Sophie Hendry is a panel technician and member of the solutions team at Endress+Hauser. The 22-year-old started as an apprentice and is now working in the panel department while studying for an honours degree in industrial engineering.
“I start work at 7am every day. The workshop team rely on each other for certain parts of the job, so we all like to get in at the same time, and we’ll put the radio on and chat as we work. If I’m starting a new job, the workshop manager, Tim, hands me the drawings that have been signed and approved. I typically work on the RSG485 panels, which are simple electrical panels with a display on the front, but the department builds everything from small box-type panels to walk-in kiosks that multiple people can work inside.
There’s a lot of mechanical work to be done on the front of the panel, which we scale up and mark out from the drawing before we cut, file and paint it to protect the panel from corrosion. Virtually everything is done by hand, so we can accommodate any requests from customers. It’s a very personal service. Sometimes our engineers will even deliver the completed panels to site themselves for a quick turnaround. We’ll do anything for our customers!
The electrical components go on the backplate, so we do all the wiring, following the drawings, and then hand it over to a test engineer to check the functionality and add any programming if needed. We always try to stay a few days ahead of the deadline so that everyone has time to complete their part of the project. Because of the bespoke nature of our projects, we can easily alter panels in future to accommodate customers’ changing needs, which saves them time and money because they don’t need to start from scratch.
I first came to Endress+Hauser on work experience as part of my course at an engineering college. After my placement I was offered an apprenticeship. I’ve always been interested in engineering, and when I did my work experience I just loved it – the hands-on side of it really clicked with me. I started as a technical apprentice, which meant I wasn’t assigned to a particular department, so I got to experience all the different areas to see where I fit best. I’m a slightly unusual case because I did a college-based apprenticeship but also took on a university course at the same time, so I was given one day a week for the university course and had to do all the college work in my own time. Initially it was difficult to combine everything, but it was worth it. After I completed my foundation degree and my apprenticeship, I chose to become a full-time panel technician. In September 2020 I started a one-year top-up course to get my honours degree. It’s been a busy few years, but I enjoy learning and always want to know more about why things work a certain way or how to solve problems. Sometimes I need to remind myself to slow down!
We have a solutions team meeting every day at 10.30. It’s an opportunity for me to learn more about our customers and projects. Everyone has a different area of expertise. I’m really interested in the digital communications side of things, and the team are always willing to answer my questions. We have ‘toolbox talks’ on Wednesdays, which either cover health and safety topics or things like how to work more efficiently. There’s a strong culture at Endress+Hauser that emphasises everyone working in the same way to the benefit of the customer. For example, we like all our panels to look the same with the Endress+Hauser label a certain distance from the edge. That precision exists in everything we do. Even though I’ve only worked here for four years, because I know the ‘Endress+Hauser way’, I’ll sometimes teach the other technicians who’ve been in the industry for decades but may not have worked with the company for long. We all learn from each other, so it works well.
We have an online training platform, and we’re required to keep our skills up to date in areas such as electrical safety, PAT testing and risk assessments. I’ve just renewed my safety passport, so I’m hoping to spend more time on site when I’ve finished my studies. I’m often the only woman on training courses or in the workshop, but I’m used to it. I do get some funny looks sometimes, but I like to surprise people and prove that I am capable of doing the job.
I finish work around 3.30. I don’t have much time for hobbies after work, but before the pandemic I enjoyed playing volleyball and netball. I’m also involved in several Endress+Hauser groups, such as the Women’s Integrated Network, which aims to increase the number of women in leadership positions in the company. I try to find pockets of time throughout the day to get involved in those things because I’m quite outgoing and like being around different people.
I’m hoping that when I finish my degree later this year I’ll be put on the junior project engineer plan, which is a four- or five-year training schedule to learn everything you need to know to become a project engineer. Getting to grips with the job has been amazing, and when I’ve finished university, I’m confident that I’ll be able to hit the ground running!”