Five minutes with Colin Eastman, Electronics Engineer

5 Minutes With Electronics Engineer

At SEA, we work hard to keep our customers safe. Our engineers play a crucial role in developing the cutting-edge technology to support navies across the globe. We checked in with Electronics Engineer Colin Eastman to find out more about his role. 

Thanks for giving us the time to chat to you today. Can you start off by telling us about your role at SEA? 

I've been with SEA 13 years now, I’m an Electronics Engineer in the Undersea Battlespace team, primarily focused on the Anti-Submarine Warfare side of Undersea Battlespace. 

What was your journey at SEA like? 

I started my career as an Apprentice at SEA, and I spent three years in the wiring shop before moving into the test department as I preferred to fix things over making them. I was then asked to support some upcoming sea trials with the engineering team and following that, my situation completely changed. I was getting involved with a few more projects and ended up moving into the engineering department full-time. 

With support from SEA, I got a foundation degree in communication and electronics and a top-up degree in integrated technologies, which I completed in June 2022. Studying alongside working was quite difficult, but I did make a fair number of other life choices as well, deciding to move and renovate a house, plus getting married and having two children. It was quite stressful as you can imagine, but I found a good balance eventually. 

As you have been at SEA for 13 years, you must have seen KraitArray from its inception, has it changed much? 

Yes! KraitArray was in its infancy when I started at SEA and it’s strange to think that in this short time, it’s become a world-leading product! KraitArray has grown from a single entity to being part of a larger product family; bringing in expertise from other areas of the business. As with any product coming to market, there were some challenges along the way, but we have a product we’re confident in, whoever the customer is we’re delivering to.  

Have you seen many changes in the company during that time? 

We've become a much more sustainable business in terms of what we’re able to do and deliver. We've been able to invest time and resources into product development which has led to us having more to offer our customers.  Our working environment has improved, even the building itself is so different to when I started, and we have improved equipment available to us. With continued investment in the production areas, we'll be able to bring previously externally supplied capability in house.  

Since the pandemic, the company has adapted with new ways of working too. For example, we don’t have core hours on a Friday, that means when the sun comes out, we can have an extra day to get to the beach! The flexibility really is amazing, especially when living in beautiful North Devon, this has a massive impact on work/life balance.  

The Undersea Battlespace team has also grown considerably in the last 18 months, and we’re focused on planning and resourcing current and potential future projects in line with the business strategy and customer requirement. 

Being part of the Undersea Battlespace team, how does your team underpin and support SEA’s wider goals and ambitions? 

As a business, we're becoming more and more product focused. Part of the remit of the Undersea Battlespace engineering team is to input and scope requirements and resourcing for the project team to deliver a comprehensive plan for our customers. Our decisions can influence and impact build and delivery scheduling.  

This has allowed us to really understand customer problems. For one of our recent orders for KraitSense, we’re delivering a complete system, and I’ve been working closely with suppliers and our customers to ensure all the elements are ready on time. Given the industry focus on Anti-Submarine Warfare, I believe many people within our team may be focused on delivering our solutions for that in the future. 

Can you give us a recent example of a project you've been involved in and what your role was?  

We’ve been contracted to provide KraitSense to a Southeast Asian navy, and I've been working on the processing cabinet. I've been working with external suppliers to design, manufacture and deliver the processing cabinet. For the last six months, I’ve been working with suppliers, our cabinet designer, and other suppliers for the elements to go into the process cabinet - things like PCs, keyboard video monitors etc.  

Being out in the field, working with suppliers, collaborating with people; I really like that part of my job. I get good experience and exposure to the market, which I suppose isn’t a natural fit for an electronics engineer, but I enjoy it. 

What else do you like about working at SEA? 

What I like most is the variation. One minute you could be in Barnstaple, the next could be the other side of the world! I've had the pleasure of visiting Scotland, Portugal, Hawaii, California, and Boston whilst working in Undersea Battlespace. Not only that, but it really feels like I’m part of a team doing great work and making a difference. Everyone has everyone’s back and within Undersea Battlespace; we’re a really tight group.   

The benefits that SEA offers are also great – especially when you have two children, a dog, cats and fish to take care of! The flexible working system really works for me, I work 7-5 Monday to Thursday and then most weeks, I take the three-day weekend which is fantastic. When I need to, I also use the core hours to come in at 9:30am and leave at 3pm. It’s also great that we can work from home, I mostly work from the office, but sometimes work from home to catch up on my actions.

What are the biggest challenges of your role? 

I would say planning – we have a number of niche requirements throughout the business, so resourcing the right skills can be a challenge during busier periods. There are so many variations in engineering that one engineer might not have the same capabilities as another for example, and we have to plan for that. 

As much as we can be proactive with some elements within our team, we also have to be reactive to any given situation and that can, at times, affect other priorities and life at home. Even today I've got an overnight bag in my car, as we’re on standby with a partner company for trials. 

We've won a large number of contracts in the last 12 months, which has meant we needed to grow our team. When new people join the business, there's a natural period of learning and training to get them up to speed with where we are with different projects.   

You are also part of the graduate and apprentice mentoring programmes, can you tell us a little bit more about that? 

It's very new to me as well. I’ve been mentoring one of our apprentices, Joseph, in the last couple of months, and my goal is to support and guide him through his apprenticeship and help him day to day if he needs it. The graduate programme is more of a buddy programme. I’m there day-to-day, looking at their work and helping them if they have questions. 

Having this system in place means our graduates and apprentices have people to talk to someone that they can trust. At the same time, we want to make sure that SEA is getting the best out of them and they're getting the best out of themselves. When I did my apprenticeship, we didn’t really have this type of system in place, and I really could have done with it! What I’m trying to do is give them the things I didn’t have. Making sure they’ve got the support and the people to help them to hopefully become an engineer one day. 

I really enjoy it, I feel like I've always been involved in some way with our apprentices, mentoring them a little bit, even though it's not been an official role, it has helped the next generation of engineers find their path. We'll have regular intakes of graduates and apprentices, which is something that I want to continue supporting.

What advice would you give someone starting their career? 

Take every opportunity. I've been able to visit many parts of the world and that's because I always take every chance and opportunity, which made me who I am today and why I'm sat here. Not every opportunity is going to be a good one. At the time, you may walk away from it thinking “that was awful”, but you always remember the good ones, and learn from the bad ones!  
When picking subjects, pick what subject interests you the most. There's no point doing something for money. People need to do what they have passion for, and if you chase something for the wrong reason, you're only going to regret it. 
I didn't take the natural route for my career – I did what worked for me. My studies took 11 years which might seem long-winded, but I did it my way. It shows that even if you don't take a traditional route, there’s still availability to do what you want to do, not only within engineering, but also within SEA. 


Learn more about what we do in the Undersea Battlespace.