Ben Smith

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Utilities and Renewable Energy
Job title: Senior Project Manager
Subject of study: Biological Sciences
Year of graduation: 2019
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Joju Solar

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After graduating from Exeter I initially did some part time jobs in order to save up some travel money…then Covid happened! This caused a big rethink of my next steps and I ended up working in a Covid-19 laboratory for the majority of all the lockdowns, moving to London for a couple of years. For the past 2 and a half years I have completely switched industries and now work in the renewable energy sector as a Senior Project Manager for a solar and battery installation company. I am based in Oxford where one of our two offices is located.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I have always had a strong interest in technology and renewable energy. The role is a good balance of understanding the systems we install, whilst also enjoying being organised and juggling multiple projects at once. It is very customer facing, which is largely a positive thing, but can also be very demanding. My favourite aspect of the role is getting out and about on installation sites and maintaining relationships with all the installers and subcontractors.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

During my time at Exeter I was heavily involved in Jazz music in Exeter University Big Band, for which I was the sound and stage manager for a couple of years. I was also the drummer for Anything Goes, a jazz funk band and a couple of smaller offshoot jazz groups. Music was incredibly important to me and always offered a refreshing other aspect of life that went beyond the day to day of studying. I wasn’t in any sports societies or teams but was a passionate cyclist and always tried to get out to the coast or up onto Dartmoor when I could.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

The course was very well rounded and really enabled you to pursue modules in areas of particular interest, which for me centred around Microbiology. The resources available to Biological Science students are top spec, in terms of the fantastic laboratories but also the lecturers, supervisors and academic resources. I thoroughly enjoyed the practicals and the opportunity to do a wet lab dissertation project as part of my final year.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The campus always had a lovely feel about it, something that captured me very early on even back on my first open day. It is a great balance of nature, modern buildings and peaceful study spaces. There were so many opportunities for students to pursue hobbies and interests, no matter how niche and I have made lifelong friends from my time at Exeter.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Similar reasons to the above, right from very early on I felt it had a very positive and friendly atmosphere. I think it was also the right size starter city from someone who had always lived in a very rural village. Exeter has a bit of everything and the Uni experience was a very positive one on the whole.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

– Organisational skills are everything, they help you manage your time, the expectations of colleagues and customers. If you are organised you are much more able to make your job work for you and find your rhythm – Attention to detail was essential in the Covid-19 job and it still is a big part of my day to day. The fine details are important and if you can keep on top of them, it gives you a much clearer picture of what your priorities are day to day – I think the course helped to instil a sense of independence and drive, which unfortunately is even more important than ever in a very competitive job market. Selling yourself in a job interview or application does not always feel natural but it’s a great skill to hone and it will help you stand out.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Don’t get too concerned about having specific Project Manager qualifications such as Prince2 or Lean Sigma. As long as you’re organised, keen to learn and are a good communicator, then it really is a role you can learn as you go along and you’ll very quickly adapt to the industry you are in.

What are your plans for the future?

I think I will remain in the renewables sector for a long time, I have no plans to switch industry but I’m probably looking to switch companies within the next few months. I’m keen to work on larger utility scale projects, which isn’t something the company I work for is involved with, so a fresh start is likely on the horizon.


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