A Day In The Life: Matt Pearson, 25, deputy chief engineer at BAE systems


I did my GCSEs and then went on to take A-levels in physics, chemistry, maths and computing. After I finished school, I went to Bristol University and studied avionics systems engineering. Apart from the fact that I'm a complete aeroplane geek, the thing that really appealed to me about avionics was that it's quite general. I'm really interested in how things work - how different parts are put together to make things function effectively - and avionics seemed like a really good fit for this. It is about how you control an aircraft, how you safely navigate, how you entertain 250 passengers who have to sit in a plane for 14 hours, it's lots of different things.

Avionics also appealed to me because you aren't restricted to working in the aviation industry. There are many other things that you can apply that way of thinking to and subsequently create a career in. For example, being able to understand the way things fit together is good preparation for being a general manager or a leader of an organisation. Or, if you wanted something more technical, you could apply the same skills you learn to working in the automotive industry. Alternatively, avionics gives you a numeracy background that you can apply to the high-tech industry, IT or banking. The fact that it gives you this wide range of careers to chose from really attracted me.

The degree course at Bristol draws on a number of different departments within the faculty - electrical engineering, computer science, maths and aeronautics. You can legitimately go into any one of these fields and know that you have a decent background to perform effectively.

The degree course lasted four years. I really loved it - it was awesome. I left with a first class Masters.


In my second year of university I was nominated for an engineering leadership award from The Royal Academy of Engineering. The awards are given to 20 of the best engineering students in the country. I won an award that was sponsored by BAE systems, and this was how I first became involved with BAE.

When I finished my degree I got a place on BAE's fast-track leadership scheme, called Sigma. The idea of Sigma is to develop engineering and business leaders for the organisation. It consists of five years of very intense work. You move around a lot and do some very tough jobs; the idea is to give you a lot of experience in a short space of time.

I have just moved into a new role - I am deputy chief engineer on a new unmanned aircraft, which is pretty cool and a really good position for me. I am at the beginning of the development stage at the moment. Right now my aircraft is nothing more than a few sheets of paper that demonstrate what we want it to be like. We are going from a blank sheet of paper to a fully flying, tested unmanned aircraft pretty quickly. Typically we could do this in 12 months, which is really fast!

Usually my days start with a meeting at 8.30am. That's probably the only part of my job that remains the same. The project I am working on at the moment has a very complex set of stakeholders involved, so sometimes I will be talking about technical things to the engineers who are going to be the end customers of what we are developing. They are really interested in what technologies are going into the project and what the risks are. So, my role mainly consists of reviewing the technical side and managing risk.


My long-term ambition is to become the chief engineer of a very large aircraft programme or the managing director of an aircraft programme. In a role like that I would be responsible for billions of pounds of technical risk. To get to that point I will need to get as much experience as possible. Being able to acquire the skills to run a project of that magnitude is probably my task for the next few years.

Young people wanting to work in a similar field should be aware that there are lots of opportunities out there, so if you see an opportunity you need to seize it and don't be afraid to make the most out of it.

To find out more about the engineering leadership award visit:

For more information on SIGMA go to:

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