Robert W Burton, BEng, Hons (2004), Engineer Surveyor on a narrowboat on the Union Canal near Edinburgh.

Heriot-Watt engineering alumnus helps encourage students from diverse backgrounds

Robert W Burton - an Engineer Surveyor, originally from Newton Stewart in Galloway - is a keen supporter of Heriot-Watt’s Annual Fund as he believes it encourages student diversity.

“I think it is important to help support Heriot Watt students because, at the end of the day, they represent our future,” he says. “Skills don’t necessarily always come from those with what could be seen as having the ideal background, or with a particular academic aptitude. What is needed is a diversity of ideas, experience and backgrounds and I think Heriot Watt are well placed to channel this into industry.”

Robert graduated in 2004 with a BEng (Hons) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering: “I enjoyed my time at Heriot Watt, even though I was never academically inclined, it offered the ideal environment to study. I’m not sure I would have either enjoyed it as much or been as successful at other universities.”

“After graduating, I worked for an industrial services company that specialised in machinery installation, dismantling and relocation. I gained in-depth knowledge of cranes, lifting equipment and heavy haulage and progressed from Trainee Project Engineer to General Manager. However, I wanted a less stressful job where I could be home most nights and now work as an Engineer Surveyor inspecting and examining industrial machinery - primarily associated with lifting equipment and pressure systems - to ensure it is safe and compliant with legislation.”

His upbringing shaped Robert’s interests and career: “My father had a background in construction and both my parents worked for the Forestry Commission. I grew up in the countryside and this meant I had plenty of space to nurture my interest in machinery, always having messed about with tractors, cars, diggers and boats from an early age.

“I think the best advice for new students would be to enjoy your time at university. Choose subjects that interest you rather than what may seem most appropriate for work. You’re more likely to enjoy studying and get good marks if you choose something that really interests you.” Robert’s own education continues: “I’m currently studying for a qualification in marine surveying, hoping to use my interest in boats to turn my career in yet another direction.”

Robert and his wife Catriona, who live near Dumfries, enjoy the outdoors, travelling and sailing. And thanks to Robert’s donations, Heriot-Watt students navigating towards fulfilling careers can follow in his wake. 

1 June 2017