Ben: graduate engineer jet-setting from the office to Japan

Ben talks about his background, his work at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and his advice for upcoming graduates

Our graduate engineer Ben is making the most of his graduate scheme here. He graduated with a degree in mathematics from Portsmouth University, and joined Dstl in April 2022 on the platforms systems graduate scheme. He is currently on his third rotation.

Ben explains what the most exciting thing he has done so far at Dstl is (that he can share):

“My work on Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) which is all to do with new combat air. It was such a great networking and learning opportunity for me.

“I contributed to industry reviews, worked directly alongside subject matter experts - who are a lot higher grade than me - and learnt the role industry plays. It was so exciting to be involved with such high-level senior engagement. I also got to travel to all around the UK, including London, Warton, Bristol and I was even able to go out to Japan!”

He also talks about what he enjoys most about working here:

“For me, the unique problem solving challenges, I find the open-endedness of problems intriguing. Right now, I am working with the Threat Evaluation team on identifying what a mystery piece of kit does - where else can you do that!”

Ben’s advice for a graduate or student considering their options, and potentially looking at Dstl:

“I would advise them to think about what they enjoy and not be swept up into typical career paths. The vast majority of opportunities presented to me at career fairs were focused in finance or investment banking so don’t get caught up in where everyone else seems to be going, it may not be for you!

“For me, going into the civil service was a spring board for more career options. I have been given the scope and opportunity to learn and grow. Flexibility in work is such a sales point and with such a wide variety of work, you won’t be looking for the door. My friends who have joined industry have been pigeon-holed with very specific growth routes…and there’s nothing wrong with that, it just didn’t suit me.

“I’d also advise them to not be deterred if they haven’t got a military background or a complete understanding of the defence industry…it can all be taught. The thing to prioritise is the area and skill you enjoy. I would say go outside your comfort zone.”

The culture here is something else Ben recommends:

“I’m mainly in the office but when I really need to work from home, its useful to have that opportunity. The fact I get fantastic access to world specialists is so unique. One day in the office I can be next to a Radio Frequency specialist and the next an Optic Specialist and work with them on international advice!

“As long as I show a genuine interest, I can have a conversation with anyone, no matter their seniority and their willingness to help is great! I feel respected.”

“Joining the graduate scheme, I have become part of a small cohort which is great because I get a lot of one to one support and attention from my team leader helping to shape my development as personal to me and what I want to achieve. I can also reach out to my peers for support to, or help them. Personally, I am not a member of an employee support network, but I know colleagues that are who have received help from them. I like working for an organisation that offers the support to those who need it.”

Find out how to become a graduate or student at Dstl and explore our current job opportunities.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory