Nicolle Reeves - BSc (Hons) Mathematics graduate

Current Employer: Siemens Rail Automation

Current Job Title: Project Engineer

Current Location: Chippenham, Wiltshire

“I never realised the importance of being able to communicate and create good rapport with someone until I left university. Studying at Plymouth really took me out of my shell and now I have no qualms about socialising – without it, I wouldn’t have been able to make the career change I did.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since joining Siemens, I have been able to really focus on my own personal development and learn what it is I want from my career (something I had no clue about whilst I was at university, or when I first graduated). I have been able to discover what I enjoy doing most whilst experiencing the different career paths the company has to offer. My current role varies between onsite and office based work, and although I enjoy both, I am pursuing a career around Project Planning and Project Management.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

When I first graduated, jobs were fairly scarce in my area, so I took the role of an Administrator for Siemens Rail Automation. Within a few months I was helping during a commissioning of the railway at Swindon where I was invited to view the Control Centre, Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC). TVSC controls the routes of all trains from Paddington to Bristol including Swindon, Oxford, and the surrounding areas. It was this that sparked my interest in railway technology. The next working day, I approached my line manager with a proposal for me to transfer to the graduate scheme. This is by far the best decision I’ve made in my career to date.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Unfortunately, the railway industry can sometimes be seen as being 'stuck in the old days' and therefore my gender can cause some difficulties. Although this is certainly not the case most of the time, you occasionally have the odd person (usually someone who has worked on the railway for 40+ years) who isn’t always as accepting seeing me out on the track. But I’ve never let that stop me: it just means making friends isn’t always as easy as I would like.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Working onsite for me is always exciting. Working on the railway is so different to anything I have ever done before and never something I imagined myself doing. I’ve watched tracks get laid, signals go up, I’ve walked across the Forth Bridge in Edinburgh (to name just a few), stood for hours outside in every type of weather imaginable, and it’s never the same thing twice – that’s exciting.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

If you’re interested in joining the railway industry there are many companies that do excellent Graduate Schemes, to name a few; Siemens, Network Rail, TFL, Colas Rail etc. I would highly recommend looking into applying; I knew nothing about the signalling and the controlling of trains on the railway before I joined and it is truly fascinating.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The most valuable skill I took from studying at Plymouth, believe it or not, is being able to network. I never realised the importance of being able to communicate and create good rapport with someone until I left university. Studying at Plymouth really took me out of my shell and now I have no qualms about socialising – without it, I wouldn’t have been able to make the career change I did.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying mathematics, please visit our BSc (Hons) Mathematics course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics, please visit the school page.

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