Alison Thompson

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Transportation & Logistics
Job title: Infrastructure Management Director
Subject of study: Engineering Science
Year of graduation: 1989
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name


What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

Since leaving Exeter in 1989 I have been working as a Civil Engineer in the rail industry. I started as a graduate engineer with British Rail and trained under agreement with the Institution of Civil Engineers to become professionally qualified as a Charted Civil Engineer. I have been fortunate to have worked in a variety of different roles and technical disciplines across the rail industry including design, project management, technical lead for track & civils, maintenance and renewal engineer for track, structures, stations and signalling and more latterly in leadership roles as Infrastructure Director, Chief Operating officer and Head of Buildings & Structures across different organisations working on both mainline railway and London underground. I currently work as Infrastructure Management Director for the Core Valleys Lines in South Wales, a role that I enjoy as it brings together all elements of the railway system and the challenges of providing a railway service that delivers for our customers a railway that they can rely on and be proud of.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I chose engineering as I like resolving issues and making things work or work better. I chose the railways as I was undecided as to whether to work for a consultant or a contractor (who were the main employers when I graduated) and the railway training scheme was recommended by one of my lecturers. I also was impressed by the people that I met through the recruitment process.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

Engineering society.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

My final year dissertation studying the impact of water flow at a slip site at Budleigh Salterton.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

Meeting lots of different people without it being too overwhelming, enjoying the location and having the support to be successful.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

I wanted a campus university with an engineering course that allowed me to defer my decision on specialising.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

My course was general across the engineering disciplines for the first year, allowing me to gain an appreciation of the disciplines that I did not go on to specialise in, which has served me well working in the rail industry that has many engineering and operational interfaces to one system.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Do not underestimate the value of learning more about other activities that interface with your core activities. Respect specialists and remember that the strength of a team is greater than individual knowledge so don’t forget to acknowledge and respect this. Keep open minded about opportunities that present themselves that may not be on your plan. I have learnt greatly from doing things that I had not set out to do.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue adding value to the rail industry and organisation that I work for.


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