My status is: safely arrived in Santa Clara, California!
After 3 years working in Africa and South America in mines, I moved to London to work in a dotcom startup where I programmed computers – after 3 more years I moved to materials science and found it endlessly fascinating, so I struck with that ever since.
Right now I have a long job title “Global Manager Process Development & Innovation” for a multi-billion Euro materials company called Imerys.
I understand the properties of all the stuff around us – plastics, glasses, iphones, and how to make them from rocks and crude oil.
I am an engineer, but also a scientist. If anyone tells you you can’t be both, they are probably boring.
What gets me up in the morning is learning about how the world works – how does electricity work, how does sunlight work, how does sound work?
I somehow figured out a way to get paid to try figure these things out!
I am also lucky that the stuff I help make is all around us, from car bumpers to house-bricks to pints of beer – which is rather satisfying, even if nobody knows about my teeny-tiny contribution.
My Typical Day
I have no typical day!
I have lots of different days – OK I guess some days I stay home, log into my computer once the kids are at school and tackle my to-do list (usually emailing people who have problems with help, or more often, the names of experts they can call).
But most of my work-days I am travelling – I work for a big materials science company and we make all the ingredients for all the stuff around you – bricks, glass, cars, computers, facial scrub… and we have to get these ingredients from mother earth.
Nature has helped us: over billions of years, the earth has twisted and melted and boiled all the rocks so that sometimes, in some places, useful materials can be found – gold nuggets, coal, clay, diamonds and so on. They are all over the place and so I travel a lot, visiting interesting quarries and the interesting factories where they are turned into TVs and magazines and xboxes.
And yes, I *am* saying magazines are made of rocks… you will have to join my chat to find out if that’s really true!
What I'd do with the money
Help get an engineering mentoring portal working…
I would love to see if we could somehow get a mentoring network working, a place where young engineers can find more experienced engineers to discuss their career, their subject, anything. I would have loved to have had more mentors when I was younger.
Mentoring portals exist, but they are not known about, and for sure not working as well as they could.
I already spend quite a big portion of my time mentoring, but I would love to make it easier for others – especially I would like to tap into retired engineers. My best mentor was 76 when I met him!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Love, solving, problems.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
ELO? Too old fashioned? Are Mumford & Sons more cool? Actually there is something in the song ‘Stressed Out’ by Twenty One Pilots that really appeals to me – I’ll go with that.
What's your favourite food?
Flame-grilled steak with fine red wine, please.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Survive a full-on dust-storm in a desert!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I used to sneak out of boarding school in Johannesburg to go clubbing. Inevitably I got caught…
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
I am most proud of the first project I managed, which was an additive to beer that stops it going ‘off’.
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
A physicist of course, we covered this already ;)
Tell us a joke.
There are only 10 kinds of people in the world. Those that understand binary and those that don’t…. Ok, that one’s a bit nerdy I admit.
Finally, a morning safety meeting from our factory in California where we make materials to filter plasma out of blood…