Education and qualifications:
BEng (Hons) Engineering Design, Open University
HNC Civil Engineering, Coventry University
BTEC Civil Engineering and Construction, City College Coventry
Senior Engineer, Capability & Competence (Track)
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I have always been quite academic and left high school with good GCSE results but like a lot of people at that age, I didn’t really know what to do with my results , or what I wanted out of life. I originally found myself following a different path as an art student but realised that there wasn’t a career for me in this area, so I decided to look at my other options. It was my best friend’s dad that first suggested engineering to me. He was a well-respected bridge engineer and there were apprenticeship positions being advertised at the company he worked for. I had absolutely no idea about the breadth of engineering, or what I was really getting myself into, but I did know that it was an opportunity to have a life-long career and that I had good GCSE’s that aligned with the job requirements. I decided that I had nothing to lose, so I applied, and the rest is history.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
My role manages the roll out, engagement and review of engineering competence across the track discipline for a defined geographical area on the railway. I work with a variety of engineering, health and safety and training teams to identify our competence risks, and to then implement and deliver training interventions, capability, and talent management to manage these. It's all about using my engineering knowledge and experience to identify and bridge any gaps in the business, making sure that we’re providing people with the right tools, resources and business expectations so that they are capable and confident in delivering to the very best of their ability.
Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical workday will consist of a catch-up with my colleagues to see if there are any new urgent risks or incidents that we need to review. I’ll then be create or review new training material, standard updates or competency changes, and communicate these to track teams. I’ll then spend some time interrogating competency data. This allows me to benchmark our technical capability and undertake assurance activities so that I can plan for which areas we need to improve upon. I also often undertake line management duties for graduate engineers, so I will spend time supporting them on their early career journeys, as well as sponsoring colleagues through their own applications to become professionally registered. I also volunteer within the Permanent Way Institution (PWI). I help run meetings for members and act on committees, although the majority of this is done after work and in my own time.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
I’ve found that the concept of competence can be quite a difficult subject to approach with people. The word itself can drive an immediate negative response. Think, “Why are you telling me I’m not competent to do my job/good enough?”. The answer is almost always, I’m not! Competence and capability are complex and misunderstood topics. It’s my job to drive awareness and change that negative perception. It’s powerful and critically important to fully understand your personal limits in both, especially when you’re working in a safety critical environment. You can’t improve on things you don’t know about, so explore everything and find out where your knowledge truly lies.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
My current role is very varied. It’s not as technical as some of my previous roles, but it allows me to engage with a much wider variety of people within the business. I’ve been introduced to teams and parts of the organisation that I didn’t know existed, and I’ve been with Network Rail for eight years! It all helps build my understanding of how the “cogs” in the machine fit together and impact each other.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Early on in my career I was fortunate to be awarded two separate accolades from Ground Engineering, “Apprentice of the Year” and the “Rising Star Award”. At the time I was an apprentice within a geotechnical team, with limited industry experience, so to be recognised in such a positive way was an honour. Additionally, graduating from the Open University in 2020 after six years of part-time education was a huge accomplishment. I undertook my studies outside of work, and in my own time. It was difficult at times to juggling hectic job roles, a degree and then some sort of personal life alongside that. It was a proud moment getting to wear that graduation gown!
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I knew that professional registration was something to be proud of as soon as I learnt about it, and it’s been a personal goal ever since. Being recognised by the Engineering Council would prove to others and, more importantly myself, that I met a set standard of engineering practice and behaviours. Sometimes I fall victim to imposter syndrome, and this was one of the mechanisms that helped me to tackle that. I also knew that it would open more opportunities, not just in job roles but also in the connections and development that I would be able to access from a wider engineering community.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Professional Registration has given me a massive confidence boost in my own abilities and encouraged me to seek out more opportunities than I would have previously. It also looks great on my CV. Anyone can immediately recognise that I meet a set standard and can be expected to work comfortably at a certain level. I’ve also made some wonderful connections throughout the process.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
As I mentioned above, my employer now knows that I meet a set standard within professional engineering and can be trusted and expected to work at a certain level competently and safely. They can also recognise me as a potential sponsor or supporter to help others become registered.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Don’t let the process put you off or spend too much time procrastinating on how you’ll manage to get it done. Just break it down into steps and commit to getting started, that’s the hardest part! Also, don’t sell yourself short. You’ll often find that you have more experience and knowledge than you realise. Anyone can start their journey, there are so many people that will be willing to help.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I’ve just become a mum for the first time and am finding myself in a period of real reflection when it comes to my career and where I want my next steps to lead. I would love to lead and drive positive change within the rail industry; culturally, technically or within existing processes… or a mixture of all three! I thrive off working with others, and that feeling of getting things done and being impactful. I will be seeking to be chartered within the next five years too.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I often volunteer to participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) activities and have spent time mentoring university students over the past couple of years. I also support the PWI by running a local section of member activities and events each year.