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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Keith Brian McGrath PhD CEng MInstMC

Published: 15/09/2022

Keith McGrath at work

Education and qualifications:
PhD in Nano Engineering, De Montfort University
MSc in Electronic Engineering, De Montfort University
BSc in Engineering, Electronic, De Montfort University
HND in Engineering, Leicester Polytechnic
HNC in Electronic Engineering, Leicester Polytechnic
ONC in Electronics, Charles Keene College of Further Education, Leicester

Job title:

Premtech Limited

What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
It is difficult to actually say what inspired me, however, as a young boy I always enjoyed making things, model gliders and boats, taking my bicycle apart, and then rebuilding it. My father was a carpenter, so I suppose some of his skills rubbed off on to me. I never had any thoughts of carrying on in education after obtaining my General Certificates of Education (GCEs) and Certificates of Secondary Education (CSEs), so applied for jobs, left school at 16 and started an apprenticeship at Marconi Radar. I never had any plan or idea of where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do, so I really fell into an engineering career. But saying that, I have enjoyed the engineering journey I’ve been on, and though I probably have not taken the usual route to becoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng), I’ve always been employed since leaving school. All my further education has been by part-time study, gaining the theory side and practical side throughout my career. I achieved Incorporated Engineer (IEng) status after getting my BSc in about 2000 and Chartered status after obtaining my MSc in 2011.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am a Director and an electrical and instrumentation engineer at a medium sized engineering consultancy company, working in the oil and gas industry.

Can you describe a typical working day?
I have a hands-on role, so on a typical day I’m carrying out design work, writing reports, producing drawings, carrying out calculations etc. I also spend time providing support to our younger engineers, dealing with company business, checking and approving designs and reviewing documents.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
I’m on a competent design authorities register, for the gas distribution and transmission companies in the UK, and registered as a design approver and appraiser, for the disciplines of instrumentation and software, including hazardous area equipment and safety related applications. I’ve been on the register since about 2000. This involves approving and appraising designs, mainly from other design houses. The challenges are to make constructive comments with regard to the design, to ensure that it complies with the client’s specifications and legislation, while trying not to impose preferential engineering, as there is always more than one way to carry out a design and still meet the requirements.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Some of the most enjoyable aspects are delving into new technology, producing new designs and researching ─ something that gets the grey matter working. Coming up with new spreadsheets and ways to make life easy is also a pleasure.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Yes, obtaining my research degree, which I stared in my late forties, was a personal and professional achievement. I did this on a part-time basis, over a period of six-and-a-half years, and reduced my working week to four days to allow me to attend university one day a week. This was a long and challenging commitment ─ my research degree was in nano engineering, totally different to my day-to-day activities at work. I believe the research processes which I went through during this period have made me a more rounded engineer.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Job progression was the main contributor to becoming professionally registered. The more senior the role, the more it becomes a prerequisite. Although nothing can replace experience it does demonstrate competence within your field and has enabled me to apply for jobs I couldn’t have otherwise.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Registration has allowed me to apply for positions that I would not have been able to without it. Professional registration demonstrates the level of competence that I have reached in my engineering discipline.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
Professional registration demonstrates to new and prospective clients that the company employs an engineer who has been assessed as having the required competence, so it gives confidence to clients that the company employs competent, professional staff. It also allows my company to charge more for my services.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
If you are considering it, then yes ̶ do it. The important message would be to ensure you record all of your learning; training courses, on the job learning, self-learning etc. Read up on the competence requirements for becoming professionally registered and ensure that your activities at work are aligned, so that the competencies can easily be demonstrated. Having professional status is great, demonstrates a level of competence and will open new opportunities, but doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an expert in your field; that only comes with experience.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
For me, I’m coming towards the end of my working career. If all goes to plan, I expect to be retired or working part time in two years’ time, after a career span of 44 years.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am a member of the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM), Gas Transmission and Distribution Committee, which usually sits four times a year.

In the past I used to build electronic circuits and write software programs, but my hobbies nowadays are playing guitar, gardening and model railways. The closest I get to an engineering-related hobby is building my model railway, as well as making sure my vegetables are nice and regimental, in straight lines and equally spaced.