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Insights An unforgettable project management secondment at High-Speed

Hello, I'm Verity, a Project Director at AtkinsRéalis, working on a HUGE array of engaging projects. And for six years, I had the unique privilege of being seconded to HS2, a transformational high-speed railway project connecting London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Now back at AtkinsRéalis for six months, I find myself reflecting on this extraordinary journey!

When opportunity knocks: go on secondment

When AtkinsRéalis won the joint venture contract to serve as the Engineering Delivery Partner for HS2 in 2016, it was a big win. As a Senior Project Manager then, this news offered me an exciting opportunity to go on secondment and immerse myself in a truly unique venture. 

"It was an honour to be part of something as high-profile, prestigious, and massive in scale as HS2. I mean, you rarely encounter projects of this magnitude in the UK!" —Verity

Pulling together to get the job done

Even though I spent my days at HS2, I was never really disconnected from AtkinsRéalis. The organization has always been my home. I felt connected to my colleagues, my mentors, and my friends. I would often reach out to AtkinsRéalis' subject matter experts, have meaningful discussions, seek advice, or sometimes just for a friendly chat. My monthly meetings with my line manager and the AtkinsRéalis Infrastructure Project Delivery practice were my tether back "home."

"When you've got a knotty problem, everybody's trying to untangle it, and it seems impossible. I love trying to break it down and bring clarity and focus to help people overcome it." —Verity

Always something interesting going on…

Being involved in the early stages of project management for both Phase 1 and Phase 2A of HS2 was a truly gratifying experience. It wasn't just the importance of the project to the success of HS2 that made it fascinating. It was the sheer diversity of the tasks. I found myself overseeing the conservation of a Grade I listed building, managing the diversion of gas, electricity and telecommunications utilities from underneath the footprint of the new High Speed Curzon Street Railway Station, and ensuring a respectful exhumation and reburial of human remains from a Victorian graveyard. This mix of old and new, historical and modern, made the project thrilling for me.

An amazing chance to grow and be challenged

My experience with HS2 extended well beyond the realm of railway stations and tracks. As part of the Phase 2A enabling works, I was entrusted with overseeing improvements to Staffordshire's road network and spearheading environmental and ecological surveys. Our work at HS2 was not merely about infrastructure – it was a holistic endeavour where engineering and the environment went hand in hand.

Making a tangible, sustainable impact on the world

Indeed, HS2 is more than just a monumental railway project – it is one of Europe's most ambitious environmental initiatives with a fundamental commitment to ensuring no net loss in biodiversity. AtkinsRéalis' whole focus, after all, is to engineer a better future for our planet and its people, and this ethos aligned perfectly with my secondment to HS2, underpinning every decision made, ensuring we create a more sustainable and inclusive world through our work.

"I love spotting something that could harm my project somewhere down the line and pre-emptively planning for it." —Verity

When you're given the flexibility to thrive

I appreciate the flexibility AtkinsRéalis and HS2 afforded me in my role. The reality of managing different aspects of a project, unravelling complex problems, and mitigating potential issues doesn't have to be a "juggling act" but what happens when you combine collaboration and flexible working. I enjoy the autonomy it offers, enabling me to take control of my work and focus on tasks that require immediate attention. It also allows space to strategize and preempt potential hurdles.

We want to see each other lead and grow

Now, as a Project Director back inside AtkinsRéalis, I carry forward the experiences and lessons, proud of my time at HS2, which has enriched my current role and the diverse projects I now oversee. My time at HS2 has been a cornerstone in my career, a period of exponential learning and growth that has equipped me to contribute even more to AtkinsRéalis and the projects I lead.

Ready to channel your passion into projects of significant impact? Join us: Explore our diverse roles today.