“I never thought it would happen."
James Bracken is in 4th year studying Mechatronics which, he informs us when we ask, isn’t about building Transformers at all. Mechatronics is an Engineering course, and in summer 2014 he undertook the placement of a lifetime, working for the McLaren Formula One Team at their 300 million pound facility in Woking, England.
James applied for the placement as one of a host of applicants. He filled us in on the application process for McLaren.
“It was an online application, so I had to submit my CV and it had to get their attention. I spent hours going through my CV with the Edinburgh Napier Careers and Placement Staff to ensure it was as good as it could be. I tried to work out what they were after and what might get their attention. I was advised that the guy who came to interview me had spent ten minutes looking for the second page of my CV but I had only submitted one page, deliberately. It showed that I was being concise, and it got their attention.”
“It got down to the final candidates, which meant I had 45 minute telephone interview. After that, I asked what the next step was and they said it was a face to face interview. I thought ‘wow, this could really happen!’.
Now that James had made it through the initial interview process, he found himself on his way to England for the face-to-face interview.
“I got to the building and it was so frightening. I thought to myself ‘I may never come here again, I might never step foot in this building again’. After the interview, they informed me that they were still making their decisions, but they advised me they’d tell me as soon as they could. I got the e-mail offering the place and I didn’t know how to react.”
After securing the work placement he'd always dreamed of, James found himself working as just one of a small team at McLaren working in the company's formula one racing department. “It was hard work; the hours were a bit of a killer.” He tells us.
“One of my friends text me after the first week saying ‘how’s it going? what’s the work like?’. My response was ‘Remember that course work we had in 2nd year where we had about 4 weeks to do it? Try doing that in about two and a half hours!'
"It was crazy, but the environment was inspirational. They said to me, you’ll go home and explain to people what it’s like here, but they’ll never really know. It’s not all champagne and drinks every five minutes; it’s a heck of a lot of hard work. There was a lot of stress involved but it was an amazing experience, that’s for sure.”
Having successfully completed such a challenging and fulfilling placement, James also told us the best ways he thinks other students can be successfully recruited on to work placements like the one that he took part in. “You’ve got to believe it, you’ve got to push for it." He says.
"Nobody’s going to give it to you. You’ve got to make the effort, do the extra things and take the opportunities available. If you’ve got 10 people applying for a job in a room and they’ve all got a degree, how are you going to tell them apart? Employers are going to look at the extra things.”
Finally, we asked him the same question we ask all the students; ‘sum up the experience in three words.’
"What I wanted it to be and more. How’s that? Too many words maybe!”