From Apprentice Technician To IET Fellow At 39, IET Member Paul Meenan Takes Us On His Emotional Journey!

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Paul Meenan is an engineer on a mission to share knowledge and learn. This mission has taken him from being an apprentice electrician to recently becoming an IET Fellow at the age of 39. 

Paul has also just taken on a new role as an asset manager with a train operator having recently moved from the Transport for London (Tfl) Docklands Light Railway (DLR) engineering management team where he was the small team’s one and only electrical and mechanical (E&M) engineer.

18af4ada9c406515965199bd0d43633f-huge-pa“I know what I don’t know and I’m not ashamed to say it”

"I’ve served the E&M sector at all levels from being ‘on the tools’ through to supervisor, site engineer, project engineering, project manager, auditor and consultant. I put passion and pride in all I do. I know what I know and I’ll fight for it, and I know what I don’t know and I’m not ashamed to say it. Otherwise, when will you ever learn?"

This attitude has taken Paul far. As a true self-starter, he’s gone out of his way to devour every speck of sector knowledge that he can.

"I always went off to learn all I could. I never understood the language of engineers but now I know how all the departments and engineering businesses work, simply because I went away and learnt everything I could about my industry".

This fire in Paul’s belly didn’t go unnoticed by his colleagues and superiors. During his career he’s been handpicked for several unique roles and projects, including being the business’ E&M, systems engineering and innovation ‘knowledge champion’ as well as rebuilding the Shepherds Bush London Underground station, which he delivered the services scope in a record setting time of 18 weeks. By the age of 24 he’d become EDF’s National Inspection Council (NIC) qualified supervisor, and was responsible for signing off project works valued at over £100m.

Professional Registration

Although it took Paul 14 years to apply for chartership he actually first heard about professional registration shortly after completing his electrician’s apprenticeship.

“I didn’t give it a thought until a few years later when I took a new role at EDF. Someone mentioned joining the then IEE and I said they’d never let me in, I’m just a sparky!

So with help from my managers, I applied and became TMIET. Once a member I started looking into things more and discovered EngTech, IEng and CEng. Looking into the competences I thought I could tick the IEng box without a doubt.

As an electrician it’s tough to find the time to focus on professional development as you’re working full-time, so I decided I’d find my own way. I booked holiday to do my training courses and 
525ab574d6ba4f909ab153c1cbde274a-huge-paonline CPD and I did every course I could.

I thought, I’m gonna go for IEng. I may not have the formal qualifications, but I make up for it with the sheer depth of experience I have on the railways. Alongside my training I also pushed my boundaries in the workplace, leading large teams and delivering unique projects.”

Paul finally began completing his IEng application form, but then everything stopped when he was pulled onto a large, time-consuming project. Left by the wayside for several more years, Paul picked up the forms again after taking a new job at TfL.

“I decided to take another crack at IEng and so did the online assessment, which came back saying I should apply for CEng. I thought what the hell, let’s give it a go!”

Over the next three years Paul spent his weekends and Christmas breaks working through his application and finally completing it.

“I later received an email from IET Career Manager, saying my application was closed. I thought what the hell does that mean? I ended up going outside and ringing up the IET to ask and I was congratulated on a successful CEng application. I screamed down the phone at the poor woman”.

Paul believes attaining CEng has definitely had an impact on his career and improved his confidence. As an avid supporter of sharing knowledge, he’s now using his experiences to help others achieve professional registration by mentoring colleagues.

Becoming an IET Fellow

“When I finally got CEng I thought holy crap, what do I do now? So I went onto the IET’s website and saw an article that said come up with a goal and write it down.

I thought to myself, I’m going to write an article for Wiring Matters. I’m going to take something specific and interpret into layman’s terms for all my fellow ‘hairy arsed electricians’. I’d been presenting for a few years and this was something I was becoming known for, getting through the ‘technobabble’ and explaining the wiring regs in a more accessible way. This seems to be going down really well, as I’m getting asked to present more and more, which is incredibly humbling.”

Paul’s next ambition was to go back into Havering College for his annual talk and say “I’m an IET Fellow, a chartered engineer and I’ve only got a City and Guilds”.

Paul has gone on to do just that by achieving the impressive feat of becoming an IET Fellow at just 39! His career continues to surpass expectations and his journey is by no means slowing down.

The future…

Paul has more plans for the future. “I founded the e5 (denoted by the #e5) group and was privileged to stand up in front of 400 IET volunteers and tell my emotional life story, also got to brief them first as to what e5 is...! And that's next year’s journey planned. I am volunteering with the team at the IAM helping out where I can and giving talks on lighting to the ILP (institute of lighting professionals) when I can”.

“It doesn't stop and will never stop, I do wish more people would enjoy what they do at work, and if I can help, let me know, there is fun in everything, you just have to know where to look!”

If you are interested in becoming an IET Fellow go to the Fellows section of the IET website.
Posted by Carl Resch on Dec 6, 2017 9:27 AM Europe/London

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This IET blog provides you with real life experiences of IET members from around the world.  Hopefully these case studies will help to provide insightful ways of how the IET can help you in your career.