Life at Sapphire: Senior Design Engineer

In the second of our Life at Sapphire series we head to the Engineering quarters to talk to David and discover his contribution and aspirations for Sapphire.

How were you introduced to Sapphire?

A former colleague from Cambridge University’s Engineering Department introduced me to Richard Parmee, Sapphire’s Director and Founder. He knew Richard was looking for someone to join the team and thought I’d be a good fit, that was 2 and a half years ago.

What were you brought in to work on and how has that changed during your tenure?

Initially, I was brought in as technical lead on our side shoot systems (these are x-ray machines typically used to inspect jars, tins and cans in a horizontal direction). I was developing software and hardware as well as helping with mechanical design.

Many of our early sales were in Europe and I became the ‘go-to’ person for our European distributors, then the liaison for USA and now find myself heading up the joint venture we recently embarked upon there.

So, from a heavily technical role I’ve moved into a more commercial one, that said the commercial aspect requires technical know-how. I’d say my work is currently split 70% commercial and 30% technical.

What academic skills transferred well into your working role and what skills have you discovered whilst working at Sapphire?

My PhD was in nanoscale structure growth and there were some useful transferable skills such as electrical engineering and experimental design skills.

People often expect to hear how my degree enabled me to succeed in my role, I’ve found its’ soft skills that have been the most useful – such as project management, the ability to learn new things quickly, being able to explain concepts to people and leading projects with multiple stakeholders.

Since joining Sapphire, from having no formal programming experience, I am now a competent and everyday programmer. As my role has diversified, I’ve developed customer engagement and relationship management skills as well as learning business acumen, commercial awareness and leadership strategies.

What has been the most exciting project you have been part of at Sapphire?

Setting up our US company, guiding it from point zero to an established multi-person team.

What excites you most about the company?

We take on challenges that other companies do not have the capacity to accommodate or respond to. This gives us all the opportunity to expand our careers and challenge ourselves and certainly makes every day interesting and different.

What question are you most frequently asked by prospective employees leaving academia?

Less of a question and more a misconception is that many believe they need to arrive with a deep understanding of x-ray and our technology. This isn’t the case as I’ve personally proved.

We’re looking for people with the right outlook and attitude, general programming experience and a STEM background are useful, but we can develop the skill set you need here.