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Working lives

Joanna Horsford is a track maintenance manager within Balfour Beatty's Rail Infrastructure Services division. Aged 26, she is working on the company's Wessex contract.

Route to the job Initially I obtained a BTEC National Diploma in Science and graduated from Southampton University in 1999 with a degree in environmental engineering.

I started working with Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance on the premier East Coast Main Line maintenance contract. I undertook many duties in various regions on the Balfour Beatty graduate training scheme before moving to the Wessex contract as the regional track quality engineer in 2001.

Expectations The how and why of physical sciences has fascinated me all my life, and engineering fulfils my interests. I have always been practically minded and therefore problem solving on the scale that civil engineering provides is extremely satisfying. Engineering is focused heavily around teamwork and a common goal, giving rise even in the most pressurised situation to a great working environment. I see engineering as a hidden service that modern life could not exist without. In the past three years with Balfour Beatty I have gained a solid foundation for a career in the rail industry and within the company, and have experienced numerous roles, which have helped me to progress to my current level of responsibility. I thoroughly enjoy the ever changing challenges my role provides on a daily basis.

Reality I am currently working as track maintenance manager on the Wessex contract in a small team, responsible for the management of all track maintenance and safety of line activities for approximately 170 miles of track. This includes the main Waterloo to Reading main line. The rail industry can at times be a very demanding place to work due to political pressures and the media spotlight. My colleagues and I are dedicated; we work long, unsociable hours for the greater good that is sometimes unrecognised by the people we serve - the rail users.

As a young engineer the changing times within the industry provide me with an incredible sense that I can help mould and improve infrastructure maintenance and management techniques to bring the industry into the 21st century. Further challenges present themselves in the form of such aspects as planning to tight deadlines with heavy logistical and financial constraints. Remaining focused, thinking on your feet and yet being disciplined are crucial to fulfil my role.

Advice It is essential to take pride in all you do, enjoy your work, and give a high level of commitment and dedication. Engineering is immensely fulfilling work and expectations can be fully met with self determination.

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