Teamwork makes the dream work at CERN - part 2

CERN knows all about the power of teamwork. With 17500 people from all around the world of 110 nationalities, they run the largest experiment in the world to uncover what the universe is made of and how it works.

We spoke to technicians at CERN to learn more about what good teamwork looks like. Abigail Lee, 23, Mechanical Engineering Technician, spoke to us about her role and being in a team at CERN.

Hi Abigail! What do you do as an Engineering Technician?

As an Engineering Technician, I assist engineers with designing and creating products, I also help them to maintain the machines. This means every day at work is different. Some days I sit at my desk and draw and design new parts, other days I could be underground helping build or maintain our machines.

Why are technicians like you important to your industry?

Technicians are very important as we assist lots of different people in carrying out their work or research. These people could be engineers or scientists working in science-related fields which could mean working in lots of different environments like; offices, workshops, construction sites, laboratories and many more! Having technicians as part of the team means you have more experienced people to help make tasks easier and a lot quicker. Having a mixed team of technicians and engineers means we can work more efficiently and if a problem arises, we have more people to help solve the problem as quickly as possible.

What led you to choose this job role?

I very much enjoyed being creative at school and found a lot of joy in my Product Design GCSE course. I really liked making beautiful products and parts that had a function and purpose. As a child I would watch my dad work as an engineer and build cars in his spare time, sometimes helping out myself.

What’s the best bit about your job?

The best thing about my job for me is that every day is different, this keeps the job very exciting. Some days I am in the office designing others I could be in the workshop or speaking to different companies trying to order parts.
I also really enjoy seeing parts I designed come to life! They start as a 3D model which I will turn into a mechanical drawing. Seeing the parts arrive and be fitted is very special knowing you have contributed towards a project or help prove someone’s hypothesis. 

What is your current daily routine like?

  • My daily routine changes on a daily basis depending on what I am working on at the time. I start work at 08:30 am. I live close to work so I don’t have to spend a long time travelling.
  • On Monday mornings we have a team Zoom meeting with our department, so everyone knows what is happening and if we have had any issues with equipment over the weekend. This is a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues to find out what needs doing in the week ahead. After this meeting or first thing (if it’s not a Monday) I will have a quick chat with my supervisor to find out what we need to do for the day, some days I continue with work from previous days but we take this time to catch up and see what progress has been made.
  • After this conversation, I will continue with the work that needs to be done. At the moment I am currently working mainly on the designs for the HL-LHC upgrades so I work through different drawings and 3D models making any changes that are required.
  • Some days around 10:00 I will grab a coffee with my colleagues and take a break. It is nice to have this time as it gives us chance to take about other things and socialise; this is especially important with the COVID-19 restrictions we face outside of work and not being able to visit our families. 
  • After this, we will work until around 12:00 - 12:30 and then it’s lunchtime. I return home for lunch as I find it very relaxing to go home and recharge before returning to work. Sometimes a colleague will join me.
  • Around 13:30 - 14:00 we return and continue working, this is usually a continuation of the work being done in the mornings, but as well as working with my team on the drawings I also assist another team with organising all of the documentation required to carry out our work, this includes ensuring we have all the required documents for parts, procedures reports to detail the manufacturing program and engineering specifications. We have to make sure all this documentation is correct and stored in the right place within our data management system.
  • At 17:30 our working day is finished, sometimes I stay a little later to finish the task I have been working on.
  • Once this is done I return home. Once I am at home I will usually call/facetime with my family and friends. I take my dog for a walk and then make some dinner and relax, making sure I get a good nights sleep before returning to work in the morning.

What do you do to relax?

At the weekends I like to switch off from work mode and relax. I like to make plans with some colleagues as they are not just colleagues we are also friends. I still enjoy exploring the local area as there is so much to see and do, having lived in Geneva for 10 months now it is very different to back home (North-West England). The pandemic has caused a few issues with lockdowns and curfews being in place in the local area so now those restrictions are easing I am enjoying exploring my new home.

What are your top tips for a young person thinking about a technical career?


This is an amazing career option and there are so many different possibilities and fields to work within. Every day is different and existing so if you are looking for a career where no two days are the same then becoming a technician is one of the best things you could do.

It is an amazing journey to embark upon and you will meet so many different and interesting people along the way, it is a great opportunity to move to different counties and try lots of new experiences.

Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs, even if you don’t get them it is great to familiarise yourself with application procedures. I applied for my current position twice, the second time I applied I was able to identify where I went wrong the previous time and work on strengthening my skills.

Have a good strong CV, make sure your CV is professional and detailed. All any qualifications and training you have done and try to apply it to the context of the job you are applying for.

Write a strong cover letter to accompany your CV tell the company a little bit about yourself, take this as an opportunity to introduce yourself to them as it is the first impression they will have from you.

Make sure you have a LinkedIn account; it is a great tool to use for networking and finding job opportunities. It was on LinkedIn that I found out about my job as a member of the CERN talent acquisition team informed me of the TTE programme and suggested I apply. So make an account because you never know who is watching and what opportunities will come from it.



Who’s in your team?

My direct team consists of two mechanical specialists and up to three other TTE technicians. I work in a shared office with the other technicians so there are always people around to help if I have a problem. By working alongside my supervisor I know what I am working on and which tasks to prioritise.

What skills/ attributes do you normally need to do your job? How do they help you to work well in a team?

  • Communication is a key skill to have, as you must be able to give regular updates on progress and delays. 
  • Confidence is also another important attribute to have. Do not be afraid to ask questions and gather all the information you need. I was often too shy to ask questions in the beginning for fear of asking the wrong question. But I soon found there are no wrong or stupid questions and the team you work with will be happy to share their knowledge and take the time to help you understand what role the task you are doing will play in the bigger picture. Having the self-confidence to complete a task and believing in yourself and your abilities will help make tasks easier and less daunting.
  • Time management and the ability to adapt are really important, especially in a team where others are relying on you. Doing this sort of work may mean having to move from job to job or having to reprioritise more urgent tasks over what you’re doing. Being able to manage your own time and tasks will help the team complete the work faster.
  • Being focused on a task is vital, but adapting to a changing and fast-paced working environment is also key in being successful. Being able to allocate the correct amount of time to a job is very important, you do not want to rush a task and make mistakes, but it also needs to be done correctly and quickly. It is also important to remember that if you are struggling, ask your team for help and support. Similarly, if a colleague asks you for help, it is important to always be kind and helpful.

What do you achieve together that you couldn’t achieve alone?

We have to coordinate many of our daily tasks. When we’re working in the tunnels or hard-to-reach spaces, it is important to know where our colleagues are so we can pass them parts when needed. Some of our equipment and parts are very heavy so we work together to avoid any injuries and accidents, but also to avoid damage to the parts which are often specially designed for our equipment.

Even whilst working in the office we need each other. For documentation, more than one person must approve drawings and new parts before they can be sent into production. So for this, we have to work together. If I decided to modify a part, that part could appear in one of my colleagues’ assemblies/models so I need to inform them of the change and check that their work is still up to date and that the part is still correct for their needs.

As technicians, working as part of a team is an essential part of the job and we need to work alongside lots of different people from different backgrounds; this is part of what makes the job so interesting and exciting.

What’s the best part of your team/ part of being a part of a team?

The best part of working in a team is the support. Arriving at CERN during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced this idea for me, as my team were the only people I knew here for a long time. There is a lot of understanding with my colleagues as we work on the same projects and a lot of my colleagues are in the same position as me – living in a foreign country away from family and friends.

There is a lot of understanding from colleagues, and a lot to learn from them. We are all very different people with different backgrounds and paths into this industry, but we all have a shared love for the work we do, and we all help each other complete the work and progress.
Working in a team becomes like a second family. You spend so much time with colleagues from Monday to Friday, you end up building a special relationship. When starting in a new team it can be a little daunting as you are not only learning how to do a new job you are also learning how to work alongside new people. But once you have established a good working relationship with your team they will only help to strengthen your abilities.

To learn more about building the skill of teamwork, click here 



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