Those are phrases I’ve seen floating about this year’s blogs quite a lot, and it’s all to do with how fantastic the Saltire experience has been because of the sunbathing on a beach, or the crazy people that you’ve met. I did the same. Ok, so there weren’t any beaches in Ohio, but remember that time I nearly died, or that other time I saw a dragon? Yeah – those were fantastic. I was living a dream.
The Saltire Dream, however, I feel is a little bit bigger than endless Floridian beaches and eight weeks of work as a Scholar. The Saltire Foundation has worked hard to create a diverse community that spans ages, professional experience and continents, and they, or we, have done well at it.
The Saltire Dream, I would argue, is about taking risks. You take small risks every day – getting out of bed is hazardous, if you do it wrong, as is leaving the house and driving to work (in my case). But those risks are silly little things we never stop to consider. The risks that the Saltire Foundation embodies are those that will result in change and personal development. Risks like going to Ohio for eight weeks to discover how people in other countries work, and to understand how they think. Risks like taking your life in entirely new directions, and trying entirely new things. Not small things like trying new foods, but trying new things that may come to define you as a person – sports and activities, for example. One thing you’ll come to realise, young grasshopper, is that there is no better time in life for trying new things than when you’re at university. Where else will so many sports and like-minded people be available for you to throw yourself at? Where else can you take a running leap out your comfort zone to find something new, and let it grow and define who you become?
Risks continue once you’ve left university, I’ve learned recently. My five years of engineering education are up, and I now have some post nominal letters to show off to the world. I have, as of July, taken employment and got my career off to a flying start. I’ve taken a series of big risks that are defining the next stage of my adventures in life, thanks in no small part to my Saltire background.
I found a job in a small company, doing telecoms engineering for oil and gas. It suits me absolutely perfectly – I come in to the office and talk about VoIP systems, or the designing of fibre networks, which sound horribly dry and boring, but to me it’s a daily adventure of fascination, learning and excitement. Only because I’m a bit crazy for these things. Remember that time I saw a big radio mast and took picture of it? I design systems that use them now.
On top of this, the majority of the projects I work on are international, and my experience on my Saltire placement was a big point of discussion in my interview. The things I learned from watching how people work, getting involved and learning the process don't just prove that I understand all the y’alls and drawl, but that I am geographically flexible, interested in other cultures and ready to learn how other people live and work to improve myself.
I’ve taken a major risk by moving too. We’re an oil and gas services company – why should we be based anywhere that’s not Aberdeen? So I live in Aberdeen now. Aberdeen’s cool. I like this city. It meant leaving everything and almost everyone I’ve ever known behind on the west coast, but with Facebook and cars, I can still go back and party like a student if I so desire. I’ve got a new place to explore and settle into, however, and the option for new activities and excitement. I can once again try new things, and throw myself at new activities like a student again. I can settle into a new pattern, too – I keep fruit in my desk to keep me going during the day, and have got round to joining a gym and going after work. I changed shape after the US, and then did nothing about it. I can start again, and try to return to my previous, less pear-like shape.
One thing I learned from Saltire was follow what you love doing. Many of the people I’ve met through the Foundation have done that, and are happy with their lives and where they’re going, both personally and professionally. The other, as I mentioned was to take risks. I took a risk and followed doing something I love. And someone pays me for the pleasure, now.
Here’s a secret, though. This telecoms stuff is only a passion I developed in university. I heard about nerds playing with radios, got involved, and now it’s become a career for me.
To those returning from your placements soon: Reflect on what you’ve done, what you’ve learned and keep your tales of adventure with you. Play hard and work harder in your last year at University – it’ll fly by. Apply for jobs that interest, fascinate and excite you, not just jobs because they pay money - make a proper investment in the future you. Take a wild leap into the unknown. Saltire gave you the first step, and now it’s up to you to take all the others.
So, what would I say the Saltire Dream is? For you and I, as alumni, to be able to take a running leap into the unknown and not worry about where you land, because we know that we’ll excel wherever we end up.
Oh, and wear sunscreen. That’s the only useful advice I’ll ever give you, and it came from someone else.
Dave Hibberd, MEng, MIET.
(That felt weird. I'm not putting them after my name again, if I don't have to!)