Danielle Fraser

19 June 2019
Graduate Systems Engineer

Meet Danielle and find out how Leonardo’s graduate scheme has opened up many development opportunities for her, both professionally and around soft skills.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Danielle Fraser and I am a Graduate Systems Engineer from and working in Edinburgh. From an early age, I was interested in learning how the things around me work and why the world is the way that it is; this curiosity eventually led me to study physics at the University of St Andrews. I found myself enjoying the problem-solving and the challenging nature of my degree, and was eager to find work in a similar environment.

Why did you join Leonardo?

I joined the company as a summer student in 2016 and returned for the Graduate Development Programme in September 2017. I stumbled across Leonardo by accident, learning of a company called (then) Selex and some of the Masters programmes at St Andrews that they worked closely with. I remember thinking, “This is what I want to do. What could be more exciting than working in a world-leading technology industry in aerospace?” However, having a degree in physics (with a strong focus on optics), I was apprehensive about taking a job in the engineering sector. Fortunately, my worries were unfounded and I was able to apply my skillset in a different way. The engineering aspects have been very much a crash course, but technically I was shocked to learn how much of my degree was applicable to my work.

What does life on the Graduate Programme entail?

I have been based in the Advanced Targeting department since I started in 2016, working solely on the Miysis DIRCM system. The team is smaller than many others in the company, and consequently it has allowed me to gain experience in a multitude of different areas in my short time here. I have been lucky enough to be involved in data analysis, simulation and modelling, field trials, aircraft integrations, supporting development contract work and production unit testing. The steep learning curve has kept me engaged and constantly learning. Being able to mix up desk work and playing with a robot in the lab, plodding through the north of Sweden and collecting data in a French aircraft hangar were just a bonus!

The graduate programme acts as an add-on, allowing me to further develop my skills in a professional capacity, composed of working modules and awareness sessions. Awareness sessions introduce you to other aspects of the company and provide an overview of the different departments that you could move to or work with in the future. The modules allow you to work with graduates from across the sites in the UK and Italy. There is a strong focus on soft skills, which you may not be developing so readily day-to-day, such as public speaking, understanding emotional intelligence and team building exercises. There are also work scenarios – which run alongside company-specific and informative talks – that allow you to step out of your current role. These have helped me explore my strengths and weakness from a new perspective – I got to lead a team as a project manager and manage the finances of a small country.

The scheme also affords you a personal graduate budget to use for personal development. I spent mine on attending a conference in Amsterdam where I heard expert testimonials from successful women in the field of technology and joined workshops on planning for your professional future. I left feeling very inspired and it helped me begin constructing my own Personal Development Plan.

Working as part of the International Graduate Community has afforded me the opportunity to develop my cultural awareness and working skills through travelling to Italy. The modules themselves have a social element interwoven, by mixing you up with new people for every event and allowing you to work across sites and countries, with evening dinners also planned. The social and team aspects of the Programme have been the aspects that I have found the most enjoyable and have been a great way to meet and learn from others. The integration of the graduates has led to the establishment of a strong sense of community; from the induction day onwards we found ourselves amongst like-minded individuals all ready to learn and begin our careers. This feeling existed both in the office and outside where close friendships have been made.

How are you preparing for the International Graduate Conference?

The work for the International Graduate Conference, the final chapter of the programme, has been a challenge; finding a mutually suitable time for 12 people is not easy, but it has been a unique opportunity to work on and try to understand a current company-wide issue. It has tested the way I am used to working, emphasising the critical importance of having well defined actions in meetings or risk losing communication and team direction. Our team has been working together well with a unified vision and I have found our different cultural perspectives complement our way of working as we often focus on different aspects of the project.

I am pleased to say that my time with Leonardo has not only been enjoyable, but a constant learning experience, with the graduate scheme providing opportunities for self-development and soft skills enhancement, and I hope that as my time here goes on, I will continue to grow as a technical specialist in the field.