6 reasons why Atkins is the best career start for Graduate engineers
by Spencer Jones | Graduate Mechanical Engineer, Transportation
19 April 2019
Spencer graduated in 2017 and joined Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group, shortly after. In just a year he has grown from new graduate to confident engineer with invaluable experience. In this blog he gives six reasons why since joining, he has never looked back.
1. So much room for development
My first project was to help create a “stabling” strategy for railway vehicles for a Train Operating Company (TOC). The challenge was working with varying capacity requirements, locations, operating restrictions and service routes to come to the best solution. I was also responsible for developing the infrastructure safety log, leading the periodic review process, and creating specific dashboards to communicate risks. I presented these in weekly meetings to improve safety awareness and culture.
At the end of the project I coauthored the stabling strategy report which I presented directly to the client. Working on this extremely challenging project gave me a thorough understanding of train planning principals combined with engineering limitations.
2. You won’t get pigeonholed
Atkins is a place where you can follow your interests, and learn many different skills through a formal training programme. I feel I’m being honed and developed so I can be a well-rounded chartered transport engineer. I’ve had opportunities to:
i) Create innovative digital tools
With Excel and VBA coding, I developed an automatic tool to analyse platform extension requirements using surveyed data. This included signal positions, train lengths and minimum signal stand-back distances to determine railway vehicles’ compatibility. The tool made a huge difference to our programme’s productivity and efficiency.
ii) Get experience in safety engineering
I developed an Engineering Safety Assurance Plan that harmonised the latest construction regulations with the client’s safety management system and Network Rail’s Standards. This was adopted by all project members to effectively control hazards and manage compliance with control processes when tendering to external suppliers.
I’ve taken part in several track and infrastructure inspections to identify associated hazards. I’ve completed the Personal Track Safety (PTS) & Industry Common Induction (ICI) Sentinel site safety training. When developing associated works package plans and briefing sheets, I ensured they complied with the relevant safety management systems.
iii) Take on great responsibility
When working for an external client, I was appointed as the Route Proving Lead. As part of the role, I was responsible for the development of the creation of the delivery process and programme, coordination and management of engineering, train planning, operations and safety facets. In addition, I presented this work to the business assurance panel for sign-off.
iv) Encouraged to win business
I recently worked on the introduction of a new railway fleet for a Train Operating Company. I made Atkins aware of another operator’s plan for an £800m investment in a new fleet within the franchise in the near future, and the high similarity in engineering challenges as well as scope for involvement. This could provide a significant revenue stream for the company in the near future.
v) Work closely with important clients
I recently helped a major client get certification for a novel on-track plant machine ahead of the Easter blockade deadline. Working side-by-side with the client to show regulatory compliance obtained the required certificate. By exceeding the client’s expectations, we won additional work to obtain a further certification for the machine and other on-track plant equipment.
3. A culture to grow and succeed
When I joined Atkins I immediately enjoyed the supportive work culture. Everyone has time to help and listen to questions.
i) Plenty of support for new grads
There are many different programmes and groups in place for new graduates. In my first year I appreciated the ‘Buddy’ scheme – more experienced graduates were there to help us settle in and manage our placements. This year I’ve signed up as a buddy and I’ve also been helping to expand the existing Graduate Development Programme. It now includes a site visit to an operational rail depot. The idea is to immerse the team within an operational railway environment, adding real experience to what they’ve learnt in theory.
ii) Open to new ways of working
We’re always encouraged to be proactive. Under my own initiative I wanted to see what I could do to prevent unintentional silo-working – separate teams working toward the same objectives and not sharing information. I developed a new, restructured organisational chart as well as visualisation process. The teams were enthusiastic about trying it out. I’m pleased to say it has resulted in greater continuity and improved collaboration between teams.
4. You can make your own opportunities
Working at Atkins, it’s really important NOT to keep your nose down and mind your own business! I’ve found that you can pick up opportunities by networking and meeting other employees. We’re also encouraged to be proactive and get involved internally and externally which often results in creating something new and worthwhile:
i) The Railway Challenge
In 2018 we took part in this competition against other companies and universities, to design and manufacture a narrow-gauge locomotive that met specific criteria including ride-comfort, noise and regenerative capability. I took on the role of mechanical lead. It was a complex project which had team members bringing in expertise from mechanical, systems, electronic and electrical engineering backgrounds. Our teamwork was incredible, we pooled previous experience such as data analysis, CAD modelling and dynamic fatigue modelling. It was great fun and we all developed our skills through the experience. I aim to continue providing support for next year’s entrants!
5. Working with people who want to make a difference
At Atkins we’re all proud that our work makes a difference to our world. So #givingback to communities is very important to us. We all get two days’ leave a year to dedicate our time to charity.
I’m one of the company’s STEM ambassadors. We regularly take part in community events to get young people at local schools excited about STEM subjects. I’ve also taken part in several Derby Railway Engineering Society & Young Railway Professionals seminars and presentations, as well as represented the company on an Institution of Mechanical Engineers technical tour to Utrecht.
6. We have plenty of fun.
Life on our Graduate Development Programme is not just about growing professionally. The company emphasises personal development and just having fun. We have a very active social calendar, from nights out to fun days not to mention our great annual summer and ski trips.
We all have very full lives outside of work and Atkins respects and supports that. Flexible working is very important to our work culture and that means I can find the time to do the things I enjoy. In my spare time I volunteer as a canoe & kayak coach with particular interest in white water paddling. I also hold a Pilot’s Licence and enjoy flying powered aircraft.
Find out how you can start progressing your amazing career with us today.