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roles like mine
When did you join Atkins?
I joined in 2013 straight out of the University of Edinburgh. Why did you join Atkins? Thanks to having what is widely accepted as the best graduate development scheme in engineering consultancy, it was a natural choice to push hard to join Atkins. There is a winning combination of huge numbers of people with many different skills to learn from and a good mixture of projects to gain experience on, and I am gladly exposed to this every day.
In addition to this, Atkins strikes the best balance of offering the advantages of being a large company yet giving the feel of a small company. You can move around to pick up the knowledge you need to grow whilst making the enduring professional relationships that last a lifetime.
How would you describe your role and responsibilities?
As a permanent way engineer it is my job to define the physical geometry and capability of the railway system. We essentially manage the speed and direction of trains, ensuring that they fit past each other and the features next to the railway.
I get involved with a range of schemes from early development and feasibility through to detailed design and even construction support, working with other disciplines to ensure that the railway system works as a whole. It has been said that permanent way is the glue that binds the railway jigsaw together… Whether you like that analogy or not though, without the rails there is no railway!
Day to day I may well be working within our various design software packages, creating drawings and reports to support the results of our design, speaking to Network Rail and other stakeholders to understand the interface with other disciplines and projects and reading up on the latest developments in the industry. That or dodging the pranks of our young apprentices.
How do you describe what you do to friends and family?
This is always a tricky one: the response I often get is “aren’t the tracks already there?” so I suppose just saying that I am a railway engineer doesn’t always cut it. My go-to description is that we are the accelerator pedal and steering wheel of the railway. What I design makes increasingly bigger trains go further, faster, more smoothly.
What are you currently working on?
Well, a couple of small jobs called Crossrail and High Speed 2 are taking up a good bit of my time at the moment, but there are plenty of other diverse projects such as renewals through the King Edward Bridge in Newcastle or capacity and freight enhancements in London and the East Midlands that I have worked on recently.
My work on Crossrail has involved ensuring that the new rolling stock will fit through the current infrastructure outside of the new tunnels and designing minor changes in the alignment through the current stations to allow higher speeds and smaller gaps from step to platform.
The other job that I have had a major involvement with over the years is the Midland Mainline electrification scheme, which is a fascinating project to gain experience on. Along with all of the other associated bits of work, this will have a massive impact on the resilience of the British railway network.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Seeing the apprentices in the team learning and growing makes me proud for the part I’ve had to play in their development. The momentum is building as they pick up and deliver more work on their own, which is really exciting. The industry as a whole is making up for lost time when it comes to bringing in young talent, and these two are certainly part of that.
The Atkins factor
How have you been supported during your career development?
I am a member of the Permanent Way Institution and am well on the way to becoming a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Civil Engineers… Atkins has a well-fleshed out development route for civil engineers and it involves a good mixture of soft-skill courses, interactions with other engineers and project opportunities but also puts a good amount of onus on you to chase your own growth.
Depending on whether you see yourself as a technical guru or a business leader, Atkins have a clear path for you and, perhaps more importantly, people willing to speak to you who have done it already.
How do engineers and Atkins make a difference?
Engineers across the industry develop and connect societies and ideas, but Atkins goes beyond this by drawing on such deep and varied expertise that we really do go to great lengths to provide the complete solution.
How would you describe the culture at Atkins?
Everyone supports everyone. We want to deliver the best solution for the client, and everyone is given the support to ensure that we can make this happen.