Testimony of Sarah, Manufacturing Process Engineer for Airbus
With an engineering degree in the bag, Sarah began her career in consultancy. “What I liked about the idea of being a Consultant Engineer is having flexibility in my profession, both in terms of activity sector and projects”. This wish was quickly granted as Sarah’s first work experience saw her specialising in material and functional validation of gas meters, while today she works with aeroplanes.
Taking to the skies
When joining the ALTEN teams, she worked on her first Airbus project as a Technical Coordinator:
“I helped with production of the aircraft fuselage. This central structure consists of supports that enable installation of equipment (electric cables, pipes, protective padding, etc.) which are attached to parts such as the floor”. Due to her engineering training, ALTEN suggested she work as a Manufacturing Process Engineer for Airbus on the production line producing centre wingboxes for the A320. These contain kerosene and allow the wings to be attached to the rest of the aircraft’s fuselage.
“My role is to manage the configuration when changes to plans need to be applied to the production: I need to be able to indicate to the operators where a particular support needs to be mounted and how it should be fastened… while also aiming to reduce production time due to the high rates which are characteristic of the Aeronautics sector”. This new project enabled Sarah to quickly increase her skill set in an area where she did not have prior experience. “They trust me, I have responsibilities, I bring support and I learn. For me this is an extremely positive project,” she says.
Learning through coordination
As well as working on a central part of the aircraft, Sarah has a strategic post: “I am the liaison between the design office and the production. This pivotal role between these two entities is key because they don’t speak the same language. My technical expertise allows me to re-draft the language used by the design office, which is full of numbers of standards and plans, and make it intelligible for the operators. So my job is to be an interpreter too!”.
She could also be likened to an orchestra conductor as Sarah and her colleagues coordinate all the parts essential for a good performance. Coordination which could not be done without interaction on the ground with the operators. “To ensure the effectiveness of the production lines they need to be included in all the decision-making loops. I really enjoy supporting their work, this is also what makes my job interesting. The requests for support are different every day and enable me to broaden my skill set,” Sarah explains.
Being an Engineer: the sky is the limit
Curiosity is a real strength for an engineer. In Sarah’s case this characteristic comes alongside some areas of interest: mechanics, materials, mass production, a sense of detail on parts that need to be handled with great precision… Sarah can find these aspects in a number of activity sectors. “One day I would really like to work in the field of clock-making! It’s still mechanics, very specialised and delicate, mass produced… So why not?” she suggests. Working in engineering means you have other possibilities open to you and it is about finding the perfect harmony.
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