Through his job at rail consultancy Interfleet, John Jelley has had the opportunity to work all over the world, with posts in Sweden, China and New Zealand where he now lives.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
Interfleet Technology New Zealand (Wellington).
What's your job title?
How long have you been doing that?
Three years in New Zealand.
How did you get there?
I’ve always enjoyed taking things apart and seeing how they worked, and with this interest, combined with the subjects I did well in at school, engineering was the obvious career choice.
From 2004 to 2008 I studied mechanical engineering at Nottingham University mainly focusing on bioengineering and general design - for example my final year project involved creating a pneumatic golf ball cannon. At the time I was interested in a career in bioengineering but the expected predominantly lab-based career wasn’t for me. I’m still fascinated with the bioengineering aspects of sport, but now that’s more of a hobby.
Following my master’s graduation I joined railway engineering consultancy Interfleet Technology’s company’s graduate scheme. During my time on the scheme I was able to obtain a solid understanding of railway engineering through working in Interfleet’s offices and during train depot placements throughout the UK.
I also arranged placements in Interfleet’s Wellington, New Zealand and Stockholm offices, and convinced the New Zealand regional manager that it would be a great idea for me to move over following my completion of the graduate scheme. Since arriving in New Zealand three years ago I’ve worked on projects based in various locations across Australasia and China.
What's the day-to-day experience like?
At the moment day-to-day doesn’t really apply. I’m currently undertaking a quality inspection role in central China, traveling quite a lot between China and New Zealand. This job has a wide range of technical, language and cultural challenges which are really interesting and give me the opportunity to get involved with a wide range of professional engineering issues.
When I’m back in New Zealand, being a member of a relatively small team means that adaptability in the nature of the work I undertake is key. Scope of work, workload and the location of projects is varied, a large reason why I was interested in moving to this particular office. Work can range from more technically-based rolling stock inspection to operational analysis of how to effectively move trains around a network. The common factor is that it all relies on a sound engineering and problem solving approach, applied to the railway environment.
What's the best thing about the job?
The office environment in Wellington gives me the opportunity to undertake a wide variety of work and gives me increased exposure to the commercial and management aspects of the industry, which is something I really enjoy.
We have a great team in Wellington with a wide range of technical knowledge and everyone is always happy to help each other out. The opportunity to be able to access some great mountain bike trails within five minutes’ ride of our office in the city centre or go for a sea swim at lunchtime isn’t too bad either!
And the worst?
Repeatedly checking into a hotel in central China where the staff know you by name, the menu never changes and the beer is consistently warm - after a day in 40°C+ heat, beer should definitely be served cold!
What standout things have you got involved in through this work?
My first overseas assignment was in Stockholm within nine months of joining Interfleet’s graduate scheme, working with and developing our instrumented wheelset technology.
This was a fantastic experience and opened my eyes to the opportunities that traveling with work could offer. The Stockholm and Wellington placements lead me to investigate moving permanently to our New Zealand office at the end of the graduate scheme, a standout career and life decision.
My on-site work in China over the last couple of years has certainly been a standout in relation to technical work, applying my own technical knowledge and working with off-site subject matter experts has really developed my engineering capabilities.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
Life as an engineer is quite often busy and varied, and I really enjoy having a profession with real world application. Railway investment seems to be high on the political agenda in many parts of the world and it’s interesting to have an informed view on the industry, whether it be mineral extraction in Western Australia or assessing the passenger service benefits of new build urban railway infrastructure. My career has given me the opportunity to travel and live in some great parts of the world.
What did you expect when you started work?
I was surprised by how willing everyone was to assist a young graduate, particularly railway depot managers who took on myself and other graduates for placements. I’d like to think we helped them out while we were on placement but we must have been a challenge from time to time!
What do you think you'll do next?
I’m keen to maintain a technical focus in my career and at the same time develop my commercial skills, as I think an effective engineer should be strong in both areas.
I’ve submitted my Chartership application and am in the process of arranging the interview, something I hope I will be successfully completing in the very near future. Aside from that I’ll see what opportunities arise – my career so far has shown me that anything is possible!