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Insights Take your Rail career from graduate to expert with AtkinsRéalis

My name is Assala Chahhoub, and I joined AtkinsRéalis, in September 2022 as a Graduate Engineer in the Birmingham office.

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Assala, what do you do in the Safety Engineering and Independent Verification team in AtkinsRéalis' Rail Consulting Practice? 

As part of the Safety Engineering & Independent Verification team, I am involved in projects requiring both the Common Safety Method for Risk Evaluation and Assessment (CSM-REA) and independent verification. This allows me to be involved in different projects to guarantee safety within railway systems.

One example of a project I am involved in is Heritage and Charter. I am currently working on the CSM-REA delivery for the European Train Control System (ETCS) fitment on the steam locomotive Tornado, followed by Black 5 and the heritage diesel Deltic.

I am currently involved in the management of the hazard record for Tornado with a focus on the close-out of the hazards to reduce the risks to as low as reasonably practicable. This is then followed by a Safety Justification Report clarifying how the hazards have been managed. For a significant change, such as the ETCS fitment on a heritage train, the approval of an Assessment Body is required. This independent verification is undertaken to ensure that the CSM-REA process has been applied correctly. This project allows me to liaise with different specialists and stakeholders allowing me to learn more about the locomotive.

What attracted you to a career in the rail industry? 

I was involved in a project during my second year at university regarding the renewal of a footbridge. This introduced me to the railway, and I found really interesting the variety of different fields which were involved in the assignment, allowing me to learn different engineering aspects.

Despite my initial introduction to the railway in university, I did not have a strong railway-related background when I started as a graduate, but this has not impacted me negatively during my work experience here at AtkinsRéalis. On the contrary, I have been supported by my team and specialists in different departments dedicating their time to allow me to learn new things. The most important thing is to be eager to learn and your teams will support you.

What development opportunities are there at AtkinsRéalis?

As a graduate, I have a big opportunity to be involved in different projects and sectors in which I show interest. This will permit me to gain different skills allowing me to find the field I would like to specialise in after my graduate scheme. AtkinsRéalis allows you to find your path and supports your development plan, facilitating the means to do so. Additionally, AtkinsRéalis supports my personal development regarding my chartership too, by also ensuring I gain the skills required by the IMechE.  

How is AtkinsRéalis supporting you in achieving your career goals? 

During my first year in Safety Engineering & Independent Verification, I have worked with different people within Rail Consulting, which not only allowed me to be involved in different projects but has also permitted me to be involved in the business side of the practice by facilitating strategy days. AtkinsRéalis makes sure you get involved in different fields; I was in fact given the opportunity to facilitate the four strategy days planned for 2023. With the support of my colleagues, I have worked on highlighting the strengths and weaknesses within our team and how we could reach our goals. 

How would you describe the Birmingham office community? 

The Birmingham office is just a few minutes away from the station, allowing an easy commute. The first floor, where I usually sit, has also a pool table that gives a great opportunity to meet new people when taking a break. The office community is strong and there are a number of of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) networks including 'Empower', for which I am one of the Birmingham coordinators. As part of this network, we aim to run monthly sessions discussing themes around women's challenges in the workplace and increase awareness among others, highlighting that you do not need to be a woman to be part of/support the network.

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What are the benefits of flexible working as an Early Career?

AtkinsRéalis has a good work-life balance; I work from home and the office as best suits me. On the days I have something planned for the evening like going for a meal or to a gym class, I can work from home as it's more convenient. This is also great when I am planning a weekend away to visit a new city.