Introducing Sandy Simpson, our chief engineer and the first guest of "Meet the Experts." This exclusive content series highlights stories and valuable insights from different experts at Sparrows.
Back in 1999, Sandy started his career with us as a project engineer. “But it doesn't feel like it's been that long," he says. Explore Sandy's story both inside and outside of Sparrows below!
What are the key aspects of your role?
I’ve just moved into this role, having been head of engineering since January 2019. The main difference in moving to the chief engineer role is that I now take more of an overview of all engineering matters throughout our operations and projects teams, from bid, proposal, planning, delivery, project close-out and throughout the operational phase of the systems and equipment we look after. This involves working more closely with the leadership of those teams and drawing on the extensive knowledge and experience of our subject matter experts (SME) to ensure the most appropriate solutions are being applied, that work is carried out safely, in a timely and cost-effective manner and that quality and compliance requirements are satisfied. It is important that these aspects are considered from the earliest stages of a project so that work is planned and executed appropriately.
How long have you been with Sparrows Group?
I started with Sparrows in May 1999, so I’ve been with the company for 24 years now. It doesn’t at all feel as long as that, though. During that time, the company has grown and evolved constantly, and there have always been new challenges and opportunities that have more than kept my interest.
I started off as a Project Engineer in our old hydraulics facility on Woodside Road, then moved through a number of roles and job titles, including senior project engineer, engineering manager, principal engineer, global technical authority – hydraulics, head of engineering and now chief engineer.
What’s your background/qualifications and previous experience?
I’ve always been fascinated by how things work, so I think I was always destined to be an engineer. My dad’s side of the family owned the local garage and blacksmith’s shop, and my mum’s side had a farm just outside the village, so I was involved in fixing and making things from an early age. I learned so much during those times, and I have drawn on those experiences all through my life.
I was fortunate enough to be accepted onto the Shell Expro Technician Training Scheme (SETTS), joining as a school leaver at the age of 16. This consisted of three years of onshore training (practical and theoretical) leading to an HNC in Multi-Disciplinary Engineering and then one final training year working offshore as a trainee operations technician.
I spent a further two years offshore on the Brent Bravo platform as an operations technician with Shell before deciding to go into full-time study, leading to a BEng (Hons) in Engineering Technology.
I then worked for a number of companies where I specialised in hydraulics and completed the FP1, 2, 3 & 4 Hydraulics courses at the University of Bath.
I joined Sparrows in 1999 and gained Chartered Engineer status in 2002.
How many years of experience do you have working in your area of expertise?
My career has gone through different stages, and at each stage, the primary focus has been slightly different. I suppose it could be broken down as follows:
How things work: Pretty much all my life!
Identifying and applying the most appropriate solution to engineering problems: Again, for most of my life. I learned a lot about that working with my dad in the garage – that’s something he is still really good at.
Multi-disciplinary engineering: Since at least the age of 16 – so getting on for 40 years now!
Hydraulics: 25-30 years.
Compliance and Functional Safety: Mostly over the past 5-10 years.
Engineering as a dimension of business: More focus on this during the past 3-5 years in my current and previous roles.
What’s one thing you would want people to know about what you do?
A lot of what I do comes down to applying engineering judgement.
This comes from a combination of knowledge, experience, lessons learned, advice and input from the very good people I’m fortunate to work with and have worked with throughout my career.
How would you sum up your expertise?
Expertise is a relative term; you can never know everything about a topic. Engineering is a great leveller, and no matter how well you think you understand something, now and again, something will happen that will make you think, “I would never have expected that to happen!”.
But if you are interested in something, you will always want to know more and understand more about it, always want to know how to improve and do it better next time. You never stop learning.