Please tell us about yourself

As a graduate engineer at BAE Systems, Ashwin Chandran has embraced opportunities to work with partner universities, and even work abroad in New Delhi

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?

As a schoolboy growing up in his native India, Ashwin Chandran was fascinated by science and technology. By the time he left school a career in STEM was almost inevitable and today he is a manufacturing graduate engineer in BAE Systems’ air sector.

“When I left school I was set on a career in engineering,” he says. “I took a degree in mechanical engineering, as I knew it could lead to a wide variety of industries and career paths.”

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What did you study?

Ashwin completed his BEng at Heriot-Watt University’s campuses in Dubai and Edinburgh, before taking an MSc in manufacturing engineering and management at the University of Nottingham.

He says: “Looking at my options as a graduate recruit, it was BAE Systems that really stood out, simply because of the wide portfolio of work that the company does. It seemed clear to me that once you joined BAE Systems, you had opportunities to experience many different areas of the business.”

Tell us about your career path

Be curious and read a lot about the current advancements within industry
This certainly turned out to be true. Ashwin’s application was successful and he joined BAE Systems’ air sector in October 2016. He says: “I chose the air sector because I was fascinated with planes and have been since I was young. When I flew for the first time it just made me want to learn more about aircraft.”

His first placement was with the firm’s manufacturing technology team in Samlesbury, Lancashire, and his second placement saw him working on Eurofighter Typhoon assembly.

How was the experience at BAE?

“It was a steep learning curve and I was given responsibility very early on,” he says. “Essentially I was working in the role of a supervisor, which was quite daunting at first, but also made me very excited for the future.”

Ashwin also took advantage of BAE Systems’ university partnerships; his next move was at the University of Manchester, a partner of choice for novel materials and advanced manufacturing and one of BAE Systems’ strategic university partners.

He says: “By this stage, I knew that BAE Systems was a company I wanted to stay with for the long term. In this placement I was liaising closely with head office as well as all the other business units, and reporting to the head of manufacturing and materials engineering. I had a lot of autonomy and the trust they showed in me was massive, which only increased my passion to stay with this company.”

What do you do currently?

More recently, Ashwin took a trip overseas for an international placement with Weapon Systems UK. Based in New Delhi, he is working with Mahindra Defence, one of the company’s prime suppliers on the M777 Howitzer programme. On his return to the UK later this year Ashwin will join BAE Systems’ Engineering Sigma Leadership Programme.

He says: “My goal is to continue to learn and broaden my understanding of the business, the manufacturing sector and the huge opportunities that exist, both for the company and for me.”

Your advice to students?

To others who may be considering a career in a STEM industry, Ashwin says: “Be curious and read a lot about the current advancements within industry. You may come across an entirely new concept that you might not even be aware of. Find out what you are passionate about and the kind of work you’d like to be involved in. Finding this balance makes it easier for you to enjoy what you do.

“Finally, look ahead. Understand more about where the industry is heading and new job roles that will develop in the future, and try to link it back to what you are passionate about.”