Interview with Michel, a young aeronautical engineer

We had the opportunity to meet Michel, a young graduate in aeronautical engineering, who has been working for two years in a service provider company. He’s working on the latest aircraft models and top secret projects that he won’t tell us about! On the other hand, we will focus a little more on his career path and his experience as a young graduate looking for a job on the job market.

1 – Could you tell us a little more about your studies, diploma and specialty?

I entered an engineering school specializing in aeronautics directly after obtaining my Bachelor of Science degree. The course consists of 2 years of pre-integrated preparation, followed by 3 years of engineering studies, including 2 years of specialization. I chose to specialize in Aeronautical Systems Design, which allowed me to deepen my knowledge in the field of aeronautics while consolidating my various skills acquired during my training.

2 – In your experience, is access to working life difficult for graduates of the aeronautical engineering sector?

The aeronautics sector is very large and is one of the sectors that is currently recruiting the most. Working in this sector is therefore not difficult.

Many opportunities are available today. The question that I think the graduate is asking himself – and that I asked myself – is about choosing what he wants to do. The aeronautical professions are very broad, for example there is maintenance, validation, software design, logistics, calculation, simulation, etc. Things you can see at school, but only scratch the surface. It is therefore important to choose a field in order to target the right trades and companies.

For my part, I liked three areas. After interviews, two of these areas seemed difficult to access with my profile and skills after school. As a result, I turned to the third one, which is embedded software design/validation.

The first company I worked for was a service company that I joined following the cooptation of one of my classmates who shared the same domain preference. My other classmates found in their respective fields either with their final internship or after 1 to 4 months after graduation. So I would say that it’s quite encouraging as a sector.

3 – How was your first interview for a first position?

My first interview was with a sales representative, very friendly and encouraging. He gave me confidence for the next step, namely the interview with the project manager (technical interview) and the N+1 interview.

4 – In your opinion, what are the qualities required for the position of aeronautical engineer? On what points do recruiters insist?

The qualities necessary for any engineer are, for me, rigour, professionalism, autonomy and the ability to adapt quickly.

Recruiters focus on the candidate’s ability to argue, how he or she responds and how he or she behaves (if he or she is comfortable and fluent when speaking). This is a very important point for an aeronautical engineer, because communication is key. An aeronautical engineer never works alone, so he must be able to communicate clearly with his colleagues. A rather reserved candidate is therefore at a greater disadvantage than others during an interview.

5 – What works best for getting a job based on your experience and that of your classmates?

What works best in my experience and what I have heard is the cooptation by one of the classmates or people who know you, because they are the ones who will be able to sell you the best. In addition, companies generally have more confidence in a acquaintance than in an unknown person, which is why they set up cooptation bonuses.

But nothing should be neglected, any help is good to take.

6 – Now that you have been in office for 2 years, what are the ups and downs you may encounter?

Aeronautical engineers are managers: therefore, overtime is not paid. There are so-called recovery days, but they are not implemented everywhere. In addition, your contract will usually stipulate 38 hours per week at the beginning, but you will usually work more than 40 hours. There are rush periods, but also off-peak periods (holidays in particular).

Despite the fact that you don’t have much work during off-peak periods, you won’t do so many hours, because the mentality in France is: to be seen better or rather not to be seen badly, you have to work long hours and work big days. While in other countries, working overtime means that you don’t work well enough and you’re late!

7 – You work with a service provider company, do all engineers go through this type of company? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of being hired by them?

Not all engineers necessarily go through this type of company.

It is important to obtain the position you want and the company that goes with it because when you leave a “classic” engineering school (excluding the grandes école: ENS, Polytechnique, SUPAERO, etc.), it is not easy to directly integrate the major aerospace industries (Airbus, Thales, MBDA, Dassault, Snecma, etc.), or even impossible for some.

This is where service companies come in. They give us the opportunity to work for these key accounts and thus enrich our CVs. The goal in general is to gain enough experience and to make yourself known to companies in order to be able to obtain opportunities that you would not necessarily have at the beginning of your career. Service companies also make it possible to work for different accounts, to work on different subjects or different jobs, thus diversifying one’s skills, something that is less achievable when entering an industry.

The disadvantages of service companies would be that you are potentially paid less, you have fewer advantages (EC, participation/interest, etc.) and the missions can be of short duration. Depending on the companies, it is possible that once your initial mission is completed, the company will place you on a mission that is not adapted or that you will not necessarily like and career development will then be very limited.

8 – In your opinion, what are the assets that a young graduate in aeronautical engineering should put forward to get a job in maintenance?

Autonomy, teamwork skills and motivation.

9 – Each profession often has “bad” sides, which ones have you encountered so far?

The only problem I was able to encounter was in the quality business. It is the person who comes to check your work at the end of a project before submitting it to the client and can therefore have you touch up things “just” to make them “presentable”, which can be quite annoying especially at the end of the project.

Otherwise, it should be noted that industries and service companies do not have the same trades and skills. Since it is the industries that are the customers of service companies, the professions of service companies are often less well regarded than those of industries.

10 – Have you noticed any differences between what you can read about your job in articles and what happens in real conditions?

From what I have read in articles about my profession, I observe that what is written is more embellished than reality. Wages are high, it says that the market is flourishing and that it recruits a lot. What they do not say is that a significant part of this recruitment is for engineers with some experience.