Reason I chose this course is so I could do a job using my degree in a practical environment, so I started looking at engineering graduate opportunities. After graduating I took some time to travel around for 6 months, then I took a job in a logistics firm but it didn't interest me much. That was when I discovered Arriva via their website. When I first joined Arriva I was surprised by the intensity of the job…you walk in the door and it is non-stop. You're always working at a fast-pace and there isn't much time to relax. Having said that, there isn't a chance to get bored, either! I've done office jobs before and the Arriva graduate programme isn't like that - it's not routine and every day is different, keeping you on your toes.
Understanding the business
Doing my bus driving test was really important to me. I gained experience of both managerial and operational environments, learning the differences between engineering and traffic departments. Getting my licence and picking up passengers was really beneficial. There was one instance in particular when I was learning to drive a bus and the bus broke down on the way home. We were stuck for 4 hours on the M2 in the training bus, waiting for a tow-truck to turn up. We didn't get home until 6pm having started at 7am that morning! That was quite frustrating and it gave me much more affinity with drivers who suffer a breakdown whilst in service and made me a better engineering manager. Now, if I get a breakdown call from one of the drivers, I make sure it gets fixed as soon as possible.
Training and development
My on-the-job training was focused on technical knowledge and the practical application on how to manage people. There were lots of things I hadn't considered before, like learning employment law. Sometimes what should seem like a simple task can often be quite complex. Off-the-job training was really great - the project management and the financial management courses were fantastic. The graduate network was also really important - speaking to other graduates and seeing what line they go down to solve problems that they face. Everyone takes a different approach to problems and this makes networking with other graduates invaluable. My mentor was brilliant too - I had the Director of Technical Services (the top engineer in the company) as my mentor - getting tips from him was really helpful. One of my biggest challenges was moving from the Midlands to Kent; my first time living away from home. My mentor helped me assimilate into my new role whilst dealing with the challenges I faced inside and outside work.
Secondments and placements
At Centre Bus it was really interesting to work for a smaller part of Arriva and see how they worked and operated compared to how wholly owned Arriva depots worked. Everything was different - so it was my job to try and understand why and how they took this approach.
This was my first step in to a pressurised role - some of the engineers who worked there had been there for years and were engineering experts. I came into this environment with a lot of theoretical knowledge from my degree but not a great deal of practical experience. So I dealt with it the only way I knew how - I got my overalls on and got stuck in! The other engineers like to see others getting stuck in and getting their hands dirty. You learn as you go, appreciate the job you're asking others to do and earn the respect of the team around you.
I completed my Graduate Programme four months early, and was offered a position as Assistant Engineering Manager at the High Wycombe depot.