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Daniel Arnold: Working as an Engineer on the Victoria-Class Submarines

March is National Engineering Month and as a recognized leader in the delivery of engineering support solutions in Canada and around the globe, Babcock is proud to be celebrating this month by highlighting some of our talented engineers.

We sat down with Daniel Arnold, Senior Systems Engineer (Mechanical), who operates as a technical lead for various projects related to the management of the platform systems onboard the Victoria-Class Submarines (VCS), to discuss his career and to provide some insight into the world of engineering.       

Q: Can you please describe your role within Babcock? 

DA: I serve as a Senior Systems Engineer (Mechanical) at Babcock Canada within the Platform System Integration Group. In this role, I operate as a project technical lead for various projects related to the management of the platform systems onboard the VCS. Platform systems is everything that allows the submarines to operate as sea-going vessels (in other words, everything that is not a combat system).

The project technical lead functions as a deputy to the Project Manager (PM), responsible for managing the technical aspects and engineering scope of a project as well as supporting the PM with cost and schedule estimates. They are also responsible for managing technical and engineering resources within Babcock and/or subcontractors to execute the engineering scope of work and ensuring quality of engineering work and planning reviews is also a critical function. Often, this role acts as an intermediary between technical and non-technical stakeholders as well as our customers to ensure the effective communication of scope such that project requirements can be effectively captured and achieved.

Q: What is your academic and professional background? 

DA: I studied at the University of Victoria where I achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Applied Science. My thesis pertained to the development of a novel refrigeration technology including the results from the prototype I constructed and tested. I hold a Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) designation from Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC) and a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

A significant portion of my career has been focused in manufacturing, product design and research and development. This has pushed me to improve skills such as idea generation/evaluation, prototyping, design of experiments, problem solving, lean/efficient process development, material selection, and design for manufacturing.

I also have experience in engineering management. I previously held roles as a direct supervisor to approximately a dozen engineers. This experience taught me a great deal about people management, conflict resolution and the interpersonal aspects of engineering decision making.

Q: What drew you towards Engineering? 

DA: I was naturally good at math, physics and science in high school and I was always building and fixing things. I had a teacher at that time who was a real inspiration for me and she encouraged me to pursue engineering. When I began to look seriously at the career, it felt like the perfect fit and I went for it! I have never questioned that decision.

Q: What is your favourite part of the job? 

There are two aspects I really enjoy:

The first is the diverse and brilliant group of people I get to work with. The Babcock community (including Team Victoria Class and the Department of National Defence) is the most exceptional team I have had the privilege to work with in my career. I find it incredibly rewarding to help our team solve problems, overcome obstacles, bridge communication gaps and deliver quality work to our customers.

The second is that the technical challenges we face in the VCS enterprise are incredibly demanding. Submarines are akin to spacecraft in that we are sending our service men and women into a totally inhospitable environment; we at Babcock are responsible for helping to bring them home safe and completing their mission successfully. I am proud to contribute to this goal. I also find the technical challenges very enjoyable all on their own.

Q: What is something you think people don’t know about the engineering field? 

DA: Because engineers have a unique vocabulary and often utilize complex mathematical tools to do their job, I find it’s quite commonplace that non-engineers have a difficult time understanding what engineering actually is. I would say there are numerous aspects of the field that people don’t know about.

If I were to pick one in particular, I would choose how significantly engineers prioritize safety in their work. Engineered products are ubiquitous in our world. We are surrounded by engineering technology at all times. Safety, ergonomics, user interface and other human benefits are fundamental requirements in engineering design. Additionally, the individual engineer takes on the professional responsibility and accountability for people’s safety as a top priority.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice for someone interested in pursuing a career in engineering?  

DA: Don’t do it alone. In fact, you can’t do it alone! Engineering is a team sport. There are so many different branches of engineering, it’s important to identify the things you find enjoyable and rewarding early on. Talk to experienced people in a variety of engineering disciplines. Learn about how their careers progressed. What challenges they faced. Ask about their successes and failures and how they grew from those experiences. While it can be intimidating to approach a senior engineer, most of the time they will be more than willing to offer you help and guidance. So just ask!

To learn more about how Babcock is supporting the Victoria-Class Submarines, please visit our naval page:

Naval marine – ISS, training and supply chain | Babcock : Babcock (babcockcanada.com)