Helping students stay on track

By Vicky Phillips

As Student President in 2002, John Dangerfield was well known, much loved and made a huge difference to Brunel by securing the future of the Student Union. But visiting the campus fifteen years later, John is having an even greater impact on Brunel today. He was recently voted in as the Alumnus of the Year for his invaluable contributions to the university. We met up with him to discover how he continues to support our students and why he does it.

John graduated from BSc Materials Engineering & Management in 2002. “I love engineering,” he enthused. “But when I had my year in the Students Union, I actually enjoyed the business aspect of it.” So John went into Contracts Management and worked for Siemens, British Airways and the NHS, before taking up his current position at Babcock International.

“Brunel gave me a really solid academic base that I still draw upon today” said John. “Not just from engineering, but the way you need to learn things, the way you need to approach things and the mind-set.” John also highly values the social side of his time at university, stressing that the clubs, societies and social activities continue to help his career today: “you’d be amazed at how I draw down on those skills each day to strike up relationships with industry stakeholders.”

With his career in full swing, John agreed to come back to campus and talk to our engineering students about working in the industry. The insights our alumni provide at such sessions are invaluable, enabling students to explore options they hadn’t considered, and ask questions they may have struggled to find the answers to elsewhere. Finding the experience rewarding, John then volunteered as a mentor to support budding engineers at Brunel.

“I enjoy engaging with young people and seeing their enthusiasm. They often give me ideas – something that can spark innovation back at work”

The Women in Brunel Engineering and Computing (WiBEC) programme matches female postgraduate engineering students with an industry mentor to help them transition into the world of work.

“It’s an opportunity for two people to engage and share knowledge. I will meet up with a student to give them the chance to talk about their concerns and tell me a little bit about what they’re doing. I’ll then see if I can give them any pointers, having been through it. I can tell them what we would be looking for in industry and tell them the type of things that are differentiators.”

And it is not just the students that benefit, John highlights: “Both parties get a lot out of it. The mentees get relevant industrial experience and an opportunity to sense-check things. I enjoy engaging with young people and seeing their enthusiasm. They often give me ideas – something that can spark innovation back at work and we can develop that. Also it’s a great way of meeting really very capable people and introducing them into our business and engaging the next generation.”

John has given countless hours of his time to supporting Brunel students. Furthermore he also volunteers as the Head Cost Judge in the national Formula Student competition, helping up and coming automotive engineers with their live racing projects. His ongoing commitment to others saw John’s peers choose him as the 2017 Alumnus of the Year.

If you would be interested in mentoring Brunel students, talking to them about your career, or nominating someone for next year’s Alumni of the Year Award, please get in touch at

More Alumni news can be found in the News page or in the Archive.

Page last updated: Tuesday 18 July, 2017