Thomas Sutherland

19 August 2019
Hardware Engineer

Meet Thomas who completed his Technical Apprenticeship with Leonardo in summer 2019 and now works on the Eurofighter Typhoon Radar integrating current and next-gen systems. Since joining the company in 2015, he has had many notable achievements, including being named Apprentice of the Year at the 2019 IET Awards.

What did you study at school?

At school I primarily studied STEM subjects such as Physics, Product Design, Craft Design Technology and Graphic Communication. I really enjoyed all of these subjects, as they allowed me to use my technical ability in a creative way. When it came to revising for the exams however, I struggled to focus, which led to poor results. After school, my options were limited due to my exam results. I applied, but I was unsuccessful for a number of apprenticeships. As I didn’t just want to give up and get a ‘normal’ job, I decided to go to my local college to study a HNC in Mechanical Engineering.

Why did you think an apprenticeship was the right path for your career development?

After college I had the option of going to university. However, the whole ‘academic’ thing just didn’t give me a clear enough picture of the end goal. I also felt that I had good communication and technical skills that were not being fully utilised. I figured an apprenticeship would be an excellent fit for me, and would provide me with a real life context for my academic learning.

Tell us what you do in a typical day

I currently work on the development of current and next generation systems for the Eurofighter Typhoon Aircraft. As part of the Hardware Integration team, I have to consult with the Firmware, Software and Systems Engineers to ensure the Receiver not only works, but meets the requirements of our customer.

I have also been involved in developing MATLAB scripts to perform complex data analysis, designing radar test equipment and liaising with external companies to outsource work.

Externally, I’ve recently taken up the roles of Treasurer and Co-Chair for the IET Young Professionals Committee here in the South East of Scotland. Using this platform, I’d like to work with the committee to build a network for young engineers in the area.

A "life-changing" experience – Thomas Sutherland

What has been your best moment / biggest achievement as a Leonardo apprentice?

In October 2019, I was named IET Apprentice of the Year. I was speechless, but it feels very special. My Mum was in the audience and got to see me win.

Winning the Leonardo Apprentice of the Year award in 2018 was a huge personal highlight, as this was a goal of mine since the day I was offered the job. When I set myself this goal, I had the mindset that I’d probably not manage it, so it was an excellent feeling being able to prove myself wrong!

I’ve also had the honour to attend some amazing events during my time as an apprentice. In July 2018, I was asked to attend the US Ambassador’s reception for young leaders in the UK. In September, I was invited to the Braemar Gathering attended by the Queen to celebrate RAF 100. The week after, I supported a STEM event in Dumfries House and met Prince Charles. Not a bad year if you ask me!

What are your career aspirations?

Since September 2019, I've been continuing my development by joining the third year of a BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

After my degree, I’d like to either continue to progress down the technical route and gain Engineering Chartership, or get involved in the business/management aspects within the company.

I hope to continue to work on next generation electronics and learn more about how we manage innovation on our systems of the future. I’m a geek for anything cutting-edge, so I know that this would keep me passionate about engineering far into the future.

I also want to maintain my involvement in encouraging and developing the next wave of STEM workers/students.

Why should someone consider an apprenticeship at Leonardo?

I see zero drawbacks to an apprenticeship at Leonardo over any other possible route into the industry. In my opinion, the reason this apprenticeship is so much better than going to college or university, is the fact that you get to work with multiple industry-leading engineers every day. It’s kind of like having loads of personal engineering tutors who can help you solve real life engineering problems. I can’t think of anywhere else that adds this much value to your life and actually pays you at the same time.