Neil Irwin – Lessons learned in Sweden.
This will probably be my last blog post of this placement here in Sweden, and so in this post I want to reflect a little on my placement here. What have my greatest challenges been in this placement, and what have I learnt?
My greatest challenge here has been to learn a large amount of technical information in a very short period of time. During this placement I’ve had to learn:
- How to write (or at least read and understand) scripts written in Python, Matlab, Perl, Batch and Bash programming languages
- The fundamentals of CFD and how to use CFX to analyse turbines
- Automating design analysis using multi objective design optimization software like ModeFrontier and OptiSLang
- Some fundamental physics and aerodynamics relating to turbines
with little to no training and by learning on the job. This has felt overwhelming at times but I think that the ability to remain calm and learn quickly in unfamiliar territory is a very useful skill to develop. I have learnt that the way to overcome these challenges is to remain calm and to believe in your ability, even when the knowledge gap seems huge. It is also important to identify when to seek help, and who the key people are that can provide that help.
Another challenge in this placement has been to define and truly understand the scope of some of my objectives. A previous manager and mentor once told me:
“The hardest part of solving any problem in engineering, is in defining the problem accurately.”
Constantly ask yourself: what are we trying to achieve? Is this project or objective defined in a way that has a clear goal? It’s amazing how often we find ourselves half way through a project only to reflect that the way that we initially defined the problem was too vague, or was incorrect, or was based on the wrong information, or was misunderstood by some of the people involved.
I have learnt that the solution to this problem is communication. I am still working on improving in this area, but I have made good progress by constantly listening and responding to my project customer. If you (or even they) have not accurately defined the problem, you will never be able to find a satisfactory solution. Don’t be afraid to redefine a problem in a better way even halfway through a project – it is not “going back to the start”, its real progress that will lead to a better outcome.
I hope that my experience with these challenges and the learning that has come from them is useful to you. I am looking forward to a whole host of new challenges in my next placement, and trying to figure out how to overcome those too!
As a final note, I want to say thank you to everyone here in Trollhättan that has made me feel so welcome over the last 6 months. It has been a great pleasure for me to work with you all and I will truly be sad to leave.