Marine dreams

About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and engineers like Martin Chan help to create ways of travelling across it.

From transporting products to different countries, to protecting the seas and helping get energy from under the sea-bed, Martin helps Rolls-Royce create the propellers, boats or products their customers need.

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Martin gets to travel the world as an engineer too, and in a year has worked in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Australia - everywhere there’s water!

Name: Martin Chan
Age: 23
Job title: Graduate Marine Engineer
A-levels: Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry (AS-Level: Further Additional Maths, Geography)
University degree: Oxford University, Engineering Science (MEng)
Where do you live? Ålesund, Norway

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What does your company, Rolls-Royce Marine, do?
Rolls-Royce Marine designs and supplies a huge variety of marine equipment, from the chair on the bridge of the boat, all the way down to the propeller blades, and everything in between. The one big thing we don’t do is weld ships together (although we can design it for you), otherwise the product range is huge!

Tell us about your job:
I am currently acting as the "Assistant Head of Engineering Propulsion Operations". What this means is that I help co-ordinate all the areas of the business which affect Rolls-Royce Marine propulsion products. My work mainly involves ensuring the customer-facing part of our business is in sync with our product centres, who design and assemble the products.

How does your work affect people’s lives and the world around us?
I'm currently helping to look after propulsion products in Rolls-Royce Marine.

Our products and customers have a huge impact around the world. We split our customer into three main categories: “merchant”, “naval” and “offshore”. Roughly speaking: “merchant” transports the world’s goods; “naval” protects national interests and “offshore” contributes heavily to the world's energy production. People tend not to notice the marine business as much as our bigger brother, civil aerospace, but I definitely feel we are involved in the supply chain of many products and services affecting many aspects of everyday life we take for granted.

My current role, in this larger picture, is to help ensure our products are meeting customer expectations now and in the future. This covers a large variety of tasks, from producing budgets to strategies.

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Tell us about the graduate scheme you have a place on?
I am currently on the “Rolls-Royce Marine Norwegian Professional Excellence Graduate training programme”, meaning I change roles every 4-6 months. This leads to an exciting and unpredictable lifestyle, having to change locations, managers and environments constantly. In my opinion it’s the best way to find out where you fit in the company and see how a multi-national company works.

I have so far taken on a variety of roles, including Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Azipull Technical Support and Engineering Management. Most corners of the company are open to taking in graduates for rotations; it’s just a case of finding the right manager!

You also travel a lot in your job…
The marine industry is truly international, with our service bases reaching every corner of the world (where there's water...). My official home office is Ålesund, Norway but in the last year I have lived in two cities and worked in nine different offices in the UK, Sweden and Finland, where our product centres are based.
My next rotation will be based in Sydney, Australia, supporting our Naval business – I’m not sure if you can travel too much further than that for business!

Would you recommend a career in engineering?
Definitely! Engineering is a broad term, allowing you to mould your own career and point it in the direction you feel comfortable with.

What personal qualities are important for being an engineer?
Today’s problems are incredibly complex so being able to express your ideas is vital for success! Communication skills are tested even further in a truly international business. What I mean by this is not only do you need to be able to deliver your thoughts, but the ability to read and react to people’s reactions, taking into account the topic and cultural differences. This makes work life very interesting!

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(Martin sent us a "postcard" from Australia, where his next rotation at Rolls-Royce is based)

How did you become interested in engineering?
I enjoyed maths and science but wanted to be closer to reality than theory.
How important were your school subjects for what you do now?
Very, maths and science are arguably universal languages all over the world and will give you a strong foundation in any type of engineering.

What advice would you give to people who are interested in working in a similar job to you?
To get the best opportunities you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd with more than just a degree. I think my kind of engineering is done outside the classroom, so make sure you get some experience outside the classroom. Take risks! (and re-name them as “opportunities”)

If you could go back in time, what major invention would you want to create?
Ok, I’m going to go big here and lay claim to written language or the wheel.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Skiing is huge here in Norway and I’m embracing it! Once the snow retreated, I spent much of my free time outside: climbing, rowing, running and hiking around the Norwegian fjords.


More links

The Department of Engineering Science at Oxford University
Rolls-Royce Marine
Rolls-Royce Professional Excellence Graduate Programme