International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy (SELA) by Hemanshi Galaiya

As a student at TUoS, I have opportunities lying right at my feet that only need to be picked up at the correct time and this year has been the perfect time for me to participate in a life changing program. This exclusive program inspired by the acclaimed Gordon Leadership Program at MIT is an intensive 2-year-long extra-curricular leadership scheme that provides the perfect set-up for me to develop myself even further.

It is a well-known fact that the UK is in shortfall of engineers, especially in industry. What is even more alarming is that there are even fewer people equipped with the skills to become leaders in the industry. TUoS is combatting this situation through a multifaceted program famously known as SELA.

My journey with SELA began sometime in mid-march when applications opened. If you didn’t believe me when I mentioned intensive then let me give you evidence now. Each year applications are opened exclusively to first year students on Meng Courses across all departments. In order to identify visionaries, the application not only requires you to talk about your skills but also demands to known what you aim to get out of the program and what you could bring to the team.
Once, your application has gone through the radar, it is now time to demonstrate all the skills you so flamboyantly mentioned. The next step in the recruitment process in an interview with the board members. Here, you get the opportunity to paint the picture of the type of person you are. First, I was required to talk about the leaders that inspire me. Then, produce a 2 minute long pitch about ‘Why I should be selected to join SELA and what I will bring if I am selected.’ Lastly, I was put under the spot light and asked questions regarding some of the tougher aspects of life such as the biggest challenge I faced and how I overcame it.

Only about 0.02% of all engineering students at the university get into the program. The selection process is rigorous and requires demonstration of leadership and project management capabilities. Now, I know many of you are already thinking about saving yourself the trouble and planning to choose the easier option if being lazy. Yet, I would encourage you to give it a go.

Here is why…

Once, the tough part is over, the best part starts. The SELA program encompasses sessions in which members develop and enhance skills. One of the first steps of the program is an induction boot camp. This year, we were taken to a ‘secret’ location where we spent a weekend packed with small workshops for skill building. In each session we were faced with a different task which required using analytic, theoretic and intuitive skills amongst others. Yet, the best part of the boot camp for a student is undoubtedly the leisure of the swimming pool, sauna and hot baths at the golf resort and the scrumptious food prepared especially to meet your taste.

The last task of our boot camp involved building a marble run. Well, you might think that a marble run is fairly easy to make, isn't it?
However, the twist was that we had to do it in 3 different teams each of which were given a different set of information to build a different section of the marble run. That wasn't all, the teams weren't allowed to communicate with each other directly, only one individual from each team could talk to each other and that is when we discovered that between 3 teams, only 2 pairs of scissors were provided. We were already dealing with limited resources, limited communication and then 10 minutes into the task they announced a change in the specification of design and that is when we got an even more real taste of life in engineering!! Our design didn't work at first but after a little improvisation, our master piece past the test!

After the official induction was over, we were introduced to our project for the year; an Outreach Event aimed at promoting engineering to the general public. 10 weeks into the program and I have got additional sessions to develop skills in negotiation, networking, public speaking, project management and enterprise among others via workshops, networking events and technical and industrial experience opportunities. I have interacted with individuals that have the most absurd and yet most brilliant ideas. As part of the requirement to ‘graduate’ from the program, I have to undertake 2 different internships either in research or industry and day-in-day-out, we are introduced to opportunities via the SELA board and I can't wait to get started with my first placement this coming summer.

Personally, I feel guaranteed that this program will enhance my endurance, determination and focus and make me a better leader because it provides a practical approach to engineering - various projects will give me an insight into the process of research thereby paving way for further academic involvement which may encourage me to take up a role in teaching instead of entering the industry. The guest speakers that are invited will help me grow professionally as I will learn from their experiences. Working in more diverse engineering teams will teach me various skills and hence set me apart from others. All in all, it will create networks and industrial relationships for me so that I have an early start in my career.

To end it all, I hope that my experience with SELA will be a legend that will inspire individuals to become the next generation of engineers because this multifaceted program augments technical knowledge by giving a true taste of both research and industry.

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