Role model – Sylvian Rubio, Swindon Powertrain

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Established in 1971 as a high-performance engine specialist, Swindon Powertrain develops powertrain products for both motorsport and high performance road cars, covering design, simulation, manufacture and testing. Swindon Powertrain

We speak to Rubio about beginning his career in France, picking up best practice from everyone you work with and the future of electric powertrains for a variety of vehicles.

Learn more about Swindon Powertrain at |

What inspired you to become a designer?

When I was a kid, I was good at drawing but didn’t know what career to do. I became interested in motorcycles and Honda particularly, and with an interest in the technical, I decided to become a design engineer.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Concept designs – trying to invent something new or meet new demands.


What was your first job after you finished studying, and what impact has it had on the rest of your career?

When I was still at university, I got a job offer even before I’d finished at Sodemo, an engine company in France specialising in engine development, and that’s what completely oriented the rest of my career towards powertrains and engines. It wasn’t really what I’d wanted to do in the first place, but I liked it and stuck with it.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting to where you are today?

Almost everything has happened by accident! I’ve never really had a proper job interview. There was never a plan, so I can’t say there was ever really a challenge to overcome.

What has been your career high point or most memorable work moment to date?

If I look back to my first job at Sodemo, we had a lot of success in the racing world. My move to the UK 10 years ago was an interesting moment (I was not planning on doing this); and my time at McLaren Automotive was great. Having the possibility to be at the heart of the current and future McLaren engines was a big thing.

In terms of your career, who has been your role model?

What I’ve tried to do is copy good practises from everybody I’ve met throughout my career; all the designers I worked with when I was young, but also all the assembly and manufacturing people.

What design tools are you most reliant on day-to-day in your work?

It’s definitely 80% Catia, for modelling and FEA analysis and so on; and a good 20% is homemade software, specific to engine design.

With the advantage of hindsight, what career advice would you give to your younger self?

At university, try to be as general as possible, instead of focusing on one particular core topic. But then once outside university, try to find your specialism in something as early as possible.

What aspects of the future of your industry most excite you?

It’s how much of the automotive industry is going to be electric, and if there is still a future for combustion engines. We’ve already started to look at electric at Swindon Powertrain, with the SWIND EB-1 electric mountain bike, capable of 60mph, as well as work on a retrofitted classic Mini.

If you were hosting a dinner party for which you could invite three figures from any time, who would you invite and why?

Nikola Tesla, to try to understand what he was doing and what he would’ve planned for the future if he’d carried on working for longer. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to ask him about what it was like to work in those days, where it was pioneering work on the first big-scale projects. And Theresa May, to ask her what is going on!

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