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Sepehr Semzarzadeh

Management Graduate

"Colas Rail UK is all about opportunities and support. The level of support I have received during my first 6 months from everyone at the company has been outstanding."

Why did you apply to Colas Rail?

During my final year at university, if one asked about my ideal career path, the answer would have been a graduate programme in an industry leading company where I could have combined my engineering knowledge with my passion for management whilst being exposed to real life opportunities. In essence, I can confidently say that the Colas Rail UK Graduate Programme fits all of my criteria. I was not particularly looking for work in the railway industry, but it is an extremely interesting and dynamic sector. After further research about the company and going through the assessment process, my impression of Colas Rail UK was that it is a collaborative, supportive, ambitious and passionate family. This is why I applied to the company straight away.

What are your top tips for getting through the application process?

Other than a strong academic performance, I would say you need a proactive approach, be passionate, flexible and keen to learn, as well as show respect. These are the essential qualities throughout the interview and assessment centre stages. I firmly believe candidates lacking these properties cannot fit Colas Rail UK’s culture. Having railway knowledge would definitely be helpful, but it is not a requirement, as you will learn about railway during your placements.

What is the best aspect of the graduate scheme for you?

Colas Rail UK is all about real life opportunities and support. I firmly believe the level of exposure I have had to senior leadership, including the Managing Directors cannot be found in any other company. Working in a positive atmosphere of trust and support, facing real responsibilities, going on site and observing track renewal processes, having very effective training courses, and, most importantly, exposure to senior leadership group are the highlights of my first few months with the company.

How did you manage the transition from university to the workplace?

I personally found the transition quite straightforward, as I believe universities are where we are taught how to learn. If this skill is applied effectively at the workplace, a smooth transition can be expected. Delivering different individual and group projects during my time at UCL, coping with time pressures and developing team working and fast learning skills definitely assisted me with settling in at Colas Rail UK.

Which of the Colas Rail 5 E’s do you demonstrate most frequently in your role?

I personally believe I frequently demonstrate Energy (get up and go attitude), which you should practise every day regardless of your daily responsibilities. What intrigues me about Colas Rail 5 E’s is the fact that I can see them through almost all Colas Employees across the Company.

Tell us about the support you receive from Colas Rail?

Colas Rail UK is all about opportunities and support. The level of support I have received during my first 6 months from everyone at the company has been outstanding. From the careers and development team and HR to my managers, I could not ask for more support and trust. Within two months of being on the programme, I was asked to attend a graduate Q&A event at UCL, where all the managers of major rail industry companies presented, and where I had the opportunity to represent Colas Rail. This was a real life opportunity and it demonstrated the level of trust Colas Rail UK has for its graduates.

Tell us about your first few months at Colas Rail?

My first rotation was in the Track division in Ipswich, where I was part of the delivery and development teams, assisting the project manager and development manager. The range of opportunities to learn was incredible. I was involved in works such as conducting ballast calculations, preparing train plans and bar charts. Furthermore, I participated in commercial tasks such as pricing projects and estimating the cost of future projects. Later on in my rotation, I was asked by the contract director to join her new team in Project tendering, where I have had the opportunity to be in close contact with Managing Directors and other senior leadership members. I was heavily involved in project bidding works and early contractor involvement for two months, where I observed how major multidisciplinary projects initiated and developed along the way.

What skills have you found to be the most useful on the job?

Proactive approach, get up and go attitude, being passionate, ambitious and keen to learn, together with hard work, perseverance, respect and team work would guarantee a successful career path at Colas Rail.

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