FROM LEGO TO FOLDING BIKES AND HYPERCARS

Josh Barton started at Prodrive on the Graduate Scheme in the Advanced Technology division only a few months ago and is already getting to grips with real world design for clients. Here he gives us an insight into his journey so far.

Josh Barton, Graduate Engineer, checks in with his mentor

What attracted you to a career in Engineering?

I have always been enthralled by anything mechanical and that moves. My family noticed this early on when I was a kid; so Lego was bought, taking stuff apart was reluctantly encouraged, and STEM subjects were always a priority when choosing subjects in school. Engineering was always a clear path for me to go down, and my family and teachers could see this and would always nudge me on the right path to get to university to do mechanical engineering.


What University did you study at and what course did you study? How does this relate to your work at Prodrive?

I studied a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Aberdeen. During my time at university, I was in the University’s Formula Student team and was a mentor and a demonstrator for engineering courses for Computer Aided Design. In my final year, I had a job working for the Newburgh Decommissioning Centre under a professor at the University, initially as a draftsman and then in a Design Engineer role.


Tell us in your own words about the Prodrive Graduate Scheme you’ve just joined?

The Prodrive Graduate Scheme has been unlike anything I have heard from others on my course who have found grad jobs – in a good way. Whilst others are off shadowing Senior Engineers or doing 12 month training courses, I was thrust straight into a project where I was actively contributing and trusted to do jobs with minimal direct supervision.


I have contributed to 5 different projects within 5 months, ranging from hands on work commissioning machines through to designing components. There are very few places that will get you this kind of experience condensed into such short time, without leaving you feeling lost or stressed.

What is your role at Prodrive and what does it involve? What’s a typical day in your job?

I am a Design Engineer. After coming in to the office and grabbing a cup of tea while the CAD loads, I firstly identify which issue or job to prioritise. On the projects I have been doing the past 2 months, I have been partnered with another Graduate Design Engineer, Becky, so we have a quick catch-up about which of us will design which components, how will they interface with each other, and find out if if there are any other urgent tasks the rest of the team may need our help with that day.


After that, it is identifying solutions to problems, going through concept selection to identify the preferable solution, and using calculations and CAD to create the part and drawings for manufacture.


What sort of projects do you get to work on?

I started at Prodrive with a low volume manufacture project producing assembly machines for a manufacturing client, it was very interesting and lots of hands-on work which I missed doing during lockdown. During that time, I worked on the Hummingbird folding bicycle, designing jigs and components. I have now moved over to working on designing components for the manufacturing process of a hypercar and doing the design work alongside another graduate on an internal project.


What’s the most exciting part of your job at Prodrive?

Besides the cakes and pastries on people’s birthdays, walking through the workshops and storage spaces. Prodrive has some insane vehicles and machinery which would make 10 year-old Josh cry with joy. From historic rally and Le Mans winning cars and Dakar support trucks, to next-gen electric vehicles, it is an automotive lover’s dream. Couple this with work that keeps you engaged and challenges you, and this becomes any Graduate Design Engineer’s paradise.


What attracted you to Prodrive Advanced Technology?

Like most people who have heard of Prodrive, I instantly thought of Colin McRae and Subaru. It was when I started following Prodrive on LinkedIn that I noticed that Prodrive does not just race or care entirely about speed, but that they care about getting from point A to B as fast, comfortably, and sustainably as possible. The innovations and designs coming out of Prodrive were great reads, so when a friend from university asked if I wanted a shot at applying, I jumped at it straight away.


Describe the culture at Prodrive Advanced Technology?

In the office you get the sense that there is a lot going on, however there is no sign of stress from anyone. Everyone is extremely friendly and chilled, and when stuff starts to get intense, you know there are people ready to support you without doing the work for you so that you can learn and gain experience from it.


What makes working for Prodrive unique?

The diversity of projects. Whilst a lot of what Prodrive does is to do with transportation of some sort, there are so many different areas and problems that come through the door. There is also a massive pool of experience from the engineers who have either been in Prodrive for decades, or those who have come from elsewhere, and having access to this varied knowledge so easily makes everyday a school day.

You are bound to learn something new every time you step through those doors, even from casual conversations.

Describe how your assigned Technical Mentor has helped you.

My assigned Technical Mentor is Steve. I first encountered Steve properly in a mentoring way when I asked if he had any work. He gave me a task which was basically filling in a bill of materials, but instead of just giving me the task, he took me through the suspension design of the project and explained the fundamentals of suspension geometry. After that, I asked specifically for Steve to become my Technical Mentor, and we have been going over various manufacturing methods, and talking about suspension geometry.


There is also a 'Buddy System' as part of the Graduate entry, can you describe how it helps someone new to Prodrive?

The buddy scheme gives you someone who you can ask any questions to about day-to-day stuff. Don’t know where to order more pens? Ask the buddy. How do I print stuff? Ask the buddy. Where do I request training? Ask the buddy. It is essentially a fast, easy, and efficient way of getting up to speed in the company, without worrying that you are annoying your manager.


Where do you see the Prodrive Graduate Scheme taking you and what would you like to do in the future?

The access to diverse training and knowledge on request allows you to tailor your future to whatever interests you. I personally like my current specialisation of mechanical design; however, I am also interested in doing FEA and some controls – which Prodrive are happy to organise training for. They want to see their graduates grow and become well refined.

This scheme isn’t a placement, it’s a job, so if you show Prodrive your commitment, they reward that with training, experience, and interesting diverse projects.