“I’ve never once felt unable to ask a question, even if it may seem basic at first, as every question has always resulted in an answer that I’ve understood and moved forward with.”

Jack Dukes , Project Engineer

1. Hi, Jack. Could you tell us a little about your background?

Sure, no problem. I studied at the Camborne School of Mines through the University of Exeter, where I completed my BSc in Engineering Geology & Geotechnics. I followed that up with an MSc in Surveying, Land & Environmental Management. I spent summers working with companies like SGS and Kemps, working in metallurgical and surveying environments to further develop my understanding of the industry.

I then started work as a land surveyor, acting as an independent expert witness with a duty to the UK civil courts. I spent almost four years doing this, working on operational sites and properties across the UK and giving evidence in UK magistrates’ courts.

2. What made you choose Paterson & Cooke?

Growing up in Cornwall, I’ve always been interested in mining, but wanted to twin an engineering role with active environmental remediation. After a few years working in a solo role as a surveyor across the UK, I wanted to get back in touch with my roots, as well as settle down in a less transitory role.

I first heard about Paterson & Cooke from a couple of friends working in the mining industry. Working as an engineer at P&C struck me as the perfect blend of mining engineering, environmental management of mine waste, and an opportunity to work with global clients leading multi-million-pound projects.

3. So, what does a day in your life at Paterson & Cooke look like?

Since starting at P&C as a junior engineer, I have been mostly focussed on a large-scale, detailed engineering backfill project that involves hydraulic engineering associated with the underground distribution system, plant design, cost estimation, and vendor support.

I typically spend most of my time working on the backfill plant process design, discussing various aspects with vendors (those supplying the pumps, cranes, tanks, pipes, valves, etc.), working closely with the CAD department to generate the 3D plant model and the underground piping layout, as well as supporting the senior engineers to advance and develop the project.

I’ve recently been promoted from junior engineer to project engineer, and it’s been an amazing experience seeing my engineering and management skills develop alongside the backfill plant, which is scheduled to be constructed later this year.

4. How would you describe the culture at Paterson & Cooke?

Coming from a solo working role, I was initially worried that I would struggle to fit in with an office environment. However, the open-plan nature of the office and the culture of sharing ideas and solutions rapidly advanced my own understanding and grew my confidence.

The general atmosphere is that we work together as a team, and deal with problems together. No one fails as an individual. If a gap in knowledge is identified, it’s filled with a reasoned explanation, rather than just ‘paved over’ with a result and no justification. I’ve never once felt unable to ask a question, even if it may seem basic at first, as every question has always resulted in an answer that I’ve understood and moved forward with.

The office also maintains a healthy balance of work and socialising, and I consider myself lucky to count every one of my colleagues as teammates and friends.

5. What’s the best thing about working at Paterson & Cooke?

I was initially very nervous to join an engineering firm from a place of little direct practical experience, so the best aspect for me has been the level of support, patience, and understanding that is built into place here.

Every member of the team has helped and supported me in developing my knowledge and skills, including working in the laboratory to better understand the samples we design, to working with CAD to determine both minute details and practical aspects of our designs, and working with the other engineers to find answers to the problems we face.

The back office and human resources team has been able to support me every step of the way. To date, I have not once felt out of my depth with work.

6. How are you working towards the future you want?

Now that I have progressed past the graduate engineer stage, I am working to explore as many different areas of opportunity as possible. I’m still progressing with my ongoing detailed engineering role on the backfill plant, which I hope to work with through to commissioning in the future. I’m also starting work on a new dewatering plant project to be built from the ground up, and I recently conducted an on-site audit and hope to win more work with that client. I’m also about to travel through the Balkan region to meet with potential clients in a bid to develop more work in that area.

In addition, I look forward to soon starting to work toward my chartership in engineering, a goal I wouldn’t have believed possible when I was studying for my BSc.

7. What advice would you give to someone joining Paterson & Cooke?

The best advice I could give to someone new would be to not be afraid of asking questions, be it of your desk neighbour, your engineering manager, or even colleagues in our worldwide offices. I have never asked a question and not been given either a well-considered answer or pointed toward literature or resources that detail the solution to my problem.

Where I have made mistakes in the past, these were identified, worked through, and better solutions found. No one has ever made me feel discredited or at a loss. I now enjoy helping newer members of the team with issues that I initially faced, and hope to give any new starter the same experience that I had.

Thanks for chatting to us, Jack. All the best for the future!

Thanks very much.