Case study: Garrie Vickers

The semiconductors industry has opened the door to frequent European travel for this British physicist.

Garrie Vickers

Age: 46
Role: Development programme manager, photonics and semiconductors
Employer: Optocap Ltd
Qualifications: BSc (Hons) Physics and Chemistry from Nottingham Trent University

A physics degree and specialism in semiconductors has allowed me to take advantage of the opportunity of working abroad. As is increasingly the case with any technical speciality, the opportunities have become more international. My industry is now largely based abroad with pockets of industry and opportunities at established regions throughout the world.

My area of expertise is semiconductors and photonics, in particular product and process technology development and manufacture. My opportunity to work overseas came around largely by chance with a company takeover, whereas I might have had to gain more experience in the UK before getting the opportunity abroad.

Working overseas the first time gave me the confidence and experience to then apply for other positions abroad later in my career, including Germany and Belgium, having an idea of the potential highs, lows, benefits and challenges to be expected.

I am now part a multi-disciplined international team and the experience of working and living abroad has enabled me to understand how the team works, why certain decision are made, and to fit into the team dynamics.

I’ve worked and lived full-time in France, Italy, Germany and Belgium. Although now based full-time in Scotland I regularly travel to Europe to work on collaborative European development programmes with partner companies, universities and technical institutes, as well as present progress and technical reports to the European Commission. 

Photonics is the area in which I work now. This has largely evolved from the semiconductor industry and seems to be in increasing demand at present. There are many European-funded joint development programmes involving industry and academia. Semiconductor design and manufacturing is another expanding area, particularly now in Asia and the US.

Globally, funding is increasingly difficult for new development programmes within a single organisation, therefore more companies and universities take part in joint development programmes in which they can share the costs, risks and benefits. This is certainly true in my industry.

Working and living abroad will benefit anyone both professionally and personally. You learn to adapt and understand aspects of work and living from different points of view. More often than not, the workplace will be very international, which is a great melting pot of mixed cultures and views.

I always wanted to return to the UK, so I  have always planned a tentative return date. This has allowed me to take on roles in the UK where travel and periods abroad are required. I continue to enjoy working on European technology development projects while being based in Scotland, and spend a percentage of my time in Europe.