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Insights Why you should never go back in your Engineering career. Unless it's to Atkins.

Meet Garry, Group Engineer and Professional Head for Electrification at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. He talks to us about why he returned to Atkins after some time away and how he and his talented teams are engineering better for our planet and its people. 

Ivan and his colleague working on the snowy rail track

Garry, what brought you back to Atkins in 2013, and what keeps you with us?

We have the best people and the best projects. I'm coming up to ten years, and that hasn't changed – my colleagues and I can call on experts from across the industry with a single phone call.

What do you like about the culture at Atkins?

Atkins today is completely different to the hierarchical, top-down engineering model that existed here 20 years ago. The engineering teams have a large degree of autonomy to develop processes and digital tools, led by a proactive Professional Head in each discipline. The senior team is approachable, ideas come from all team levels, and more junior engineers have opportunities to get involved with tools and process development outside of projects.

The leadership at Atkins is genuine about wanting to change the culture in engineering. I've seen examples where people have changed their attitude to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion for the better once they've understood the impact their unconscious biases have on others. We have a number of forums where staff – and crucially senior managers who set the tone – sit down in an open and non-judgmental group to discuss what it's like to work here and what can be improved.

What are the career opportunities like for you and your team?

I can get involved in a huge range of projects – from smaller, detailed design of remodelled railway locations to large-scale deployment of new electrification, improving and decarbonizing railways that currently use diesel trains.

I also have opportunities to work on rules rewrites for the industry – we are rule-makers, as well as rule-takers. That differentiates us from many of our competitors, and I'm really proud to be involved. We also take digital tools very seriously. We develop our own tools in-house to make them responsive to designers' and clients' needs.

What are you working on at the moment?

As a professional head, I support the people at Atkins to deliver technical excellence and maintain good project performance in developing digital tools and strengthening our internal processes. All while helping with business development, learning when things occasionally go wrong and ensuring everything we do is safe.

I'm doing all that right now while working on some of Network Rail's electrification cost-reduction projects. Specifically, I'm looking at rewriting rules on uplift, electrical sectioning and switching configurations. At the other end of the scale, I'm helping our Midland Mainline team deliver electrification designs at scale using new tools and techniques.

How are you engineering better for the planet and people?

Rail is the safest and most efficient form of land transport and the only one with a proven route to net;zero carbon. Yet, only around 6% of journeys in the UK are made by train. If the incentives are right, there is huge scope for a modal shift to rail.

Electrified railways are more pleasant to travel on, better for the environment and cheaper to run than any with other fuel. To quote Roger Ford,"...an electric railway is a better railway however you define better." My job is to ensure Atkins plays its part in delivering on that potential while advocating for electric railways.

How do you make the most of flexible working?

I've embraced hybrid working. From Tuesdays to Thursdays, I'm usually in one of our offices, meeting the teams and helping them to address their project challenges. But Mondays and Fridays, I usually work from home, so I get an extra hour in bed and can start the weekend a bit early!

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