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Rapid transit: the high speed journey of a graduate transport planner Kris Wall

As I sit at my desk in my office overlooking Manchester, listening to the grunting of vehicles, the rattle of an oncoming tram, and the buzzing of people, I begin to reflect on my own journey. Not as a commuter, but as a graduate setting out on an unknown career path just four years ago.

I began my journey fresh from Durham University, with a BSc Geography degree. Qualification – tick. Strong university – tick. What next?

My career journey from unsure graduate to transport planner and project manager, has been relentless – so, full speed ahead!

In all honesty, I never really thought about what I wanted to do with my career until I returned home to start churning out job applications. Like many Geography students, I was passionate about certain topics - rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and the wonders of tectonic plates - but I never saw myself pursuing a career in academia. The thought that I had gained tonnes of student debt without figuring out what on earth I wanted to do truly scared me.

So, how did I get from there to transport planning? What bridge did I have to cross?

As it turns out, the infrastructure was already in place for me to make this connection. At university, I had gained skills working with geographic information systems (GIS) as a means to map attributes of space. Whilst most of my work centred on mapping environmental factors, I had also gained the ability to map locations and people to analyse patterns of behaviour, such as travel.

I quickly figured this out during job hunting expeditions, bravely fighting back the monstrous grip of unemployment, and began to apply to GIS specific jobs.

A month passed, a couple of hopeful interviews, but no first class ticket to a successful career, so I set my sights on some of the larger consultancy firms, which is when I found Mott MacDonald.

I would like to say that everything about Mott MacDonald captivated me; the gargantunian employment statistics, the high level projects, the colourful logos; but in reality I was just satisfied to apply to a firm who employed transport planners, with GIS listed as a sought skill.

However, since taking the interview I have not looked back. My career journey from unsure graduate to transport planner and project manager, has been relentless – so, full speed ahead!

Mott MacDonald gave me the focus and voice to define the key skills I wanted to learn. From day one, my career prospects have been listened to and my opinion heard. Mott MacDonald has allowed me to seek so many training opportunities; from acquiring soft skills such as presentation techniques and report writing, to technical skills such as coding in Visual Basic and using multi-modal transport models.

The sheer number of experiences I have been given at an early stage in my career is also staggering. After three months with the company, I met with high profile clients at HS2 Ltd to present model analysis. After six months, I took on a role as representative for the Inspire Professional Excellence programme to help facilitate knowledge sharing across offices. After two years, I managed my first project, and after three years I submitted my first project bid. I have presented on multiple occasions to colleagues, clients and even potential graduate recruits at the Institute for Transport Studies. The thought of presenting to a room full of people would have terrified me four years ago, but the confidence such experiences have instilled in me has been the most rewarding thing I have gained in my career to date.

Finally, Mott MacDonald is a community, and is somewhere I want to be. I joined Mott MacDonald at a time when I had just moved to Manchester. The prospect of moving up north brought back unwanted memories of moving schools, trying to make friends and hope the cool kids let me join in the football match! I now consider Manchesteras my home, partly through visiting nearly every single eatery in the Northern Quarter on pay day lunches, but mostly through meeting some of my closest friends at Mott MacDonald.

Today, I will attend a client meeting, oversee a sub-team and undertake a range of transport planning tasks, including but not limited to GIS work. There is lots of hard work to do - no project is stress free - but I do not travel to work filled with despair. I feel a sense of purpose which I have not always had. This is what I want to do, and Mott MacDonald has given me the opportunity to do it.

I was lucky enough to find a clear career route and am now fully on track to achieve my full potential. The opportunities are also there for other undecided graduates, and for those people, this is a high speed express that you don’t want to miss.

Our UK graduate schemes are open for applications, take the first step in your career and apply now.

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