To become a Chartered Engineer: Journey through the IMechE

The e-mail started off with the date and time stamp; I ignored it. The next line stated my previously known membership number and I was least bothered. The third line started off as “Dear Dr B Aresh CEng MIMechE” and I knew I had arrived. After that, I only have a passing memory of reading through the whole e-mail with my mind muffled with excitement. So what’s next? I asked and the answer was obviously – write about it.

The first time I heard about a ‘Society’ was when in the year 2004 I arrived in the UK to undertake a Masters level course in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Leeds. To a packed lecture hall full of national and international students, the Formula Student Race team enlightened us about the Society of Automotive Engineers, the previous cars built and the future car they would build, the role of each team members and finally a call for volunteers to join their team. Being a Mechanical engineering student I volunteered to do what I could do best at that point of time – I built and maintained their website! That experience made me realise the importance of ‘belonging’ to a society.

 

Fast forward a few years and I find myself at Northumbria University starting out on a PhD that intended to study the cutting of rocks with various tools for use in the oil and gas industry. So while in my PhD, the constant keywords that kept emerging were – paper, conference, journal, publish, society and membership. They were all interconnected. And so I started a serious hunt to track down relevant societies and join them. Since my research dabbled in Mechanical, Civil and in a very minor part, Geology, I ended up becoming a Student member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Petroleum Engineers, ASTM International and a Member of the International Society of Rock Mechanics and the British Geotechnical Association. Most of my choices were based on the fact that they were either free to join or they had reduced fee for student members. Observe that I have not mentioned the IMechE so far.

 

Few more years pass and I finally land a job at GE Oil and Gas. The benefits were many and one of them, I was told, was to help me progress towards a Chartered Engineer title and pay for a membership to a relevant society, I reiterate, ‘a’ relevant society. And my manager turned out to be an active member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). My choices in the societies that I could be in, narrowed down pretty quick. So IMechE finally found me. I let my membership for the other societies lapse.

Membership

So sometime in late 2013 after a presentation at our company by the one of the IMechE Regional Development Manager called Denis, I initiated the process of becoming a part of the institute. The IMechE website has an easy to read layout and I was able to find immediately the level of membership that I needed to start with. It will be a good idea for anyone to read through the different grades and choose the appropriate level. The website also features a route finder tool to allow you to easily find your membership level. I ended up with the ‘Associate Member’ level and applied online. A month later I was eligible to use the title ‘AMIMechE’.

The Qualification Checker:

For someone like me who held their first degree from a university outside of the UK, I had to submit information into an online form called the ‘Qualification Checker’. This was necessary to check whether the degree I held was accredited by the IMechE or other institutes. It is a simple form where you feed in your academic qualification . In my case though I was requested to send more information, which naturally enough took me to the next step towards registration.

The Academic Review

The assessment of your academic qualifications is an important part of the application process but takes a bulk of the time to complete. It is important to note that this review is undertaken by volunteer IMechE members and it is they who are investing their valuable time to ensure things are in order, so remember to give something back once you reach that stage.

 

Generally, an assessment would take up to two months, if all the required documents were submitted at the time of application. It took 5 months for me as I had to supply additional documents. So my advice is to get this done and out of your way much before you make the final application. This process is a thorough review of your academic achievements against the benchmark requirements of either the CEng or the IEng route to registration.

The Longest Step

So sometime in October 2014, I was happy to know that my academic assessment has been found satisfactory by the Institute and that I can proceed happily to making out a CEng application. Easier said than done!

Here is where we all need to head to the Engineering Council and the UKSPEC – the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence. The alphabets A, B, C, D and E take on an all new meaning for they spell out the set of competencies and commitments required of you. I read and re-read the competence list and pulled examples from my experience and threw them into the required box. Writing down your experience to fit in with the competence is no easy task but its got to be done. All that the council needs to know through these competencies are – what is YOUR contribution?

I had missed a few deadlines to fill in the form but sometime in September 2015 I knuckled down and started writing out my application, hopefully targeting an interview date in November. After much sweat and toil, feedback from colleagues and from volunteer IMechE members, I finally had a proof-read, ready to submit application form.

It is ‘I’ all the way. Avoid ‘we’ – the Interview

The interview process is nothing more than a casual ‘chat’ with IMechE members. It is just that. No grilling your memory for that elusive equation, no trick questions posed, no heated discussion and no clash of egos. The people sitting across you are interested to know YOUR contribution and to check all boxes against the competency list. NEVER lie in your application form and certainly don’t lie to them. Take with you to the interview, examples of your work in terms of drawings or photographs. If you have attended courses, take along the certificates. If you write a blog, take along a few examples. If you volunteer, then it’s even great. They would love to know what you have done beyond your usual 9 to 5 job.

 

The interview took place the beginning of November 2015. It is in the IMechE Committee meetings that a final decision is made whether to recommend the name to the Engineering Council or not. I didn’t have to wait long and towards the last week of November I got the congratulatory e-mail from the IMechE.

So what does this all add up to?

Professional registration with the Engineering Council for some is a sign of prestige, a status symbol, something that makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd. It is indeed a culmination of all your skills, experience and hard work. It provides an opportunity to network and further your experience.  But for few others, it may amount to nothing more than an addition to their yearly subscription fee.

It is left to the individual to make use of the title. It may translate to extra pay or landing a dream job and just as well it may not!

The title is a responsibility and hard work and good work ethics will go a long way in upholding it.

Image courtesy: FreeImages.com/Mark Aplet

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