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Insights Heaps of passion but think your degree is unrelated? Here's how that can be a good thing...

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"My passion for rail keeps me on track, and my job as part of the Rail Consulting team is the ticket to making this happen." 


Meet Sofia Angelara, a Rail Consultant in our Manchester Office.

What has your career path looked like so far?

I was lucky enough to be offered a career in the Rail sector, and I'm extremely proud of my journey up till now. It has been full of exciting surprises and life lessons that have made me who I am today.

After being awarded a Master's degree from the University of York in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture in 2012, I started working as an office administrator in a Rail consulting company. My determination to learn more and support the engineers with their tasks led me to be offered a position as a trainee Signalling Designer in York. Not long after, I became an Assistant Signalling Designer and, two years later, a licenced Signalling Designer based in Manchester.

Since joining Atkins in 2017, I decided to change my career path as I believe the future exists within Systems Engineering. So here I am, working as a Consultant in the Rail Systems & Infrastructure team, offering our clients broad knowledge of various rail disciplines and systems to solve complex problems.

What does your current role involve?

In other words, my job is to solve complex problems that occur throughout the lifecycle of an infrastructure project. From interfaces management to technical contract requirements verification, validation and compliance, and simply answering the question: Are we designing and building the right things in the right way?

I can usually help the client answer this question by helping them to visualise a project's assets and their connection in terms of location, project stage/phase and systems/subsystems. This is what we call Systems Architecture. Also, the project's contract can be broken down into individual technical and non-technical requirements. I manage these through a software tool dedicated to this job so that it's clear where each requirement is linked, and its status and history are easily accessible.

This is a very small example of what a Systems Engineer can achieve when involved in a project. Still, the bigger picture is that unnecessary costs and delays are avoided when the work happens early enough.

Can you tell us about a great project you've worked on here at Atkins?

The project I would like to pick as my favourite is working for High Speed 2 in Phase 1 for the Birmingham to London Line, where I had to manage the requirements for every discipline and the contractors delivering them. I managed various stakeholders across all parties of the project, including the client representatives, contractor and sub-contractor designers and project managers, so that we were all on the same page regarding how the requirements follow the scope of work and, if not, what we can do to fix it. The project required many interpersonal skills, multitasking and problem solving, alongside systems engineering skills and rail domain knowledge.

Can you tell us what the community is like in the Manchester office?

Our Manchester office is a great place to be part of. I'm proud to be the Social Coordinator for the Rail Consulting team, which means I organise social events for everyone based in the Manchester office. 

Apart from Rail Consulting, we have a strong representation in the Highways team, Planning, Project Management and Faithful & Gould parts of the business. We hold a plethora of seminars in the meeting rooms where employees can learn about what other teams do. As Atkins supports flexible working, we have an online seat reservation system to help us plan who's in the office on certain days, keeping us connected as a team.

I'm also currently taking part in our Two-Way Mentoring programme, which sees me paired up with another colleague in the wider business. I'm really enjoying the two-way structure as I get to share my personal career path to help others avoid making the same mistakes but also put myself in the learning seat to help with my own development.

Photo of Sofia and her team out for lunch

What are your passions outside of work?

I'm a very active person, primarily focusing on running and cycling. Over the past three years, I'm blessed to have become a mother to two young boys who are one and three years old – and they keep me busy as well.

I'm also a huge animal lover, and while I used to have a German Shepherd and a cat, I also rode horses and participated in regional show-jumping events. This year I've also become the proud owner of two French Lop rabbits.

I love cinema, books, travelling and video games. My current favourite film is "The Last Duel" by Ridley Scott, and I'm currently reading "The Witcher" by Andrzej Sapkowski. I enjoy listening to all genres of music, but if I had to choose, it would be electronic dance music. I haven't played a video game for a long time, but if I could, it would be Tomb Raider!

Photo of Sofia with her two children

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