My name is James and I come from the Wirral near Liverpool.
When I left school I did an apprenticeship with Scottish Power, and then took a job as a technician with them. When I was 24, I asked about ways to progress and develop my skills further and they agreed to sponsor me to study in parallel to my job for a HNC in electrical and electronic engineering by Glyndwr university, Wrexham which was taken at Coleg Cambria, Deeside, one day per week.
How did you find out about the CERN TTE programme?
Usually I attended college every Thursday but one week, I went on a Tuesday to hand in my project. As I walked into the lecturers office I saw this poster coming out on the printer and it was an ad for the CERN TTE programme. It came through as if it was meant to be! My HNC instructor told me this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that I just had to apply. So I did.
I had heard of CERN but never would have dreamed of applying. To me you had to have a PhD to even think of it but this poster said it was open to HNC graduates like me! This was just one month before the end of my HNC graduation, everything was falling into place perfectly.
Scottish Power were sad to see me go but were also very supportive.
Did you have any hesitations?
I was nervous at the prospect of moving to a new country, away from my friends and family , starting a new life alone where I knew no-one. But I decided to give it a try, thinking I wouldn’t get the job… and I did!
So what do you do here at CERN?
I have been here just over a year and work as an electrical technician in the radiofrequency group of CERN’s Beams Department. I actually inject RF into accelerating cavities for linear accelerators, the LINACs, which is the first stage of particle acceleration before entering the acceleration complex. I started on the SPS; the Super Proton Synchrotron for the first 6 months, then moved to the LINACs.
I have to say this was a huge learning curve, I had never worked with RF before, and coming from the power industry to CERN is a completely different field. I prepared myself by reading up on RF before I came and the team have been really supportive and patient. One year on, I have learned so much! I never thought I would know how to accelerate particles inside a cavity…
What were the challenges when you arrived?
I joined a French team, which when you speak no French is a challenge and they struggled with my accent. It was difficult at first to get over the language barrier but with perseverance and French classes I am getting there.
What are the highlights of working here?
It’s a great international team, learning a new language is a bonus, and this area is great for its lakes and mountains, snowboarding every winter… I’m working on state of the art technology and learning so much. I feel proud to be here, and my family are proud.
Any particular messages to other aspiring technicians out there?
Don’t be afraid to apply! It’s not just about your past experience, it’s all about your personality too. And spending time on your application form to get it right makes the difference.
It feels amazing to be here - I still drive home thinking ‘wow’. It seems unreal, working in Switzerland, living in France, having achieved a dream I never thought would ever come true.
How cool is that?
If you're interested in the programme and want to apply, find out more on the programme page.