My placement, my Piccadilly!
Chelsey describes the first few weeks of her year's industry placement.
By Chelsey Duchaussee
Hi everyone! I’m Chelsey, a 3rd-year Business Economics student, currently on placement at Network Rail, based in Manchester Piccadilly station. I started placement on the 9th September 2019 and it has been a major learning curve. I’m elated to be a digital content ambassador once again, to share my placement journey with each of you!
At the beginning of March, I reached the halfway mark of my placement year. It’s shocking how much you can learn and experience in just six months. The knowledge one can grasp is endless, but what’s most amazing is the ability to make lasting connections with incredible people.
Over the past six months, I've worked with Station Management on various tasks and projects. With guidance from my line manager and mentor, I’ve set different objectives for myself, allowing me to expand my knowledge on the Station’s operations and management aspects. Being on a General Management Placement has given me that freedom to work in different areas of the business. Undoubtedly, working in this dynamic environment has pulled out some of my best qualities, while giving me that nudge to improve in some areas.
Working in isolation isn’t possible at Piccadilly. The true essence of teamwork shines through at the Station during times of disruption. Christmas time is a great example. Footfall figures are on the rise as passengers travel through the station for the holidays. It was a great experience working with the entire team as we served over 400 passengers in need of mobility assistance on the 23rd December – the busiest day at the station. On a regular day, there is an average of 80 mobility assists, so all hands were on deck. Despite the busy nature, I wasn’t afraid to jump into the mix to assist passengers, knowing that everyone’s efforts will go a long way.
Speaking of disruption, a few calm days at the station don’t last long. Something always happens on the Nation’s Railway which can affect services coming in and going out of Manchester Piccadilly. Over the past few months, I’ve learnt that being flexible strengthens one’s ability to manage their time. Some days I’ll have a set of tasks I wish to complete, but they won’t always get crossed off the list as I’ll have to assist with passenger information on the Main Concourse. Most times this is spontaneous. As major disruption starts, it’s time to put my hi-vis on and go downstairs. The more I realised that every day is different at the station, I began to plan ahead, set realistic deadlines and manage my time to ensure that all my work is completed.
I consider myself quite confident, but that can diminish in an unknown environment. Daily at work I remind myself to speak up and believe I am capable. The work that I do isn’t extremely challenging, but it is critiqued by different managers. Constructive criticism has brought out the best in me, to do better the next time around. The support of my colleagues has also given my confidence a boost as they entrust me with different managerial tasks, involving me in the entire process.
I’ve had a considerable mix of managerial and operational tasks while undertaking my own objectives and projects. Some of these managerial and operational tasks include:
I've shadowed the role of Shift Station Manager outside of the regular working hours. Yes, I did a late shift, 14:30 till 22:00 precisely. I also spend time on two of the station’s busiest platforms, platforms 13 and 14 (if you know, you know), assisting in times of disruption.
One task which causes my brain to run a mile a minute. However, it has allowed me to understand the process surrounding HR cases, investigations and grievances.
I've been able to conduct interviews alongside other managers for roles within the station. It’s quite remarkable to sit on the other side of the desk, listening to candidates share their skills and abilities, and then make a totally unbiased decision based on who will be best for the company.
Network Rail also has an outstanding graduate scheme, where graduates move around the business completing different placements. I’ve been tasked with organising one-week placements at the Station, which gives them a general understanding of the various roles here. I also conducted a station tour for a group of young men with autism, and their parents, which allowed them to experience the daily operations.
Four issues later, I'm still cracking on with the station's monthly newsletter, along with a new piece entitled "People of Piccadilly" - highlighting the different station roles and the individuals involved. The feedback from staff has been very welcoming, as it keeps them in the loop with what’s happening at the Station.
We’ve recently hired a new team of CSA’s to run platforms 13 and 14 as a ‘station within a station’. There are 35,000 – 40,000 passengers who come through these platforms – that's more than Nottingham Station. While the plans to expand the actual infrastructure is being decided, the new permanent team is there to keep passengers safe and provide exceptional customer service.
I have been tasked by the Platform Manager to undertake a publicity campaign to highlight the new team and improve our online relationship with passengers travelling through these platforms. Thus far, with support from the Regional Communications Team, the new initiative has been shared nationally, both internally and externally, via BBC North West and Network Rail’s website. By April 30th I am expected to complete the full breadth of this project, by completing 4 videos and blogs aimed at educating passengers while sharing the admirable working taking place at Piccadilly.
Platforms 13&14 'station within a station'
LUMS continues to provide exceptional support to me and many other placement students. This has been expressed through regular emails, LinkedIn posts and a scheduled placement visit. I will never forget my first few weeks at the Station. A time of adjustment, that required some mental, emotional and spiritual strength. To some, new environments aren’t daunting but to others, like me, the adjustment period requires a bit more effort. The support of those around me, the welcoming nature of my colleagues and my own self-belief have allowed me to grasp hold of all the opportunities presented to me with much enthusiasm.