Jools Walker Interviews Oonagh and Matilda, Design Engineers at Brompton
Part of the process in creating the final Brompton x Protected Species outerwear has been getting the jackets into the hands of female cyclists, who can really put the product through its paces in their busy day-to-day lives.
Two of our testers are Oonagh and Matilda, Design Engineers at Brompton. We caught up with them to see what they thought of the new collab, but also find out a bit more about what having one of the coolest jobs at Brompton is like.
Jools: When did you decide to choose design engineering as a career and what inspired you to do so?
Oonagh: Right before the UCAS deadline! My older brother did the same degree. He would come home during holidays excited about the work he was doing, a bag filled with prototypes and show me how to ‘draw like a designer’.
It just sounded fun; you’re employed to draw – great! It wasn’t until I got to university that I realised how much work was involved in the degree but more importantly how interesting and varied the subject was. I loved art, maths, and technology at school, and the degree combined them all.
The course really allows you to go down any design career path you want, from graphics to mechanical engineering. It gives you the opportunity to try disciplines and to find what is right for you.
Matilda: I chose to study product design engineering at university – in all honesty at this point I wasn’t entirely sure what design engineering was. However, my interests in art, design and physics from school, coupled with my fascination of how things worked, looked and human interaction seemed to suit the course well.
Once I got going my eyes were opened to the wide variety of areas the discipline covers – a combination of core engineering principles alongside social, ergonomic and environmental studies that could equip you with the skills to design products that could have a real impact on people’s lives, the environment and society.
Over the course of my studies, I decided that pursuing a career as a design engineer would be both interesting and challenging, whilst also being an amazing opportunity to design products that can have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.
“... I decided that pursuing a career as a design engineer would be both interesting and challenging, whilst also being an amazing opportunity to design products that can have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”
J: What would your advice be to anyone considering a career in engineering?
M: Go for it!
It is fascinating - there are so many different areas to engineering and challenges that you face every day. I think sometimes people have a certain stereotypical view on what engineering is – but the reality is it is a very hands on, creative, sociable, fun, collaborative and fast paced discipline.
O: Do it!
I would 100% recommend it if you enjoy problem solving, being practical and creative and don’t want to stop learning. Working on products which people enjoy using is really rewarding. When you see people riding around on products you have worked on, it’s exciting.
J: Have you seen the industry change?
O: The bicycle industry? Yes, and it is great to see.
I think that during a year where people were locked up in flats with no gardens and only allowed out for exercise, a bike meant freedom. With the introduction of more cycle lanes, and less traffic you could see a more diverse range and ability of cyclist out on the road. People felt safer cycling in cities and could build confidence. And with the increased popularity of e-bikes, cycling is becoming more accessible no matter your age, fitness level or experience.
I think the changes within the engineering sector haven’t been as rapid as the changes within the cycling industry, but I am sure the sector could keep up with the demand. It would be amazing to have more diversity within the industry for so many reasons, from varied perspectives to increased creativity. Everyone would benefit. It would mean more teams of people developing products who fully understand the diverse range of a customer.
M: Within my time in the cycling industry and my own experience, I have seen an increased uptake in cycling from a diverse range of users. I would put this down to increased accessibility and variety of products in the market that cater to a wider range of people. In addition, I also think there has been a societal shift to cycling and active travel due to increased awareness of the social and climate impacts of other forms of transport. This is a clearly a positive change and brings benefits not only to the cycling industry but to the individual’s life, wider society, and the environment.
“... there has been a societal shift to cycling and active travel due to increased awareness of the social and climate impacts of other forms of transport. This is a clearly a positive change and brings benefits ... to life, wider society, and the environment.”
I can see parallels between the change in the cycling industry to how the engineering industry has changed over the same period. The industry as a whole has risen to the challenge of making cycling more accessible and keeping pace with demand.
I feel that there has been a recognition of the need to make engineering more accessible and diverse and that is has been slowly improving and with this there will be multiple benefits to the industry and society.
Just like cycling, engineering is for everyone.
J: What does your day-to-day at Brompton look like?
M: My typical day at Brompton can be really varied – one day could involve creating prototypes in the workshop, meeting with international suppliers, supporting pre-production builds on the assembly line, to creating 3D CAD models and technical drawings – there is never a dull moment!
O: Honestly, every day is different.
It really depends on what stage of a project you are on. Starting with ideation and research to CAD, prototyping and testing, working with the production and operation teams to get the product to market, there is never a shortage of work.
J: In your day-to-day lives what’s important to you when it comes to clothing and fashion?
O: This year has really taught me the importance of comfort!
Having less but spending more on a few great quality, sustainably sourced pieces which are built to last is important to me. Having considered, practical and versatile items which go with any outfit and look fashionable now but will also look great in 10 years, that’s what I’m looking for.
“Having less but spending more on a few great quality, sustainably sourced pieces which are built to last is important to me.”
M: I enjoy keeping up with fashion trends, but to me sustainability and being responsibly sourced is important. I am a huge fan of second hand and up-cycled clothes. I also value quality clothes that will last a long time and provide their function. At times I can also be a big fan of clothes that are fun to wear!
J: You’ve been road testing the Protected Species Jacket, what did you think? Favourite features?
O: Because of what I look for in clothing this jacket was perfect when it came to versatility and comfort.
It is ideal for when you are going out in the evening but still want to cycle to work. You only need to take one jacket. It’s great for commuting, the pockets are secure and convenient, and the style goes with every outfit.
I’ve worn it on longer rides too when I wanted to ensure I stayed dry, out hiking because it’s great for layering while remaining breathable but really, I wear it on a day-to-day basis, summer or winter.
I don’t see it as a cycling jacket, but as an everyday jacket that is perfect for when I’m cycling.
Matilda in the Brompton Bicycle factory wearing the new Brompton x Protected Species Jacket
M: I’ve really enjoyed trying out the jackets – what I like best is that they don’t look like a typical cycling jacket – but perform as one!
I rarely wear a ‘cycling’ specific jacket as I don’t like how they look - so I usually wear a casual jacket – which aren’t very waterproof. I really like the fact that the Brompton x Protected Species jacket is waterproof but isn’t sporty/plasticky/outdoorsy.
I also love the minimalist simple look of the jacket – it’s very versatile can be worn with all sorts of outfits. They feel like they are going to last a long time.
Jools Walker is an award-winning author, writer, and TV presenter. She is an advocate for cycling equality. Learn more about Jools and her novels on her blog, Velo City Girl.
To learn more about the upcoming Brompton x Protected Species collaboration, click here.