Engineers In U.K. And Brexit

Brexit. The questions are endless and one in particular stands out among the others: and now what?
So I decided to ask this question to someone that is living Brexit from the inside. And, of course, which is also an engineer. The first one I am going to interview is a very talented engineer which I met during my studies in Stockholm.
Her name is Carolina Escudero, a Colombian electrical engineer working for the UK Power Networks. She was part of my Stockholm family and was a professional point of reference for me and the other young engineers. Half of this interview will be about her situation as an engineer in UK now and the other half about the aftermath of Brexit. Enjoy.

Carolina at her graduation

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself:

After taking my BSc in Electrical engineering, I worked in Maintenance for the Colombian Transmission Network Owner “Interconexión Electrica”. After some years I decided that it was time to take some “fresh air” in my professional life. So I decided to move to Europe and study a Master in Sustainable Energy Technology, both in Stockholm and Eindhoven. Thanks to my good academic records and experience I work now as Power System Development Engineer for Smart Grids Development in the company “UK Power Networks”.

Q: Interesting, what’s cool with that?

As you know, “Smart Grids” are the key to make the Renewable Energy part of our life.
With the fast paced development of renewables, the UK power grid is faced with new challenges. Before, a house was a simple energy consumer. Now it is also an intermittent and unpredictable energy producer. What before was a one-way power distribution, now is a two-way interaction. I am working to transform the distribution grid in order to fit this new role. We are making the system “smarter”. When it comes to a house, for example, the surplus of Solar Energy in a sunny day could be distributed to other houses. The same applies for the surplus of Wind Energy in a windy night. Instead of being a Network Operator we are looking to become a System Operator, managing also the power generation within our grid.

Q: Was it difficult for a Colombian to move to UK?

The main problem is to get a working Visa. A Colombian would get a working Visa only if there is a worker shortage in the job is applying for. In other words, you get the job only if no other European can do it. There is a list of jobs and companies recognized as “in shortage”. If you get a job there, you get the Visa. Otherwise it becomes complicated. The company would need to prove that nobody else in Europe is as qualified as you are to do that particular job. This means that they will typically re-issue the vacancy and if no applicant is as qualified as me, the Government will issue the Visa. Of course, few companies are willing to do that. It already happened that I made it through several selection rounds and then got rejected because of the Visa restrictions.
Furthermore, in UK, the money laundry policy is particularly strict. To get a bank account you need a house address. To get a house address you need a bank account. Luckily I had a friend in London that hosted me for the first weeks. I registered my house address at her place and I eventually got a bank account. Ready to go!

Q: Now let’s talk about Brexit. How was the voting campaign?

Intense in a bad way. People and politicians for “Leave” were just saying that the ones for “Remain” where lying and vice versa. On newspapers and television this was the routine since February. In my experience, the people that were in favour of “Leave” were the ones that did not travel much outside UK. Their main argument was that UK citizens needed to take back control over their country.

Q: So on Friday, you woke up and UK was not the same anymore. First thoughts and office rumors? 

I actually stayed up late to see the results of this historical moment. I was completely shocked. In the office, Europeans are mainly worried because of Visas, job security, travels and work conditions. These are the main concerns of foreigners. The British instead are mainly confused. They can only picture pessimistic scenarios both about the political and financial future of their country. This uncertainty is now the constant in our life.

Q: How do you think your industry is going to be affected in the near and long future?

Our managers confirmed that is not likely that our business is going to be affected. The power industry sector is mostly technologically driven, not politically driven. As Operators, we usually think at an European level anyway.
The financial sector, however, is shaking a lot. Markets do not like uncertainties. I think investments will be reduced and jobs will be lost. That’s pretty scary if you think that one of biggest exports of London is financial services. Rumors are saying that financial companies are moving back employees to their headquarters outside UK.

Q: And life outside the office how is going to be?

Even if my industry is safe, we are still going to suffer if the UK financial system will be in crisis. I do expect a financial recession, with a drop in house prices due to job losses. But that’s just my opinion.

Q: Thank you very much Carolina. Anything else you want to say?

Thanks to you. Yes, I would like to say that you do not stand much the Colombian drinks 😉

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