Catherine Lough

Management Graduate

"The best aspect of the graduate scheme for me has been the variety and the diversity of projects I have been able to get involved with."

Why did you apply to Colas Rail?

I applied to Colas Rail because it is a successful and growing rail company that has the advantage of being part of the wider Colas Group and Bouygues group. Being part of this group provides Colas Rail with stability and experience in rail and non-rail construction projects.

The reputable graduate programme of Colas Rail was also a draw for me and allows me to pursue project management within the rail industry whilst also using the knowledge and skills I gained from my Physics Masters.

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

Through the application process try to engage with the assessors - it is not only an opportunity for them to find out about you but also for you to find out more about Colas Rail, the role you will be performing and whether this is a company you want to work for.

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

So far the best aspect of the graduate programme has been how involved I have been able to get with the team I am working with and being able to contribute from very early on. I am also looking forward to rotating through the different divisions within Colas Rail so that I gain an insight into the company as a whole.

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

I have enjoyed the transition into the workplace because I have found it rewarding to see my work being used by colleagues and contributing to the project. It has also been enjoyable to use the knowledge and skill I have gained from University in a practical setting.

Tell us about your first few months at Colas Rail?

I started on the Future Leaders Programme in September 2015 and have been working in my first rotation in Track Renewals. I have been assisting the project managers plan and deliver various projects in Kent and Sussex. This can involve ensuring the scheme of work can be delivered within the time frame, understanding the new track designs to order the relevant materials and resources, communicating with the different disciplines and supervisors to ensure the efficient delivery of the project and meeting the high standards of construction and safety. I am really enjoying my first rotation, especially the variation of the role and the opportunities to go out on site.

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

Execute, edge, energy, energise, engage

The track renewal projects can be complex and challenging to deliver on time, on budget and to the sufficient quality, whilst also complying with the high health and safety standards within the industry. From the project delivery I have seen and been a part of the key to my role is execution. The project managers take plans and concepts and turn them into reality on the ground; regardless of the problems that are encountered they make sure the work is completed.

Tell us about the support you receive from Colas Rail?

Right from the start of the graduate programme I have attended training courses on health and safety on track and the wider rail industry. I have received a corporate induction from the company directors and the CEO. Through the rest of the graduate programme I have more training courses to attend to improve my technical knowledge and project management skills.

I also have regular meetings with my manager and graduate programme co-ordinators so that I have targets to work towards, I can understand areas I need to improve and these meetings also allow me to have a large input into the direction of my career.

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

So far one of the most useful skill I have found is communication. The variation within my current role means that I talk to a variety of people including supervisors and trackman, projects managers, engineers in different disciplines or managers and directors. I was completely new to the rail industry but over the last few months I have learnt a lot from asking questions. I have found people willing to explain things to me and share their experiences.

Especially within track renewals, I think it is also important to be organised and manage your time efficiently in order to complete the numerous tasks by their specific deadlines.