Overall I have enjoyed my placement at Network Rail. There is a great balance between challenges within my role as well as many opportunities outside my role to get involved in. At times, like any jobs, there are peaks and troughs with the work, but there is usually something around the corner to get your teeth stuck into.
I really enjoy working with the people in my team, as well as the other project teams I have been involved with. I have volunteered to lead side projects, which was a great experience and I have felt very valued. In my main role I am often made to be felt valued with the task I am given, however these tasks predominantly come with little responsibility.
I was first placed into a team which was not suited to me, I did not find the work challenging and the role was suited to someone a lot quieter than I am. However I felt free to challenge this and was able to seek support. After 2 months I moved to a team that is more aligned with what I hope my future career to be.
We also get regular one to one’s with our practice manager, different to our assignment manager, who we can use as a soundboard for any ideas and thoughts.
As I previously mentioned, I have found there are peaks and troughs with how busy we are. Sometimes I can have a lot on (not enough to be overbearing), but sometimes there can be very little. I have enhanced my placement year by getting heavily involved in a range of side projects in order to meet more people and get more tasks to do. However in my day to day role it can sometimes be quite quiet.
During my placement I have been given a moderate amount of responsibility. I have been able to lead projects outside of my day to day role. I have also been trusted to represent the company externally across the country as part of an IT competition we held this year. However I feel the responsibility given to me in role can be pretty low at times. I hope this will pick up in the remaining time on my placement, as I thoroughly understand and get to grips with the processes at Network Rail.
Network Rail are very keen on “soft skills”, this includes what they look for during the applications. This means that a lot of the training and development is based around these “soft skills”, such as networking and presentation skills. We also have had training on team roles to better understand the way we work and how to work with others. These types of skills will be help in my future career.
The office atmosphere is very relaxed. The hours are flexible, so you are free to come in as early or as late as you want (As long as you’re in the office by 10) and the average age in the office is roughly 30-40. There are plenty of sports and social clubs to get involved with such as football, singing or skiing. The office isn’t a laugh a minute, but it is a nice place to work.
The overall structure of the placement scheme is pretty solid. There is a designated practice manager that runs the scheme and places each placement and graduate into their roles. However the tasks in role can vary from each assignment manager. Some assignment managers are better than others, but any concerns or thoughts can be shared with your practice manager, and something is usually done about it.
As previously mentioned, Network Rail is very keen on developing “soft skills” such as networking and presenting. I feel that has been beneficial to myself as well as the rest of my cohort. The one thing that would make the training better is opportunity to gain professional training such as ITIL or PRINCE2 qualifications.
Although nothing can be confirmed as I still have a 4 months to go, but it has been hinted that it is very likely that I will be offered to return to Network Rail on the graduate scheme. Looking at the career progression of previous cohorts of graduates there are definitely some great career paths to follow.
The social scene with fellow placements and graduates is fairly strong. I have never spent the weekend at home alone (unless I wanted to). However I do spend a lot of my spare time traveling to see other friends and family. It isn’t too difficult to gather a group to go to the pub after work, if you’ve had “one of those days”
Cost of living isn’t too bad. Rent around the area can vary from £400-£700, depending on the location and if you are willing to house share. Perhaps more importantly, the cost of a pint at the local weather spoons can be as low as £2. Other activities are fairly standard price, not too expensive, but there aren’t exactly many bargains around.
The nightlife is pretty poor around Milton Keynes. There are 2 clubs, both of which are pretty standard nights out. Although they are a bit on the expensive side (£5+ for entry). But there are plenty of places to eat out and go for a drink in Milton Keynes. However they are all generic chains, there lacks some restaurants and bars with a bit of character. Northampton is just 15/20 minutes on the train, where there are a few more clubs, but the taxi back would be very expensive.
There are plenty of things to get involved with outside of work. There is an internal website with key contacts to get involved with loads of different clubs, and not all of them are sporting. Milton Keynes is also only 35 minutes train from Euston, so going out for activities there can be more interesting.