"The railway industry is dynamic and international. There is always something new around the corner and you don't have to be a railway enthusiast to get involved."
Amy Barley: Materials & Fire Safety Engineer for Vehicles, Bombardier
Knowing that she wanted to pursue a career in engineering, Amy completed IB’s in Maths, Physics and Chemistry to gain a place at the University of Birmingham to study Engineering and Business Management, specialising in manufacture and materials towards the end of her studies. The degree involved a lot of lab work but Amy feels they could have been given more practical experience. Most of the lab work involved watching demonstrations rather than ‘doing.’ During her summer holidays, Amy completed various work placements with Bombardier Transportation at the manufacturing site in Derby and thoroughly enjoyed her time there. As a result she joined Bombardier’s 2 year graduate scheme when she left university and during her time in the Services Division was able to experience the operation, production and engineering which is required for building and maintaining trains. On spending time with the maintenance production team, Amy commented ‘I was very excited to be doing something new. The role required me to follow rigid instructions under full supervision as the work was very hands-on. This work gave me a lot to think about in terms of design for maintenance.’ Working at the depot was a great way for Amy to improve upon her practical engineering capabilities and the Graduate Scheme lead her to the role she is in now as a Materials Engineer for vehicles.
‘There is no such thing as a typical day when you’re working in the railway industry. For example I had a day recently in which I went from working with the voltage equipment on the roof of a train to testing the fire performance of seat materials, to assessing paint performance on a vehicle body.’ Amy enjoys the way in which you constantly have to think laterally as a railway engineer. She always has to think of the implications of whatever she is working on and a lot of the time this will mean that she has to adapt her approach for each application to find a suitable solution. Amy’s current role is very technical; it takes time to develop the knowledge and experience required and then understanding how to apply theory adds to the challenge of being a railway engineer. Her degree was suitably tough. ‘With an Engineering course there is a lot to understand in a short amount of time. If you don’t work hard to learn the foundations, it becomes far more difficult as you progress.’
In the future Amy has aspirations to work abroad and move into engineering management. ‘There are railway networks all over the world which need railway engineers. This offers a great opportunity to travel.’ Amy recommends her industry to other young people because the railway will always be here. Unlike other forms of transport, trains are fast, clean and easy to use. ‘Trains are the future of transportation.’ Furthermore it is ‘a unique industry full of passionate people.’
When asked why she thinks there is still such a low percentage of female engineers, Amy believes that it is because those outside of the industry, both male and female, have a very stereotypical view of engineering. ‘More people need to be made aware of what engineering involves.’ The railway industry is dynamic and international. This offers lots of opportunity for expansion. There is always something new around the corner and you don’t have to be a railway enthusiast to get involved. Engineers from mechanical, civil and aerospace engineering all have a role to play in the railway. ‘The biggest challenge facing the UK railway is its heritage. We have a railway infrastructure which is small and beautiful, yet very expensive to change. However, changes will have to be made to cope with the increase in demand.’