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Keith Upton, Signalling Engineer, Atkins


Signalling Engineer

Business area: Signalling & Communication Systems, Transportation
Years into GDP: Graduate Alumni
University and degree: University of Bristol, Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Can you briefly describe your role and what you do?

Since joining Atkins in 2012, I have undertaken multiple roles. These roles have been in design, construction, testing and management within the signalling discipline. These roles have included supervising site installation teams, as well as going on site to test new equipment. Being able to go on site is great. One reason is that you get to see what it is like from the construction perspective, and therefore influence the future design so that it is safer and easier to construct. I also shadowed the professional head of signalling for six months, which was a great chance to work with a senior manager and work on a range of strategic, management tasks (including incident investigations). I am currently working in the design team, looking at early stage design development of signalling schemes or level crossing renewals. This involves creating specifications and designs for the scheme and making important engineering decisions so that the scheme can be moved into the detailed design stage. I have enjoyed working in multiple roles and it has made me a better engineer, seeing a project through the whole lifecycle.

What’s been your highlight on the graduate development programme so far?

At the end of your third year on the Graduate Development Programme there is a summer event for all the graduates in that year’s cohort. The event is organised by graduates from that cohort and I signed up to be part of the organising team.

This was a great challenge and definitely the highlight of my GDP. There were 9 of us in the team from across Atkins, including the learning and development team. The event includes development activities, a sports afternoon and a final chance for all the graduates to be together. It took place over two days at a Cambridge college, where all the facilities were available on site. As a team, we shared the many tasks, with two of my specific tasks to look after the budget and to liaise with the venue. These are tasks that I had not looked after in Atkins so far and so was great experience. The organisation of the event was challenging, outside my comfort zone and time consuming. However, I learnt a lot and gained experience that I can use for chartership competencies. I worked with and got to know some great people. We also had fun before, during and after the event! I was glad that I volunteered for the event and it’s great that graduates in Atkins have the opportunity to undertake these extra activities throughout the GDP (and beyond).

What social, society or CSR activities have you been involved with at Atkins?

Since starting at Atkins I have been a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ambassador. This is a chance to go into schools/universities or go to events and engage and enthuse young people about STEM subjects. Atkins supports becoming a STEM ambassador and you can use the two volunteer days that all Atkins employees get for STEM activities. Participating in STEM events and going into schools is satisfying knowing that you are inspiring the next generation of engineers, scientists and mathematicians – it is also great fun!

I have been to events at schools (from speed networking to a zombie apocalypse day) and bigger events for multiple schools (TeenTech and Big Bang Fair) and at all of them I have noted the impact that these events have on children, inspiring them to think about and take STEM subjects, as well as being tremendous fun.

Recently, I took on the role (alongside my day job) of STEM co-ordinator for the Birmingham office, along with another employee, leading the STEM hub in Birmingham to provide direction and support to the local STEM ambassadors. So far this has been challenging but also a great experience. I enjoy doing these activities because I am passionate about inspiring as many school and university students as possible to take or continue STEM subjects.

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