Case study

Consultant — David Cope

David landed a job with a leading consulting and engineering firm thanks to his MPlan spatial planning degree and previous work experience

How did you get your job in transport planning?

I have changed jobs since graduating, having had two years of prior experience at another consultancy before moving to SYSTRA LTD.

I worked hard and tried to get as much experience on different projects and with different types of work as I could. I then found a particular interest area, which happened to be something that SYSTRA LTD had more expertise in.

I am now a transport modeller using a range of software and techniques.

Learn from your mistakes - it's inevitable that you will make some in your career, especially if you have just graduated

How relevant is your planning degree to your job?

My main interest throughout university was transport, but I thought that undertaking a planning degree would make me more employable and would open up more doors.

However, as I have later found out, transport planning takes many forms and people with a background in mathematics and geography are also employed.

The knowledge and skills that I gained, specifically in transport planning in my final year have been an advantage.

What are your main work activities?

What I do varies most days, depending on what work is needed at the time. I have just completed modelling work, involving recalibration and network testing, using a transport modeller's greatest tool, SATURN (Simulation and Assignment of Traffic to Urban Road Networks).

Currently I'm working on major scheme business cases for projects in the Midlands, which involves quite a bit of research and investigation and an understanding of what the projects involve.

How do you use your degree in your job?

My fourth year introduced me to transport modelling and the theory behind it, which I now put into practice.

However, I've been in the industry for just under three years and so most of the knowledge I use day-to-day has been picked up along the way.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love the variety of tasks that I can undertake and the people who I work with.

I have been at SYSTRA LTD for just over six months but the support I get while learning new skills is great.

How has your job developed?

Since starting at SYSTRA LTD I've learnt an enormous amount. Before I only had a sketchy idea of SATURN, now I can revalidate a model and understand the processes needed to do so accurately.

I have also been handed the opportunity to be the project manager for the first time, as well as a whole load of responsibilities I had no idea about.

Learning on the job is invaluable and something I would advocate to anyone. If you get an opportunity to do something just take it; it will be a challenge, especially if you have no idea what you're doing, but trust me it will be worthwhile. It got me to Saudi Arabia in my previous job.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

In five years I see myself being a senior consultant, perhaps pushing on the doors of principal consultant. I’d also like to be working on large scale projects within SYSTRA LTD and have more responsibility, who knows what will happen.

Never giving up is the key.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

If you have been presented with an opportunity but you don’t believe you have the skills or knowledge to do it just say yes. Worry about not having the knowledge later as there will always be someone to help.

One more vital piece of advice is to learn from your mistakes. It is inevitable you will make some in your career, especially if you have just graduated.