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Rob Wickenden

By Robert Wickenden, Graduate Transport Planner at Local Transport Projects and recent BA (Hons) Geography graduate from University of Sheffield.

My name is Rob Wickenden and on 11th January 2021 I joined Local Transport Projects (LTP) in Beverley as a Graduate Transport Planner on a permanent basis.

I graduated from University of Sheffield in July 2020 and was very interested in a career as a transport professional. I undertook work experience placements, completed online courses and spoke with current transport professionals, in order to create an opportunity to work in the transport sector.

When I received the opportunity to work for LTP around Christmas 2020, I knew I would be working from home, just like my colleagues and many more people around the country due to the lockdown restrictions that were in place.

The last three months have gone by very quickly and I’ve really enjoyed my time at LTP. I have already learned a lot about the sector and the way LTP work. Here are a few of my challenges, experiences and tips about starting a new job remotely. Hopefully, these can help new graduates looking for or starting a new role from their home.

1. Reaching out for help and communicating with colleagues

As working from home removes the office environment you miss out on vital parts of the work atmosphere that help you settle in. In the office, you’ll naturally talk about projects with people around you, or you’ll ask if they can give you their opinion on work.

However, this social aspect of working in the office decreases when using Microsoft Teams, emails and video calling which does make it harder to get to know everybody at the company. However, I’ve managed to get to know the majority of my new teammates, who have made me feel very welcome since I have started, whether that be through team huddles or talking in team group chats.

2. Learning new software and skills remotely
Since I have started with little to no experience in the sector, I have been experiencing new software such as CAD, AutoTurn, MapInfo and TRICS, which are vital to the role of a Transport Planner. There is a lot of new and challenging information to understand, which can be difficult to get to grips with at the start, especially when working remotely.

This was a challenge when I started due to the lack of physical help you receive from peers at home, compared to the office. In the workplace, colleagues can help you face to face quickly and more direct. Despite this, my colleagues have managed to help me massively through screen sharing examples of their work as well as producing helpful guides of how to use detailed software.

3. Experiencing the full role of the job from home
As I am working as a Transport Planner, it is essential to go on site visits for every project we undertake. This includes completing parking and speed surveys with local residents, as well as face-to-face interviews and questionnaires. However, as I can’t be in the office to have my site inductions and be shown how to use specific equipment, I cannot undertake site work for projects.

Luckily, I have access to Google Earth and Google Maps which has really helped, but there is only so much information these sites can provide.

4. Gauging your individual progress can be a challenge

During my short time at LTP, I have helped to produce several different pieces for work for varying projects. As a Graduate, you make mistakes within these projects and you aim to learn from them as you keep progressing in your new role.

Nonetheless, working remotely makes it a lot harder to judge how you are doing within the role and how your colleagues think you are doing. This is because there is a lack of body language through emails and chat options, which means you can interpret messages differently to their intentions or you do not fully understand your mistakes. To combat this, I have learnt to speak to my colleagues regularly about my progress through video calls, talking about what I have done well and what I can improve on in the future.

5. Building the foundations
Though starting a new job in a pandemic is quite challenging, especially not being able to meet colleagues or be in the same office as them to ask for help and guidance.

However, I know that hopefully this will change in the future and I’ll be able to get into the office soon. Despite this, I’ve focused on trying to build the foundations whilst working remotely, hoping to build on key aspects of the job such as site visits, surveys and using specific software when I can finally go into the office.

5 Things I learnt working from home:

  • Always ask for help
  • Try your best as it’s fine to make mistakes.
  • Use video calls instead of messaging/chat features as it is more interactive and enables you to be able to see body language.
  • Everyone in the company is in a similar position.
  • Working from home is temporary and you’ll be in the office sooner rather than later

As lockdown measures are slowly starting to be removed across England, I am looking forward to future and the possibility of joining my colleagues in the Beverley office in June 2021. Like many other new graduates in 2021, I am also excited to start socialising with my colleagues in person and I can’t wait to learn from them and their experiences in person.

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