"I hated education and I struggled with GCSEs. The A Level college I went to also didn’t offer any courses in Information Technology, so I settled for Chemistry, Biology and English Literature. Although I originally had an offer to study Chemistry at Keele University, I didn’t do well enough in my A levels and had to take a step back to re-evaluate my next steps. I had no general direction, but I knew I loved computers and software."
He took a job working as a manual worker making artificial limbs for the NHS, but after 12 months or so, James decided it was time to give education another go. He went on to study software engineering at University, and in 2002 he qualified. He applied to BAE Systems straight out of university and has been there ever since. Fast forward 20 years, he’s now a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and has worked on some epic projects on both crewed and uncrewed platforms!
I discovered my passion for software engineering one day after my Granny brought home a Computer Aided Knitting Machine. SThe Sinclair ZX-81! The machine needed programming and she let me help use it - from that moment on, my love for software engineering was born – I was utterly addicted!" James, Licensed Technologist for FalconWorks
Two of his Grandparents were in the RAF, with another being an engineer at Marconi, so there's always been a passion for military aviation. He grew up close to the, then, British Aerospace site at Lostock (now MBDA), and was a Cadet in the Air Training Corps.
My ambitions were clear - I either wanted to fly military aircraft, or work on them. Sadly my eyesight wasn’t good enough to be a Pilot, but I’ve always advocated following your dreams, so I decided to apply for the BAE Systems Graduate Development Programme instead. To my surprise, shock, and excitement I was invited to an assessment centre and the rest is history!"
When asked to consider what his favourite part of his
job is he said:
"We are in very exciting times – the pace of change in the technology sector is accelerating on a daily basis. Technologies that we thought were decades away are coming to fruition in just months and years."
His role as a Licensed Technologist is to ensure that technology planning meets the future needs of the business and to manage the capability roadmap of new and emerging technologies. As well as leading the development of some cutting-edge technologies the team are always keeping tabs on what the next big thing is. Career highlights for James include; being part of the ground crew on the very first flight of the Typhoon Tranche 2 Mission Computers, picking up a Tablet computer he’d designed from the cockpit after its first flight in a Tornado, right through to his current role in FalconWorks® where he's working on an uncrewed systems.
We maintain capability roadmaps covering business needs over the next 5, 10, or 20 years – essentially mapping out where we need to be, and what steps we need to take to evolve and mature our capability in the meantime to get there. We also have a shelf of fantastic ideas and concepts ready to be used. It's my job as a Licensed Technologist to continually restock that shelf, so that when we are set a challenge that we don’t have an answer to, we have can look to our existing innovations and concepts for inspiration."
"I don’t see what I do as work. As a hobbyist, I apply the same passions at home too. I make sequenced Christmas lights, Remembrance day displays, and Halloween displays with automated candy dispensers – everything has embedded computing!”
For those young people getting their exam results right now, when it comes to advice on how to tackle the next big step, James thinks there are two main attributes you need to have to pursue a career in engineering;
The first vital skill is problem solving! In my career to date, not once has ‘Plan A’ worked. It’s about taking a step back and working out how you can get around it, adapt, and fix it. The next vital skill is proactivity. Everything else we can teach."