An Interview with: Jonathan Hart & Brett Longstaffe, Winners of the Spark! Contest 2016
Q. How/ where did you hear about the Spark! contest?
JH: I first heard about the Spark! Contest through a contact within the Nuclear Institute's Young Generation Network. He pointed me towards the call for submissions and then things just went from there.
BL: I firstly noticed it in a Young Generation Network newsletter but it passed me by initially that you could enter as a pair; it was after this that Jonathan brought it to my attention and suggested we enter. I would really encourage anyone thinking of entering to work with a friend or colleague. We found bouncing ideas off of each other very useful, especially when initially trying to come up with an original topic.
Q. What advice would you give to entrants of the 2017 Spark! contest?
JH: Do something to make your proposal stand out. The judges have to read a lot of submissions and so doing something to set yours apart from the rest is really important. Also, be aware that not all of the judges are nuclear technology experts. A detailed technical discussion will appeal to some, but not all.
BL: I would mirror what Jon said with regard to the judges; and encourage anyone to try and think about the implications of the nuclear industry on the wider world. Make use of the mentors as much as possible, but bear in mind they are very busy people, and don’t leave reaching out to them until the last minute.
Q. What was your favourite stage of the whole Spark! contest?
JH: The whole experience was very positive, although it did require a lot of hard work. I think that my favourite stage was the Workshop at the British Embassy in Paris. Here I met a lot of interesting people from a range of different backgrounds. We also received some helpful comments on our proposal from our 'mentors' which was very valuable in producing the final essay. The networking opportunities that Spark! offers really sets it apart from other competitions.
BL: It has to be the British Embassy workshop. Firstly for the chance to meet all of the mentors and have some of their time to discuss our ideas; but equally to meet all of the other entrants, especially those from France. It was really interesting to compare and contrast our different experiences of the industry.
Q. What was the most valuable lesson you learnt from your day shadowing ONR CEO Adriènne Kelbie?
JH: I was inspired by the enthusiasm that Adriènne showed with regards to getting the best from her staff. This clearly extended to the rest of the organisation and I was very impressed by the proactive approach to staff training and development that exists at the ONR.
Q. What learning from the ONR shadowing opportunity can you take into your role at Rolls Royce?
JH: As a member of the nuclear industry, it is easy to view the ONR as an intimidating and impersonal presence, to be feared. Having spent some time there, I now know that it is filled by welcoming, talented people who care about keeping our industry safe. Having seen things from the ONR's perspective will undoubtedly help me in any future interactions with the regulator.
Q. What personal lessons / skills development did you benefit from through entering the Spark! contest last year?
BL: The contest was a great opportunity to spend some time thinking about the less technical issues of the sector. Take recruitment and skills for example; it’s an issue that managers spend a significant amount of time dealing with, but as a young engineer your focus tends to be on the technical aspects of your role. The contest allowed us to develop our own thoughts on the issues that managers and senior individuals deal with, and test them with the Spark! mentors. I think the real benefit of entering the Spark! contest was this rounded type of development, which will stand us in good stead for all of our future careers.
We at the Spark! Contest were lucky enough to recently interview Alexandre Perra. A member of our executive team, Alexandre has been working for EDF since 2014.
With a rich professional background at only the age of 34, Alexandre's story will be of particular interest to participants in the Spark! Contest because he himself took part in a similar competition 10 years ago, which in part, brought him to where he is today.