The Last Word

01.07.15

Opening doors into the rail industry

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 15

RTM catches up with one of its former business development executives, Jonathan Berry, who is nearly a year into his management graduate scheme with Transport for London. David Stevenson reports.

It only feels like five minutes ago that Jonathan Berry (pictured), a bright-eyed graduate with a 1st in Marketing and Advertising Management from Leeds Beckett University, joined the team at RTM in the summer of 2013 as a business development executive.772 IMG 4928 edit

But it is actually almost a year since he joined the Transport for London (TfL) family on their management graduate scheme, so we decided to catch up with him.

Discussing the reasons for pursuing his current career path, he said: “I wanted to look at furthering my career, and the things that TfL could offer provided me with a lot more variety in terms of the job that I’d be doing.

“So, for instance, I could be working in operations one day and then work in strategy and service development during another placement. It was also the training that came with that as well.”

Opening doors

Joining RTM “opened up the door to the rail industry” and made him appreciate the number of projects going on across the sector as a whole, he told us.

“It also taught me that there was a lot going on in London,” said Jonathan. “And it made me think about what these companies are doing and how can I work with them in delivering the exciting projects they are working on.”

He also noted that RTM’s work through the UK Rail Industry Training Trust, in terms of trying to attract more young people into the industry, opened his eyes and that there was a gap available to get involved in the sector.

“There are companies out there looking for people and fresh talent to come through because they are the ones that have got the bright ideas and can bring about changes,” he said, adding: “For young people I wouldn’t discourage them joining the sector.”

Rigorous selection process

The journey of getting onto TfL’s two-year management graduate scheme was, however, rigorous and highly competitive.

“Initially there was an online application form where I had to answer a number of scenario questions, submit my CV and covering letter – as you would expect,” he said. This was followed by online psychometric tests and two phone interviews: one assessing competences and another dealing with various scenarios and problem solving.

“From that, I then got invited to an assessment centre, which was an all-day event where I had to prepare a presentation in advance; then carried out a report-writing exercise based on the presentation work; and then I had an interview at the end of the day,” said Jonathan.

“I then did a task called Fast Track which, again, is a psychometric test. We then did a group exercise without any prior knowledge and was given a scenario to deal with. Mine was: How would you, if you had a limited budget, deal with cooling the Tube? We were presented with two scenarios and you had to justify your reasoning behind your decision.

“The people then found out two days later whether they had got on the graduate scheme and, fortunately for me, I did. It was a long process but definitely worthwhile.”

On the frontline

Since starting on the scheme last September, Jonathan has undertaken a number of placements, including a stint in train operations where he was driving on the Central Line over the Christmas period.

He has also spent time working as a station supervisor and duty station manager; worked for six weeks at Embankment station with frontline staff dealing with customers; and was part of the team working on the Fit for the Future Stations, which included the much debated topic of ticket office closures.

Jonathan is currently working on Crossrail 2 and is looking at the high level early stages of feasibility for the project. “I’m looking at what the best alignment at a number of stations would be along the route, what the best interchange would be along the route and what the best worksites, from a surface point of view, are most obtainable,” he said.

“I think this is the beauty of the scheme because it gets you to appreciate how TfL works from the ground up, rather than going straight into an office-based job. You are thrown into the deep end to see how challenging it can be and what daily life is like working with customers.”

By July/August next year Jonathan will be rolling off the graduate scheme, but TfL is also funding a two-year Project and Enterprise Management Masters qualification for him, which he starts this September.

“You don’t have to do a Masters. And in order for you to do it you need to write a business case to your HR support and it has to be both beneficial to myself and the company,” he said. 

“At the moment I’ve not locked-down where I’m going to be when I finish, but I know the options are there and it is a case of me going through the right process and training to forge myself a career within TfL.” All of us here at RTM wish him well in his endeavours.

“There are companies out there looking for people and fresh talent to come through because they are the ones that have got the bright ideas and can bring about changes. For young people I wouldn’t discourage them joining the sector.”

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