maintaining and modifying equipment to ensure that it is safe, reliable and efficient
using computer-aided design/modelling software
liaising with suppliers
undertaking relevant research
producing and implementing designs and test procedures
On the whole it was a beneficial experience. I hadn't worked full time before I took this role and I learned what it's like to work with a large diverse team on a daily basis. I learned that the business has a wide range of functions which all impact each other.Unfortunately I was not based anywhere near the location stated on my employment contract, and I've only actually been to that location twice in 12 months.
The vast majority of my colleagues valued me and treated me with the respect I deserve. Some colleagues saw me more as a 'work experience kid' who could fulfil the tasks they didn't enjoy doing. I am now friends outside of work with several colleagues which reflects the strong relationships which are built working in close proximity with people every day.
In the first part of my placement I was given a lot of pastoral support by my manager, but the professional development side of things was lacking. In the second half things changed the opposite way around and I was given regular 1-2-1 meetings with my manager, but as I met different characters I learned different management styles.
As is the nature of most businesses, there are quiet days and busy days. I had a lot more quiet days than busy ones as I was given straightforward tasks and long time frames in which to complete them. I would often complete a week's work in half a day, only to be told there was nothing else for me to do. I continually asked for more work but was not given anything.
I didn't appreciate how much responsibility I was given early on and I now see that I had quite a lot of responsibility after a couple of months. When I changed locations my responsibilities diminished and I was given only basic administrative tasks to supplement the workload of the project management assistant. I felt incredibly under-valued and like my skills and quality of experience were disregarded for the benefit of my manager.
I have mainly learned how to work in the big wide world, remaining professional in the face of adversity. The railway is often a totally illogical environment and can be very frustrating, but I learned to channel my frustration in ways to benefit the business. This placement will not benefit my degree in any way as I don't study construction or engineering. I have gained knowledge of Network Rail's internal processes and this will help me get another job in the rail industry.
When I worked in depots the atmosphere was fantastic, the banter was constantly flying around and people had a great time. Work hard, play hard mentality. In the corporate office it was radically different. There was an obsession for knowing who you were, what you were doing and where you would be at every second of the day. It felt very much like I was constantly being spied on, not that I was doing anything wrong, and I felt very uncomfortable.
Absolutely terribly. On my first day, a Monday, my manager said she had found out I was starting on the previous Friday. She then informed me that I would not be working in the location specified on my contract but at an alternative location. I had moved into a flat at my contract location, and my new place of work was going to be further from my new flat than it would have been at home. I protested and was given a compromise as a 'short term solution'. Long story short I never worked at my contractual location, nobody knew what the scheme was about or what I wanted to get from it, and generally it was poorly organised.
The company did not provide much in the way of training. I attended one practical training course, and I had to make repeated requests over several months to be allowed to attend it. I was put under a great deal of pressure to successfully pass the course and this caused a great deal of anxiety. Fortunately I passed the course and it will help me to continue my career on the railway.
Within Network Rail as a whole I am very optimistic, but I will not be touching my current department with a barge pole. They have a terrible reputation across the business, and this is a wholly true reflection of the organisation. I have gained some excellent experience, off my own back, of how the business works and this will stand me in good stead to continue working for Network Rail.
It took 3 months for me to meet any other placement students, I didn't know there were any others in my department until that time. I wish we had been introduced much earlier, particularly as I had moved to a new city, but unfortunately it didn't happen. We organised several work days to meet up when we were asked to make group presentations to company executives, and our presentations were a great success. I did meet up with several of my placement colleagues outside of work later in the year as we got to know each other.
I moved to a big city in the north west and it was very expensive to live there. This was made worse when I found out I wasn't working anywhere near that city. The night life is also incredibly expensive there, but you get what you pay for. I had a great city centre flat and the nights out in the city were amazing, it's my favourite night out ever. I will be looking to move back to the city in the future. After the first part of my placement finished I moved back in with my parents, after I was fortunate to find someone to take over the contract on my flat.
It was awesome. My favourite place to go out in the country and the people around there were great. I felt like I instantly fit in and whilst it was pretty expensive - I thought everything was supposed to be cheap up north?! - it provided excellent value and I had a great time up there. I will be moving back to the city based primarily on how I loved the night life.
None of the teams I worked with had big social scenes in any terms besides drinking. I love drinking so I fit into these groups very well. My first team in the north were out every other week and I think it vastly improved relations within the team, however when I moved south there were older people more involved with their children and we went out very rarely. I found some team members who I went out with on a social basis, but that was wholly unrelated to work.