Interview with future aerospace engineer

Hey guys, I'm super excited to introduce this individual to you! He's really inspired me and hope he will inspire all of you as well.

From living in South Africa, the Middle East and moving to the United Kingdom, Enzo Steenkamp’s story is anything but normal. Enzo has an avid interest in STEM which has pushed him to create numerous problem solvers, including an automated temperature map system. His hard work and dedication have led him to make top grades at the numerous schools he’s attended and even to write a book on his secrets to high achievement. Enzo Steenkamp has learnt to be adaptable and to keep time management as a priority in his life. He’s spoken on the value of apprenticeships on the Successful Dropout website and his story continues to be intriguing as he reaches to new levels in several areas of his life.

Without further ado here is the interview with Enzo.

You’ve lived in three different continents. What were those continents and what did you learn from moving multiple times?

Well, I was born in South Africa before moving to the UK a few years after. I then spent most of my childhood in the UK with a short spell in the Qatar in the Middle East. Each of these places was vastly different in terms of the culture, people and way of life. It taught me to see things with an open mind, be less judgemental and adaptable. It allowed me to be accepting of other cultures and work with people across different nationalities. Learning about the different cultures and people’s way of thinking was very insightful. It was a hard but rewarding experience since moving isn’t easy but you learn more than you think.

I read you have experience in working with Renishaw and Rolls Royce, what was that like?

Yes, while I was at high school, I spent a week at Renishaw on a group project to design a measuring device from start to finish in 5 days. It was only a prototype but we had to work quickly and effectively. This is where my love of CAD software began. At Rolls Royce, I learnt about the manufacture of jet engines and helped them service on engines that needed repairs. I only spent a week here as well but both placements were very interesting.

Explain what the education you’re going through currently is like, and could you give us a deeper insight into your apprenticeship, especially a description on Airbus?

I am doing a full BEng in Aerospace Engineering which will take 4 years instead of the conventional 3 year degree. The work ratio is split with 3 days a week at Airbus and 2 days a week at university. We are studying all the same modules as a uni student with the same exams but we just have extra responsibilities at Airbus.

Working at Airbus is a great experience. It’s a huge company with a diverse workforce and lots of opportunities and people to learn from. I am grateful to have this opportunity since it allows me to gain knowledge, experience, improve my network and get an income. What more can you ask for?

The nice part is the fees of the degree are covered by the company so I will finish the apprenticeship debt free which is a rare blessing to have.

What’s your favorite thing about your apprenticeship?

The responsibility and respect that you have since you are treated as an employee and you have to take initiative. I like this since I am wired in this way and it allows you to learn a lot in a short amount of time.

Least favorite?

The communication between the university, college and company could be better. Most of the time it’s fine but things aren’t always that organized and changes aren’t made very quickly. It hasn’t been a major issue but it’s made certain aspects of the apprenticeship slightly harder.

Would you recommend apprenticeships to anyone and everyone?

Yes and no, since I don’t think there is a one size fits all. That being said, I would highly recommend apprenticeships to people who want to learn a lot and take a less conventional path. It’s hard work and takes responsibility so it won’t be for everyone. But the majority of people will do well in apprenticeships with the right attitude and work ethic.

What steps did you take in your life that you feel were vital to get you to where you are today?

I believe moving to Qatar during my mid teens played a big role. I joined a private school when I was there which taught me to work hard and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Going to the gym played a big part too as this taught me to get outside my comfort zone and helped me to embrace the challenges that life throws at you.

Reading books also helped me a lot to learn more about myself and topics that interest me like psychology, business, nutrition and so on. It also helped me to improve myself in general and set up habits and routines to support me.

Do you have any short term or long term goals you’ve set for yourself?

In the short term, I am planning of writing a book about self awareness in the next 6 months and reach some new PR’s in the gym.

In the long term, I’d like to get a masters in some type of engineering, create a meaningful business that helps improve the environment or people’s lives in general and of course other things like having a family and buying a Tesla.

What are you working on to accomplish those goals?

For the short term goals, I’m actively going to the gym 3 times a week and I am writing for my book about 2 hours a week to slowly complete it.

For the long term goals, I am first completing my Bachelors degree, saving, investing and improving myself in general. When the time comes I will focus on these areas more heavily but by doing these things now I am moving in the right direction.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in apprenticeships?

Research the company and show them why you are valuable to them. Don’t focus on credentials too much, but more so on your attitude, skills, experience and enthusiasm.

Apply to as many as you can to increase your chances of getting one. They are more interested in your character than anything else so emphasise this in the interview.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome and do you have any advice for overcoming it?

Placing other people’s expectations and ideas above your own. I’ve always been someone that likes to make others happy so when others have an idea or request I can be easily persuaded. I used to struggle to say no and found myself bending over backwards to meet society's expectations and I would avoid conflict by doing this. This was an issue for quite some time until last year when I began to set boundaries and try to maintain them as best as I could. This didn’t mean I was cold and closed off to others but instead I would be honest and authentic about why I couldn’t do something. It was about realigning my values and priorities to please myself first then others. So of course I would still help others and be flexible, but only to a point that it didn’t affect my self care. It’s like what they say in the aeroplane safety video, “Please attend to your oxygen mask before helping others“. It’s obvious but an easy mistake to make when you are in the rush of life trying to be productive and please yourself and others.

Is there anything you’ve read or consumed that you’d recommend to the audience?

There are many things I’ve found impactful. To learn something meaningful, it not only needs to be the right information but it also needs to hit you at the right time. For example, you might read about pensions when you are 15 years old but this won't be meaningful since it’s too early in your life. So, I would recommend starting with a few books such as Mindset by Carol Ann Dweck, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Relentless by Tim Grover since these can be applied to any person at any age.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think in our society today people are too focused on what others think of them. They buy branded clothes just to fit in even though they can barely afford it. Or they’ll have coping strategies to avoid the pains of life. I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to stop worrying what others think, improve your self awareness and take control of your life. At the end of the day, you have to take responsibility of your life and your actions.

Could you provide some ways for anyone reading to learn more about what you do, or to contact you?

You can head over to my website which will show you some of my work. I try to keep it up to date. I don’t have a huge online presence but that will give you a good idea what I am about.


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