Isabelle Coombes

"I graduated from Plymouth University in 2015 with a 2:1 Geography BA degree and throughout the course I developed a particular interest in transport geography. Thanks to the flexibility and variety that Plymouth University allow, I took relevant modules that enhanced my interest in the area including Transport Geography, Competitive Cities and Tourism and Recreation, and chose to focus on the effect of the Brest Tramway on the urban environment as part of my second year fieldtrip to Brittany.

My dissertation - An Analysis of Public Perceptions toward the Proposed Tavistock to Bere Alston Railway Reopening - explored the contemporary issue of railway reopening and was later cited by Greengauge 21 in its report for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. Beyond the purely academic, I volunteered with the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, leading groups of students to garden and undertake other improvements at local railway stations.

Within six months of graduating I joined a transport consultancy company, North Star Consultancy, an international team of specialist operations experts providing services and advice to clients in the transport – predominantly rail – industry. My passion for transport, demonstrated by the tailoring of my degree to this area, led Plymouth University to recommend me for the graduate vacancy which North Star were advertising for. 

Since joining North Star as a Consultant in February 2016, I have worked on projects for clients in Manchester, London, Dubai, Copenhagen and Madrid. Born and bred in the South West of England, working and living abroad is exciting! I started working for customers straight away. First, I conducted surveys for a major London airport, then worked as a writer for a bid for the Manchester Metrolink network, before travelling to Dubai where I lived and worked for seven months. Whilst there I contributed to two high-profile bids to operate and maintain brand new rail systems in the Middle East. My role included working with subject matter experts (in security, health and safety, human resources etc.) to extract their expertise and articulate it in a way that answered the questions raised in the bid. The material needed to be persuasive and written to high standards, and I also developed formatting skills to ensure the final submission was polished and professional. To date, this is the highlight of my career. Aside from the actual work itself, having the opportunity to live in a foreign country was amazing. I met so many new people and experienced a new culture.

When I am not working with customers, I co-ordinate our internal business controls systems including tracking leads, updating CVs and internal/external communications.

My degree at Plymouth undoubtedly prepared me for the working world. I have taken with me the geographical knowledge I learned, and the skills gained during my time at Plymouth have proved highly transferrable, including:

  • Working to deadlines – managing time and meeting hard deadlines is the same in the working world as it is in university.
  • Strong writing skills – the majority of the work I do is bid writing. I am responsible for writing a coherent, persuasive and well-written response to win our customers work. As stressed throughout education, answering the question is critical!
  • Digesting and understanding information – not dissimilar to dissecting an academic paper or book, my job requires strong reading and analytical skills as well as the ability to articulate these in an easy to understand way.

I whole-heartedly recommend Plymouth University and its Geography degree to any prospective students. The stimulation and support whilst studying, followed by the job opportunities as a result of the skills I developed as a student are fantastic. Thank you Plymouth University, and the Geography Department in particular, for setting me up on my perfect development path."