"My message to other aspiring technicians is: read up about it. Have a look at it. And if you like it, go for it! I do not think you will be disappointed."
The first part of my career was spent doing a 4-year Atomic energy Authority apprenticeship in mechanical engineering, doing 1 week at college, 3 weeks in the workplace which taught me the theory but also the practical side of engineering . I have always worked in science, on fusion projects where I have worked on the Mast project and Joint European Torus project then moving on to Diamond Light Source in the UK, which is similar to CERN in many ways as it operates a synchrotron particle accelerator. This was a user-driven facility but I was interested in working at CERN as it is a world leader in many technologies, where we push boundaries further all the time and have more exciting, hands on opportunities to work on unique experiments.
I joined CERN just over a year ago and am part of the Magnets, Superconductors and Cryostats group. My role includes preparing cryostats for installation in the tunnel and modifying the LHC interconnection thermal screens. This has included designing the tooling to help with high production rates and then procuring all the components needed to do the modification. I also work on other projects such as ISOLDE helping with the design of a new cryo module, writing assembly procedures and have gained a lot of new experience already. What’s interesting has been writing procedures about things which don’t yet exist as it takes a lot of visualising and working out how they will all come together: this is where my past experience of assemblies on projects really comes into its own.
One of the highlights of working here are the number of nationalities you work with daily. Another highlight, even though the first two months were tough, is learning French. Many colleagues in my area of work speak only French so it has been full immersion learning, but because of this I have learned to speak the language fast. CERN offered me French lessons, so by taking these and then using the language on site it has been a real benefit. Recently I even interviewed the contractors in French, and now supervise them, in French! The site is huge, which is a challenge, you deal constantly with different people and it’s good to find your marks and find out who does what quickly.
As to living in the Geneva area, it’s great being situated between mountain ranges and lakes. I’m getting to know it and it’s very international, But we’re now actually moving a little further away in the countryside to be more immersed in the French culture and language.
Working at CERN is working with the best; it’s the pinnacle of my career I’d say. Having CERN on your CV, even if for a limited duration speaks volumes: it’s a world leader, the biggest science place on earth and as it’s been in the news so much, there are not many people who do not know about it. You get to work with huge and varied experiments; you get pushed to your limits and given responsibility you may not be given elsewhere. I think the job is also what you make it; there is plenty of room for initiative here. Generally I find everyone at CERN very enthusiastic and full of energy for the work to be done, which is a good sign that it is a great place to come and work!