Jonathan Pittock

What do you do now?

Since leaving South Craven I’ve pursued a career in RFand Microwave Design, working for various companies. I’m now involved in running a coding club at my daughter’s school, encouraging the next generation of engineers and putting something back into the community.

I originally wanted to be a helicopter pilot, but by the time I joined the Sixth Form I wanted to join the police force instead and not go to university. However, I then decided not to! I didn’t do too well in my A levels, so I wasn’t left with many options.

I was offered an apprenticeship with a traditional metalwork company, working in their prototype radiator department, making radiators for aircraft. My interviewer suggested that I consider university, as I was very capable. As I didn’t have the A levels needed, he asked me if I’d considered an HND (Higher National Diploma). At the time, I was interested in radio and electronics, so an HND seemed like a good idea. I applied to Leeds Polytechnic, and even though I didn’t get the grades, my studies in Maths and Physics helped me get onto the course.

I’d planned to progress to the degree course in Leeds once I’d finished my HND, but Leeds didn’t run the degree programme that year. I’d heard that Bradford University was a good university for electronics, so I applied and got accepted onto their Electronics, Communication and Computer Engineering course. I graduated three years later with First-Class honours, and won an award for best project in radio communications!

The first company I worked for was a large multinational company called Nortel who were responsible for a lot of the technology in every day devices we take for granted these days. They visited Bradford University as part of a careers open day, and I was very impressed with them after chatting to one of the engineers on the stand. Part of my early work was designing synthesizers and low-noise amplifies for something called ‘broadband wireless access’ (essentially broadband data over wireless), long before Wi-Fi or 3G/4G/5G!

Since then, I have designed electronics for mobile base-stations, mobile phones, medical systems, internet-of-thing applications and radar.

One of the things I enjoy the most about my job is when we’re in the initial phases of a new design and working out specifications for the various modules that will be used in the system, and designing the system architecture. No two days are the same, and the projects I work on can last from six months to nearly two years, depending on the complexity of the project. One day I may be using simulation tools, another day I may be working in the lab, or writing a design report or running a design review.

To me, engineering is using science to solve real-world problems. Engineering is multi-disciplinary, so I work with software engineers who write the code that processes the digital data from the radio receiver that I will have designed. You never stop learning, and I’m currently in the process of learning how to code using Python (having learnt different programming languages at university).

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

FAIL means First Attempt in Learning. There’s nothing wrong in getting something wrong, as that’s how we learn – it’s what we do next that matters.

Don’t be swayed by what other people say you can and can’t do. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t succeed the first time – it doesn’t mean you are unable to do it, so don’t beat yourself up.

Try different things. If something doesn’t work out then try something else – although it might feel like it, it’s not the end of the world. There is plenty of time to adjust and try new things. Finally, be yourself and don’t try to be what you think other people want you to be.

What are you most proud of?

Gaining my First-Class degree is probably one of the things I’m most proud of – that and getting my private pilots’ licence (becoming a pilot was one of my early ambitions at school).