you left school?
Royal navy engineer – I was successful in my ambitions and had a great time
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No… I never got caught, or was able to charm my way out of trouble; despite crashing the computer network, removing one too many screws from a desk so it collapsed, setting fire to my pocket in assembly with a camera battery I found on the way to school and sawing my chair in half during a single maths lesson using string “borrowed” from the physics lab.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I’ve always been an engineer, I used to take my toys apart as a kid just to see how they worked… so I don’t know… musician? dog trainer?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
chicken… in almost any cooked form
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Helicopter fast roping – jumping from a hovering helicopter, sliding down a thick rope using just your hands (gloved of course!)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
If you tell anyone about your wishes they will not come true ;)
Tell us a joke.
I was helping a farmer friend a few months ago sorting his cows, working out in the cold winter air my lips got quite chapped and sore. I asked the farmer if he had anything to help and he said, “sure, see that big wet cow pat over there, take finger full and smear it on your lips.” “Really?” I replied “will that cure my chapped lips?” “No,” he said “but it’ll stop you licking them!”