Cherie - Graduate Engineer, 2020

What did you study at university?

Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Canterbury.

What motivated you to apply for the graduate programme at KiwiRail?

I didn’t know much of anything about rail before having a chat with two then-grads at the UC careers fair, where I learned about the environmental benefit of rail. I’ve always been keen on doing what I can to lessen my impact on the environment and be eco-friendly, and in my final year of university I was looking for something that merged that passion with the very technical material that I’d been learning – which was difficult, but I found it in KiwiRail.

Though my day-to-day work doesn’t directly look at the environment, I know that as a company we are getting cars and trucks off the road, helping lower NZ’s carbon footprint.

How did you find the transition coming from university into the working world?

I found it easy as I had interesting projects to keep me busy and plenty of support (a buddy to answer all my questions and a manager taking time to explain the structure of the company, and how our team fit into it). I started at the same time as NZ went into lockdown, so it was a struggle learning about the components of rolling stock from a computer – but I found plenty of helpful and patient people to explain concepts to me.

What would a day at KiwiRail look like for you during the graduate programme?

Two parts – 1. project work, where I would have a mini project to progress on my own (with help of course!), something I could get finished in three months that related to the team I am rotating with.

And 2. Business as usual / shadowing – following people around who are already doing the job, helping them with tasks that they do, which also helps me in understanding how the team fits into the bigger picture of KiwiRail. There are so many teams in KiwiRail, and by spending time with a variety of teams and coming to understand their daily activities and struggles I both made a great network of contacts and came to understand more of how everyone fits together to achieve KiwiRail’s purpose.

What was your favourite part about KiwiRail/ the graduate programme?

My favourite part about the graduate programme was how open the job description is – as I was only in each team for a matter of months, I never got stuck with business-as-usual tasks. This freed me up to spend two years as a sponge, learning about how rail works and how different teams fit together. I didn’t notice it at the time but now that I’m in a full-time job after the grad programme I can see how valuable my network is and how special it is to have had time to focus on learning and growing.

What have you learned during the graduate programme?

There was a lot of rail-specific knowledge to learn – all the acronyms and terms, technical details about how locos and wagons work, and ways that jobs are done.

How would you describe being a graduate at KiwiRail?

It’s like joining a family. There are many grads each year and there is a big focus on making sure the right support is in place and helping grads find their place in the business after the programme.

How did the graduate programme help you in your professional and career progression?

It gave me a direction in my professional progression – I didn’t know what I wanted to do after the programme and enjoyed getting to spend time in a whole lot of teams, ultimately finding my spot in one of them (where I am very happily employed now). Other grads knew exactly what they wanted to do and were able to direct their rotations towards that ended job.

What advice can you give to university students/ potential applicants?

Don’t be intimidated by anyone (we’re all just people too), and don’t be scared to ask questions. Especially as a grad, no question is a silly question and it helps you learn.

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