Lead Signalling Power Engineer on the UK Rail network, Abdul Rehman, tells us about his varied working day and how his Electronic Engineer mother was a career inspiration.
Name: Abdul Rehman
Job title: Lead Signalling Power Engineer (E&P)
Qualifications: IEng MIET, HNC Civil Engineering, HNC Electrical/Electronic Engineering
Awards: 1st Runner up for Rail Engineer of the Year 2016, Finalist Rail Engineer of the Year 2015, Finalist Rail Engineer of the Year 2014 at Railstaff Awards UK. Nominated Young Rail Professional of the Year 2014 Employer: Alstom Transport UK Limited
Where you live: Birmingham
Tell us about your job. What do you do?
As a Lead Signalling Power Engineer my role is to design and co-ordinate Signalling Power Distribution Systems for the UK Rail network. All designs I work on are produced to the requirements of Network Rail (the client). I must always take in to consideration the relevant Legislation and Standards such as, Network Rail Standards, British Standards and Railway Group Standards. I am basically an Electrical Engineer specialising in Rail Engineering.
In addition to my main role I am also:
Alstom UK&I Sustainability Coordinator (Birmingham)
Alstom UK&I Safety Committee Member (Birmingham) Alstom UK&I HSE Representative (Birmingham)
Alstom UK&I Health and Wellbeing Champion Alstom STEM Ambassador
Alstom Birmingham Cricket Captain Alstom UK&I BIM Community Member
What does an average day look like for you?
I always try to start my day with a nice hot cup of coffee and then I check my action plan for the day. I sit with members of my team and discuss Engineering Designs that need to be produced to specific deadlines. I then help or mentor the junior Engineers in the team to develop them and provide them with the experience they need. In addition to this I carry out calculations for Power Systems such as UPS, Transformer and Generator sizing calculations. The results of these are written in to a report and I also produce schematics and diagrams using CAD systems to complete a design package that is sent to the client for approval to construct on site. On some occasions I am required to attend project meetings and visit site on the railway to do surveys to aid my designs.
How does your work affect people’s lives/the world around us?
The ultimate customer is the general public and my remit is to ensure the Railway service is improved and safe to use. I must consider sustainability when carrying out designs, ensuring the most energy efficient equipment is used and high importance is given to our environment to improve the world we live in by helping to reduce the carbon footprint.
How did you first become interested in engineering/what inspired you to be an engineer?
Since childhood I have always been very technical. Whether it was playing with Technics Lego at the age of 7, computer programming, inventing various electrical circuits, repairing computers, graphic designing, video/photo editing, servicing bicycles/cars or even installing in car entertainment systems. I have tried it all. However, all credit goes to my parents who have been Engineers all their lives. Both my mother and father have been professional Engineers for over 30 years. Throughout my childhood I was surrounded with opportunities to play with one of the first desktop computers and even using a soldering iron. My parents have been an inspiration to me to being an Engineer and have done me proud as I have grown up.
There are a number of different routes you can take into a career in engineering. What route did you take (and why)?
Following my A Levels, I had been given an opportunity to study a degree in Computer Science and had also been offered a job to work in a well-known Bank. At this time my mother had seen a small advert in the Evening mail which published career opportunities every Thursday. The advertisement was for a Trainee Railway Signalling Design Engineer. I would be expected to attend a part time college course on a day release and also work the remaining 4 days in a design office. My father who taught Engineering at a University encouraged me to take this opportunity over the degree and the job in the Bank. This was the best decision I had made to start my professional Engineering career at the age of 18.
How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now?
Mathematics and Science is very important in Engineering as it helps you to think practically and make good decisions in problem solving and producing designs. I would like to say that English is also a very important subject to focus on during school. This has helped me to write reports and emails.
There are fewer women working in engineering than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
Throughout my career, I have worked with a number of female Engineers. All of which have been very good to work with and they have achieved so much if not more than male Engineers I have worked with. One female Engineer in particular I enjoyed working with briefly was my mother. I have grown up seeing my mother as an Electronic Engineer. My mother has been an excellent role model for an Engineer with excellent skills in providing solutions to problems and even improvising with limited resources. Not only has my mother been great as an Engineer but she has also used these skills as a house wife/mother too. That has been by repairing a vacuum, washing machine, cooker and other appliances or even doing some DIY. As my family is also from an ethnic minority it is very rewarding to see the way my mother had a successful career in Engineering. I think woman can be excellent Engineers and would definitely recommend it.
What do you like most about engineering?
What I love about Engineering is that I am able to present my ideas and thoughts to help make this world a better place and improve the facilities we use on a daily basis to get us from one location to another. The recognition I have received by my peers for the work I have done has been very rewarding. Especially once I finally won the 2nd place for the Rail Engineer (UK) of the year in 2016.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
As I am a keen sportsperson and also voluntarily promote health and wellbeing in the office, I enjoy visiting the gym multiple times a week, playing corporate cricket, football and also reading about new technologies. I love swimming, beaches and hot weather so after a year of hard work I enjoy spending a month on a tropical beach in the sun.
What personal qualities are important for being an engineer?
To be an Engineer you must have an interest in Mathematics, designing, inventing, problem solving and being pro-active. An advantage would be to enjoy interacting with others and being a team player.
If you could go back in time and invent anything, what would it be?
I would love to invent individual flying carts like I would see in a cartoon called the Jetsons as a child. I think it would be amazing to be able to move around above us. In addition to this I would have loved to invent methods of electricity generated by the general public and their daily activities, such as walking and using the gym.
What advice would you give a young person who was considering engineering as a future career?
If you want to make this world a better place to live in then Engineering is the career to take. Become an Engineer and make a difference.