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Insights Graduates: Work where you get the best opportunities.

Hello, I'm Aishah Latif, a proud graduate of the University of Salford with a First Class degree in BEng Civil Engineering. So, how did I end up in rail? My career journey began when I joined AtkinsRéalis, as an Assistant Engineer. I started my career in flood risk assessment. This led me to an opportunity on High-Speed-2 (HS2).

I loved the excitement of rail. So, I put my hand up to join the team working on supporting infrastructure for the Midland Mainline project and Central Rail Systems Alliance (CRSA). As I write this, I'm taking a break from my role in the Bridges and Civils team—where I manage significant projects like the Willenhall and Darlaston stations and several others for Birmingham City Council and the National Grid. I am currently working with Buckinghamshire Council, where I am project managing a bridge scheme.

Photo of Aishah smiling towards the camera

Using my Civil degree in Rail Engineering

I also love learning, so working in the rail industry allowed me to be in a new environment and discover something new. I have experience traveling via rail, but working in the sector provides a whole new perspective and an opportunity to shape the future of transport for society. Although I was initially new to the industry, I worked alongside colleagues with 20+ years of experience. Working with them on projects and learning from them made it easier.

"At AtkinsRéalis, everyone is always willing to help and support you when needed, making this learning curve a whole lot easier.”

HS2 Phase 1: My first significant project

This was a big opportunity to work on Europe's most significant infrastructure projects, collaborating with international colleagues as a graduate. We had many companies and stakeholders involved. Previously, I worked on small private developments. I dealt with this huge change by taking all the information in, asking questions, and speaking to others working on the project to learn more. I realised that the more I immersed myself in the role, the easier the role became.

HS2 gave me confidence

Although it was daunting to work on HS2 as a graduate, I had a lot of support from colleagues, and I did it. Navigating a project of that size so early in my career has given me the confidence to work on even larger and more complex projects.

"Working on HS2 allowed me to piece together the bigger picture in the world of engineering."

Midland Mainline: Enhancing my skills

While working on Midland Mainline Phase 3 (MML), I worked with my team to complete deliverables and issue them to Network Rail. I developed my communication skills as I learned how to engage effectively with different people in different ways to ensure work was issued on time.

Becoming a well-rounded engineer

The more you work on engineering projects, the more technical knowledge you learn and can use for future projects. Each project will teach you something new, and that is how knowledge builds. After a few years, you will have accumulated sufficient knowledge that can be shared with junior staff to aid their professional development.

The chance to do something completely different

I was offered the opportunity to manage and lead the creation of AtkinsRéalis' 2023 rail brochure. After deciding on the content, I liaised with colleagues from 17 different disciplines to gather material for each section, including up-to-date case studies. Once I had everything together, I collaborated with the Creative Design team to put it together. I had regular catch-ups with them so I could monitor progress.

A taste of Project Management

One of the biggest challenges was keeping track of all the information and ensuring it was in the correct place in the brochure. I created a tracker to help me keep on top of deadlines and the status of the content. Another challenge was writing some of the section introductions myself. I had not done anything like this before but embraced the opportunity to learn and contribute.

Appreciated for my contribution

Completing the brochure in itself was an achievement—it took months to finish, and sections had to be reviewed and revised several times, but it was eventually published. It's currently used by senior staff across the AtkinsRéalis business’, in face-to-face client meetings. I still get messages about the brochure today. I am glad that I had the opportunity to manage and lead the entire project—it was very enjoyable and I learnt a lot in the process.