Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Profile

 

Raquel Lopez ptotograph

Country: Spain

Name: Raquel Lopez

Company: West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Position: Analyst Advisor

ITS Course: MSc (Eng) Transport Planning and Engineering, 2010

I currently work as an analyst advisor at WYCA. My work involves providing research and analysis for projects / strategies across the organisation. Most of my work has been in relation to the monitoring and evaluation of the West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan WYLTP3, collating and analysing data for the monitoring of the Plan’s performance indicators, as well as for a number of other key projects delivered by WYCA. In some cases, this also includes designing pre- and post-implementation surveys. At the moment WYCA is preparing a new Transport Strategy, and I have contributed in a number of ways; I was responsible for the Transport Evidence Base that was published together with the Strategy during the Consultation, and I’m currently contributing to the development of the Monitoring Plan and the selection of performance indicators for the new Strategy.

My experience at ITS provided me with a good knowledge and understanding of current transport planning practice in the UK, for example in aspects such as objective-led planning, public transport demand modelling and appraisal of transport projects using WegTAG, which were all beneficial for getting my current job at WYCA. I think my experience at ITS also helped me develop my transferable skills. My MEng was mainly technical, so I had not written essays or a dissertation before. Doing so in a foreign language was challenging at first, but I now look back and realise how much I have developed since then.

I’m a civil engineer specialised in transport, but I started my career in engineering consultancy, working on roads and highways projects. However, since studying my transport modules at ITS, and particularly after participating in a seminar on Public Transport Consortiums in Europe I had wanted to be involved with transport policy and public transport. I thought the MSc would help me shift my career towards these areas, and would also give me the international experience I was looking for. I didn’t know much about the ITS when I started considering the masters courses, but my university tutors had collaborated on projects with ITS staff and reassured me it was an excellent choice.

My advice to students interested in this course and a career in transport is to have a plan. Think of how (and if) this course will help you meet your career objectives. And as an old TV advert said: Seek, compare, and if you find something better, go for it.

I took part in the ITS Employer Visits, and I would definitely recommend them. It is an excellent opportunity to know who is who in the industry, and to gain some insight about what skills are most valued by employers. At the least, the feedback received can help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses for future applications. And in the best case you can secure a job after finishing your studies!

The highlight of my career so far is probably being involved with the developing of the West Yorkshire Transport Strategy and Monitoring Plan. In the new Strategy issues such as the relationship between transport and health have been given more attention than in the past, and through my work I have had the opportunity to influence the selection of indicators that not only reflect improvements in the transport system, but also in the health and wellbeing of the residents in West Yorkshire. I think this will be more and more important in the future, and I feel proud to be part of the team that has incorporated these new themes in the strategy for the first time.

I used the University of Leeds Careers Centre to get help and advice when it came to finding and applying for jobs. The application system here in the UK is very different from what I knew. In Spain, where I come from, the CV is still the main means to apply for jobs, so the application forms used here were completely new to me, as were the competence-based approach to applications and interviews. The University of Leeds Careers Centre was really helpful; they reviewed my material and provided useful feedback and advice. I even practiced my interview skills with them through mock interviews (as embarrassing as the real ones…) :)As an international student, I would advise other ITS international students who are seeking work in the transport sector and I would reassure them that an ITS qualification is highly valued by UK employers, who know the institution well. Therefore, I’d just tell them be confident about your skills and abilities and go for it.