We recently caught up with two senior business leaders from Steer Davies Gleave - Jim Richards, Head of Advisory and Sharon Daly, Head of Planning. We asked them what skills are needed to excel in Transport Consulting and how undergraduates can get ahead in preparing for a career in this industry. Here is what they had to say...
What skills are useful for graduates in the transport consulting industry?
Jim: Some of the skills you need cannot be taught: motivation, a desire to learn and the drive to do a good job. Extra-curricular activities are so important. Having rounded individuals is very valuable to the business. This might be volunteering, charity work, clubs, societies or sporting activities. These help to develop you as a person and make you more aware of your environment and the world you live in. The ability to get on with people is very important.
Some of the skills you need cannot be taught: motivation, a desire to learn and the drive to do a good job.
I think language skills are also important. They can distinguish you in a more global environment. It is not an essential but it is certainly a nice to have.
Sharon: From a Planning perspective, we need graduates to have an awareness of the wider world; being able to think laterally and engage with this is absolutely key. We are often out and about talking to people in their homes or at consultation events. Graduates will be involved with this, and if they have experience of talking to a wide range of people, they will get off to an easier start. Being able to demonstrate an interest in transport is great, but the roundness of a CV is also crucial.
Are there any areas in which new graduates particularly struggle when joining the industry?
Sharon: I think it is not so much the industry, but graduates getting used to working life. Often graduates have moved to London from elsewhere in the UK or from overseas. Learning to make that change can be a challenge. Be adaptable to this change. We rely on relationships at Steer Davies Gleave – so we have set up a system of buddies so graduates have someone to go to and ask questions.
Different people take different amounts of time and encounter different challenges
Jim: It is a little bit like learning to walk – different people take different amounts of time and encounter different challenges. It can take time for graduates to adapt to working within the business having been in the university environment. For example, some graduates find it challenging to produce reports in a different way. We encourage graduates to develop their industry knowledge and support them through on-the-job training and specialist seminars. We set up programmes to enhance their interpersonal skills to enable them to adapt to their new environment.
How important is it for an innovative business to have a diverse range of backgrounds in their workforce?
Jim: We are lucky at Steer Davies Gleave because we encourage and attract graduates from a variety of backgrounds. Our recent graduates come from a range of disciplines including Geography, Economics, Maths, PPE, Business Studies, Classics… this diversity means that they bring something different.
It is essential that we have people from diverse backgrounds and experiences
In a project team ranging from 3 people to 30 people, the ability to offer variety within the team is valuable, particularly when discussing new ideas and innovation. Different perspectives provide a powerful offer for clients. It helps us deliver a different product and also set ourselves apart from our competitors.
Sharon: It is not just important – it is essential that we have people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We are all about providing the client a solution. Different backgrounds mean we will find different solutions. We build apps, including journey planners, meaning we have people from a fine art background, musicians and software developers – it is a really mixed bag particularly in the design side of things and this makes the business especially interesting.
Find out more about Steer Davies Gleave and check out their opportunities here.