"There’s a lot of variety in the work here... you can learn to be a good engineer across different disciplines."
What were the most enjoyable aspects of working towards chartership?
Whilst it was a lot of hard work, going back and reflecting on what I had done over the last several years was quite enjoyable and nostalgic. I wrote about the viaduct north of Manchester Victoria, and it’s nice to see the first time I looked at it back then to when it was competed, with trains running at a faster speed over it now; it’s nice to see that progression.
I did practice reviews with a lot of people in the office and one of my colleagues from BAM from when I was on secondment, so it was good to get that point of view as well. People in the office who had done their review recently gave me some guidance and sent me their reports and resources, which I’ve sent on to other people getting chartered soon.
I think I was the first person in the company who did it with the new communication task. There were two example questions from the ICE, but nothing else to base my studying on. So obviously it was a bit scary going into it thinking I hadn’t had much preparation for that but now I can share my experience with other people coming through.
What are some of the challenges of rail projects that you enjoy tackling?
Working in a rail environment comes with its own unique set of challenges. You’re working with a live track, you’ve got limited possessions, you’ve got to keep the track operational for a large amount of time. You’re also working with a lot of existing infrastructure, most of what I’ve looked at recently was built in the 1800s, so it’s a bit of a detective mission to try to figure out what they did and why. That doesn’t just apply to rail, it’s the same for highways projects as well, figuring out why they put certain piles in certain ways.
It’s interesting seeing the difference in approach to standards between rail and highways. There are a lot of transferable skills and experience you can carry between the two. The highways scheme I’m looking at currently is an existing bridge that needs replacing, so there’s still a lot of problems with keeping the existing carriageway open and finding out what is actually there now and the interface between that and how you work out the demolition plan without increasing risk.
I recently started on a highways job and it’s nice having that change, being able to switch to different things. A lot of what you do you can use in a different area and bring a different perspective after having worked in a different sector, for example from rail to highways.
What did you learn on your site placement that you can bring into your design role?
It was a very valuable experience. Working with BAM on such a big project and now working with that same team but on the design side, the relationships built through that have been very useful. Some of them have moved onto different companies or other big projects but it’s good to have that network and communicate more easily with those people.
There’s a lot of little day-to-day activities on site which you don’t really appreciate necessarily in your design, like lifting with cranes and how long that takes on site, or what kind of resin they like to use. It’s good to learn the little things you don’t think about in the office.
What do you like about Tony Gee?
It feels like everyone is together as one big team, especially now we do more multi-office working as the new norm. For a project I’m working on at the moment, we had a site visit and social with all the staff across the business who are working on it. It was really good getting everyone together and getting to know the people we would be working with.
There’s a lot of variety in the work here, I heard my fellow graduates who went to other companies were stuck in one team doing the same things again and again. In my first few months, as a graduate, I worked on a new parapet scheme, a drainage scheme and a signal gantry, so there’s lots of different things to work on. You can learn to be a good engineer across different disciplines.
I think a lot of people around the office are very supportive; even if you’re not working directly with them, they’ll answer the phone for your questions. It’s also good that I have regular catch ups with directors over my personal development and career.