A sea of possibilities
Thomas Brightwell considers life to be a sea of possibilities. As a senior software engineer at Guidance Marine – a Wärtsilä Company, and working in the UK, he finds joy in seeing the potential in the smallest of things.
“I see myself as a relentlessly positive person. I get excited by new opportunities, challenges and colleagues who I get to meet and interact with. I enjoy getting the job done and seeing that everyone makes it across the finish line. Well, perhaps not our competitors,” he says and laughs. “It’s important to remember just how fantastic we all are and can be at times."
The positivity helps Thomas pursue new solutions. While his job deals with software, he doesn’t downplay the importance of hardware in making it work seamlessly. This helps him see the big picture and design software solutions that ably complement and augment the capabilities of different equipment.
“Whilst I’m principally a software engineer, I enjoy engineering as a whole; it is important that my software forms part of a physical system rather than being purely in the virtual world. The best thing is seeing the entire process and the outcome going out the door onto vessels around the world,” he explains.
Solving the right problem
Thomas joined Guidance Marine four years ago after he impressed his interviewers with his knowledge of different systems and the solutions he laid out to different hypothetical problems brought up in the interview. For Thomas, there were several incentives to join Guidance Marine: the opportunity to travel, new engineering challenges – of course – and to be with a company he felt was doing its part to make a positive change to people’s lives.
When Guidance Marine became part of the Wärtsilä family in October 2017, Thomas became part of the IntelliTug project and is now responsible for writing the code, overseeing tests and representing the team during sea trials. Here, he specialises in the client-side of the software spectrum, helping deliver solutions that the customers need.
“Meeting customers, understanding their demands – what they need, even if they don’t consciously realise it, and ensuring that we deliver, that’s what the job is all about,” he says. “It may not necessarily be about new software features – sometimes it is about delivering a greater understanding of what Wärtsilä has to offer.”
“I love writing good software, solving problems and the like, but it’s making sure we’re solving the right problem that is important for me,” he adds.
This shows in Thomas’ work. When he first joined Guidance Marine, he found that a lot of the systems and software had to be upgraded or replaced. However, it would be difficult for the company to make all the changes at one go, no matter how necessary they were. Thomas rose to the challenge, instituting a measured programme of change with incremental improvements to core systems over a period of months and then years. With this, software quality improved greatly without adding unnecessary complexity.
“Three years later, our software had become fantastic; all highly modular, well maintained and easy to update,” says Thomas proudly. “It opened doors for Guidance Marine and made products, such as IntelliTug, possible. It led to me being named Guidance Marine’s Inventor of the Year for 2019.”
Being part of an 19,000 strong family
When Thomas first moved to Guidance Marine, he got to familiarise himself with new colleagues and teams. With Wärtsilä, he has got to familiarise himself with whole new divisions and companies – a fun experience, as he calls it himself.
“I see opportunities when working with colleagues across the company; across the globe there are often tight-knit communities and I want to bring them together. I’ve travelled a lot already to meet many of them and can’t wait to meet more,” he says and smiles when thinking about the 19,000 plus colleagues he has gained by being part of the Wärtsilä family.
“It has gone from an ‘oh, I guess we got taken over, I wonder what this means’ feeling to an exploration of what is out there,” he adds. ”I love the feeling that I can reach out for help to any part of Wärtsilä, and that such help will be given. This interconnectivity is a definite enabler.”
One example of synergies comes with Transas, another Wärtsilä company, which was acquired by Wärtsilä in 2018. Guidance Marine had worked with Transas before both companies were acquired by Wärtsilä. What used to be a tentative, email-only affair has now turned into a full-blown collaboration with different teams actively bouncing ideas off each other and looking at ways to actively engage. Thomas and his team have visited Transas’ facilities in St. Petersburg; with the contacts made during the trip proving to be invaluable for the IntelliTug project.
“They have become an integral part of the team. There’s regular contact and now when we meet up or Skype, it is as friends,” he says happily.
Among all the teams he has met so far, he praises the Wärtsilä Acceleration Team in Singapore for working incredibly hard, while being welcoming to colleagues, customers and the like. “Even if they’ve made the same presentation a dozen or more times, they still put a smile on their faces and do an excellent job in front of the visitors.”
A cup of tea solves everything
Among his team members, Thomas singles out Paul Woods for praise, calling him one of the unsung heroes of Guidance Marine.
“He’s not a face of the engineering teams; he is rarely seen by customers or visitors but if something needs doing in Guidance Marine – especially hands-on work such as repairing equipment, building test harnesses or running tests out in the pouring rain – then Paul is the go-to guy. He’s smart too and great at fixing faulty sensors that might have other people stumped,” explains Thomas.
Over the next five years, Thomas sees plenty of opportunity in working with Wärtsilä as the company focuses on creating a sustainable future for our planet. He sees himself playing a major role at the heart of this movement, working with teams from both Marine and Energy Businesses to make this happen. “I’m an innovator and an inspirer and I care about changing Wärtsilä for the better.”
Powering Thomas through all this is the support of his wife, Sarah, and the time they spend travelling with family and friends. And if you find yourself in need of his assistance, you’ll be able to find him at his desk sipping an excellent cup of tea, something that he claims can help solve anything.