Kerry Ekins's story
I am still early on in my career journey, progressing from intern, appointed in the summer of my second year of university, to having a part time role alongside the final year of my degree.
I was so interested in the sector that my dissertation ended up being on the ethical implications of delay attribution in the railway industry. Just a week after handing in that dissertation I was offered a full time position in project management with Network Rail and haven’t looked back since.
Since starting full time last year I have developed my experience twofold and aspire to progress into further roles of responsibility, to project manager and beyond.
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What kinds of projects do you work on, and what role do you play?
I am assisting on several high profile projects on the East Coast Mainline, involving multiple disciplines, particularly in building, maintaining and renewing overhead line and power equipment. Currently I am involved with a project developing a strategy to supply power to the new Hitachi Depot in Doncaster, where some of the new Azuma Trains will be held.
My role is incredibly varied; predominantly I assist with Network Rail project management duties within the projects themselves, both undertaking office-based and on-site activities.
Tell us about your proudest moment in your career so far
My proudest moment happened when I was deputy duty manager reporting on construction works on the East Coast Mainline last Christmas. It was 03:00am the day after boxing day on my second consecutive nightshift when I finished the final phone call reporting that all the site works were safely complete and successful.
To be part of all the hard work and organisation the team undertook in the weeks leading up to those works was a spectacular experience to be part of so early on in my career. And to be there at the moment that a safe and successful commissioning was complete was definitely worth giving up Christmas for.
Tell us about a challenge you have had to overcome in your career, and what you learnt from the experience.
The biggest challenge so far has been adjusting to the vast amount of variety within the project world and adapting my organisation skills to take on eclectic tasks on a day to day basis. To overcome this I have used APM resources to strengthen and develop my time management skills. I also use the matrix outlines and templates detailed on my APM fundamentals course to form the foundations of my day-to-day activity planning.
What advice would you give to somebody new to the project profession?
My advice would be to firstly identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current management and working style. Knowing these, or at least recognising them through your early career experiences will help position you within the project profession at the right starting level. No one just falls into the top level of this career path, it takes learning from mistakes, understanding yourself and working to prove you can do the job.
It is important that you have a solid network of support, both within your networking and team chain and that offered by an organisation like APM. Utilising APM to its full capacity will not only give you a structured starting point but also give you tools to use at your disposal when managing complex projects and the people working on them.
Explain your decision to become a member of APM
I joined APM to develop my affiliation with project management and be part of an external professional support network, aiding the advancement of my career. It was advised by a wise colleague to join and to utilise what they have to offer in terms of publication, courses, networking events and advice columns.
How does APM membership help you in your job role, career and studies?
As someone who was brand new to project management, APM really strengthened my skills, particularly at the start. I have attended various events they hold, one of my favourites being a talk on project management and the law in Sheffield, which assisted with my projects contract management issues.
I have recently undertaken the APM fundamentals course and I am looking to do the APM Practitioner in the next few months. These courses help with my CV development and in strengthening my knowledge base to use within the projects I assist. The journal and online material I have access to also have very interesting articles and ‘professional development guides’ which have been very useful in everyday work life, especially now I have been given my own project to manage.
APM has helped give me a boost in the early stages of my career. More recently the development tools they provide have really focused my performance reviews and setting my yearly goals in terms of professional development. The role profiler tool has helped me baseline my performance targets when looking at career progression. Having set criteria I can score my own skills against is invaluable and has recently helped me discover the gaps in my experience that I require for progressing to the next level up.