Engineering: A creative career

Posted by Caleb Sawade on 11 July 2018

Change of direction

I was bored at school. I found the core subjects dull and uninspiring. My energy and challenges came from art, music technology and drama so, imagine everyone's surprise (not least my own) when I chose to study engineering at university!

I stuck out the first year of engineering theory and was rewarded in the second year when I got to start putting that knowledge into practice. It was then I realised that engineering offered me the opportunity to do something I loved: create.

In my final year, Dr Caroline Hargrove, the Chief Technical Officer of McLaren Applied Technologies, offered me the chance to complete my final project, supported by the company. With the remit to develop technology for elite sports, I used the skills I had acquired to create a simulator for elite rowing. We'd created something technologically advanced and useful. I felt like my efforts were starting to pay off!

Life in the fast lane

I worked in the automotive industry after graduating when Dr Hargrove convinced me to do a PhD. Funded by EPSRC and co-supported by UK Sport, I worked to design, build and test training simulators for winter Olympic sports. We won a gold medal for British Skeleton in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi... and again in PyeongChang in 2018!

In my current role as Modelling and Decision Sciences Manager at McLaren Applied Technologies, we use maths, physics and programming to solve real-world problems; working with leading companies across sectors such as health, automotive, manufacturing and transport. Maths is in our blood, we talk theory over lunch, and we laugh at geeky cloud computing jokes.

We bring together computational engineering (solving engineering problems with programming), machine learning (data-driven modelling), robotics, and design to help organisations innovate their products in new ways, such as: Working with world-renowned bicycle manufacturer Specialized, we created a full computational model of the bike and rider, which allows their engineers to try new components and concepts in the virtual world. As a result, we have helped Specialize reduce development time and costs so they can produce better bikes, faster.

So, do I regret not pursuing a career in music or art? Absolutely not.

It's not a race, it's about pursuing your dreams

After eight years working at the top of high-performance engineering, I've learnt that the best engineers and data scientists are creative people - both in and out of work. They think about using simple methods in new and crazy ways. They solve complex problems with approaches that no one has tried before, and see them succeed. They aren't afraid to imagine the future and engineer it now. They are the rock stars of the engineering world.

For me - and all aspiring creatives - this Year of Engineering shows you that there are exciting, fulfilling career opportunities to consider in engineering. If you follow your passion, work hard, and stay open minded, a qualification in engineering can take you pretty much anywhere - nothing boring about that!


In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Photo of Caleb Sawade in front of racing cars, and behind a racing bicycle
Name: Caleb Sawade
Job title: Modelling and Decision Sciences Manager
Organisation: McLaren Applied Technologies

Caleb Sawade is the Modelling and Decision Sciences Manager at McLaren Applied Technologies leading a group of Data Scientists and Simulation engineers who work across the industrial sectors of Motorsport, Automotive, Public Transport and Health.

Caleb has a background in robotics and gained his PhD in Engineering Sciences from the University of Southampton. His past research was focused on accelerating learning of elite athletes using virtual environments.