Posted 30 May 2022
Interview by Jyni Ong
Mention Cara Robinson

Cara Robinson on landing a job as a design engineer across performance, art and beyond

Cara Robinson has a particularly technical job that spans everything from working on theatre and live performance to installations and events. Working on a huge variety of projects, Cara’s role involves realising clients’ ideas as a reality through CAD software. Having landed the job after working on a placement at the same company while still at uni, here she tells us about the important skills she picked up along the way to secure the position. Cara also shares why collaboration is of utmost value, as well as discussing her biggest challenges in reaching this stage of her career, while offering advice for those interested in a similar path.

Job Title

Design Engineer, Stage One Creative Services Ltd



Previous Employment

CAD Design Intern, Stage One Creative Services Ltd (2019-2020)

Place of Study

BA Product Design, Nottingham Trent University (2017-2021)


Social Media

Stage One Instagram

How would you describe what you do, and specifically what you do at Stage One?
I take clients’ ideas and make them work in real life. I use CAD software to model up the client’s ideas or drawings and then turn them into manufacturing drawings for our workshop to make.

CAD stands for Computer Aided Design; I use many specially designed programs to create realistic models of the ideas that are brought to us.

My responsibilities include drafting up models, creating detailed manufacturing drawings, choosing appropriate materials and fixings where appropriate, liaising with the workshop staff and clients.

There is a big team of us in CAD at Stage One, and we all like to bounce ideas off each other. This really helps to keep the solutions we come up with to a high standard and ensure that every project we deliver is professional and well thought-out.

What recent project at Stage One Creative Services are you most proud of?
I spent months and months working on the huge ABBA Voyage experience which just launched. It's so big and is still at the front of my mind. It’s gone very well and smoothly. It makes you feel like you’ve done everything right on your part.

I also worked on UAE National Day 50. That was difficult because the deadlines were tight and it felt very rushed, but we did it, which I’m super proud of.

Stage One Creative Services building
Behind the scenes at Hatta Dam for the UAE's 50th National Day
The team cross Hatta Dam to the performer disc for the UAE's 50th National Day celebrations

What kind of skills or training are needed to do your role?
Teamwork is essential. Because we have such a big team, we need to be able to work together and split everything evenly. Communication is so important too. Just knowing what people are talking about is half the battle.

Knowledge of the software is definitely needed, however, when I first came to Stage One, I didn’t know how to use Inventor which is the main program used here. I was left to take my time with it, and with the help of my team I ended up picking it up really fast.

If you could pick a meme to describe what it’s like to work at Stage One, what would it be and why?
This [below] is the best one I found that I think relates to Stage One. Without teamwork this job wouldn’t be possible!

How I got here

How did you land the job?
I first came to Stage One whilst I was still in uni. As part of my course, we had a year in industry. Stage One offered me a temporary contract as a placement student. I spent around six months here before COVID hit and sadly forced us all into furlough.

When I went back to uni to finish my degree, I kept in touch with my manager. Once I had graduated, I reached out again and was amazingly offered a full-time role back at Stage One straight out of Uni.

For anyone looking to get into this industry I would say try to apply for all sorts of things. You never know what you might like. Never sell yourself short! Employers love when you’re passionate about what you do so don’t be embarrassed, show off a little.

How was your experience of being a CAD design intern, and how different is it to being a full-time design engineer?
When you’re an intern you still have a lot to learn and most of the time you’re picking up skills and knowledge that you didn’t have before. You’re trusted with lots of big things, and you feel like when you mess up it’s the end of the world, but everyone knows you’re still learning, and will be patient with you.

My experience so far with being a full-time design engineer is that even though you have a whole lot more knowledge, you’re still learning and messing things up. However, you do get better every day, and people begin to trust you more and more. It’s very rewarding to know that you’ve proved yourself to people in this industry.

With this type of work, you’re always learning on the job. There will always be stuff you’re unsure about but it’s the same for everyone. Even people who have been working at Stage One for a long time still have problems they struggle to solve and projects that take them out of their comfort zones. That’s what makes this job so great.

“Never sell yourself short! Employers love when you’re passionate about what you do, so don’t be embarrassed and show off a little.”

Cara's workspace
Rough sketches of a bar design
Workings out and design of decking

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I had a lot to learn when I first started in this industry. Even though, inevitably, I got things wrong, I feel like I was able to find my feet quickly due to the huge support network I had at Stage One. Someone is always willing to help and talk you through things, you just have to ask the question.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Though I don’t get to use it with work so much, I always love looking on Dezeen magazine. The editors always feature unique and trendy products that provide lots of inspiration.

I follow lots of design Instagram accounts but one that really stands out to me is Design Milk. Much like Dezeen, they always showcase amazing products and post something new every day. I love how colourful their posts are.

Lastly, I still follow my fellow design students. Seeing their work and how they’re progressing with their careers is also really inspiring to me. We’ve all gone off in different directions so it’s really interesting to keep up with what everyone’s designing.

“I was able to find my feet quickly due to the huge support network at Stage One. Someone is always willing to help, you just have to ask the question.”

Cara robinson design creativelivesinprogress 8

The opening ceremony for the UAE's 50th National Day. Photography by Nicolas Chavance, Groupe F

Cara robinson design creativelivesinprogress 6

Cara robinson design creativelivesinprogress 5

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
The lack of knowledge! I had to learn really, really fast. I moved from product design to engineering, which is a big step, and my focus was on how it worked rather than what it looked like. There was a lot to learn. But I had a good support network here. I feel like I’m learning every day. There’s always something new.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Having a budget that you stick to is important. I feel like I got a good understanding of managing my money when I was at uni but now I work even harder for the money, I like to use it properly. It’s also important to keep a little aside to spend on the things you love like hobbies, friends and family.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I used to be quite a shy person but that changed when I discovered that actually, you’re not going to get in trouble for not knowing something and people are willing to help you.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Throw yourself into it! Don’t think you can’t do it. When I came to Stage One on placement, I thought “I won’t be able to do this”. But it’s fine because everyone knows you don’t understand as much as they do. Everyone is patient and knows you don’t have the knowledge. Don’t be worried you’re going to fail because people will help. They want you to succeed.

Interview by Jyni Ong
Mention Cara Robinson