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60 Second Interview: Product designer

Barry has worked as a product designer for 16 years and loves being able to work on something new every day. In today's interview, he talks us through his role and explains what experience and qualifications you need to follow in his footsteps.

Name: Barry Crackett

Company: Brushtec

Industry: Manufacturing and industryEngineering

What is your job? Product designer

How long have you been doing this job? 16 years


University: Northumbria University

Degree subject: HND mechanical and production engineering

Qualifications: BTEC national diploma in engineering, NVQ LEVEL 3, 3D technical drawing, City & Guilds: Three-dimensional design using AutoCAD, City & Guilds: Three-dimensional design and solid modelling 3 using AutoCAD, City & Guilds: information technology, Web page design 2, City & Guilds: Computer-aided draughting and design using AutoCAD.

1. What was your very first job?

My first job was working as a CBP Associate with Gateshead College. The main aim of this role was to work with an outside company, Brushtec, to set up and implement a design and consultancy service for their business.

2. What did you want to do when you were at school?

When I was at school, I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to do. Instead, I decided to focus on the subject areas where I excelled, which happened to be IT, technical drawing, and other areas of design and technology. I also enjoyed working with electrical and mechanical objects – taking them apart and seeing what made them tick.

3. How did you find out about the industry?

My school design and technology teacher was very influential in guiding me towards the manufacturing design industry. He helped me to realise that my talents would allow me to excel in the sector.

4. How did you get there?

I took the academic route into the manufacturing design industry. After school, I studied a BTEC national diploma in engineering, which I supplemented with additional qualifications in computer-aided design (CAD) and technical drawing.

With this qualification, I was able to go on and study a higher national diploma (HND) in mechanical and production engineering at Northumbria University. I preferred this route to taking A-levels and moving onto a degree as it was much more hands on, which suited me.

5. What is a typical day like?

Currently, I’m overseeing the production and testing of a prototype mechanical cow comfort brushing device (cow satisfaction brush). The product is designed for cows to scratch themselves against whenever they need to, which may sound odd to begin with but actually has many benefits.

Not only does it improve the cows’ quality of life, it makes it less likely that the cows will scratch themselves against interior walls, which can cause accidents and injury and even lead to clinical mastitis. Additionally, the cow scratching brushes have been linked to increased animal performance, such as better-feed intake and up to a 3.5% rise in milk production.

We have designed this product with help from MSc Students at Newcastle University as a part of a Design for Industry module. While it is very useful to have some fresh new input into production, working with students also gives them some experience in the industrial environment – it’s nice to be able to give this opportunity to them.

6. What’s the best thing about your job?

I have to say that it is coming into work and being able to work on something new every day. This industry is very diverse, and there is always a fresh project or problem to be solved on the horizon. I almost never find myself doing the same thing twice, and there probably aren’t a lot of other roles that can offer that quality.

7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

The most challenging aspect of the job is the time management that is required. The role has so many different things to keep track of, and I often find myself working on more than one job at the same time. This makes it quite difficult to manage my time.

I find that keeping a detailed list of everything involved in a project and how they are progressing helps. That way, I am able to allocate sufficient time to cover each task, which is absolutely essential.

8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?

I would say that one of the most important things that you should look to do before you enter the industry is to try and get some hands-on experience. There are many young people with plenty of academic knowledge, but no experience of practical application of this knowledge.

You might be able to find a qualification or a degree course that offers a placement or opportunity to work alongside a company, but failing that you should look to undertake independent work experience in the summers between your studies. Apprenticeships are also worth considering, as they allow you to get into the industry from the bottom and really grow into your role as you develop.

9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?

If I was to start all over again, I would want to know how diverse the manufacturing and design industry can be, with so many opportunities for new and exciting developments. For example, I wish I had the time earlier to study subjects like graphic design, web design, marketing, and speaking German – all of which would have come in very handy at certain moments in my career thus far.

10. Where would you like to be in five years?

I would like to enhance my management credentials by overseeing a team of designers, which would be a great experience. Eventually, I hope to demonstrate my value enough to become a partner in the business.

If Barry's story has you inspired, check out our manufacturing and industry career zone to see how you could follow in his footsteps.

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