A Day in the Life of James Hornsby of Atkins

In this series, we aim to feature a particular individual ITS (UK) Member who will talk through what they do for their company and detail their daily work schedule, whilst also offering some advice and reflection on their career thus far. Read on to learn more about James Hornsby of Atkins.  Discover how he got started within Atkins, what his current priorities are and what advice he offers to those looking to start a career in the industry.

Tell us about yourself, your background and how you got started in the industry? What brought you to Atkins and led you to make this career choice?

I have always been interested in the engineering subjects at school and after my A levels in 2013 I joined Atkins on a BTEC level 3 apprenticeship. I then progressed onto completing a HNC level 4 and degree apprenticeship at Kingston University, which is supported by the Institute of Civil Engineers. This apprenticeship route helped me to gain knowledge and develop both on the job and through attending college and university. At the start of my apprenticeship I changed teams every six months which allowed me to gain experience of multiple disciplines including highways, structures, urban development and traffic signals. At the end of this rotation period I chose to stay with the traffic signals team as I felt that it was the team that suited me the most. This was because I was able to take up a role that utilised my skillset at the time while still being able to develop and test myself within a team that I enjoyed being a part of.

What is your current role? 

My current role is traffic signal engineer as well as being the CAD manager for the traffic signal team. This involves carrying out traffic signal designs, site visits, traffic signal validation, CAD management and CAD resourcing which also involves talking to teams in Atkins’ Global Technology Centre in India.

What projects are you working on and what are your current priorities? 

One of the main projects I have worked on over the last few years is a secondment into Slough Borough Council’s traffic signal team. This secondment has allowed me to experience how a local authority operates and how they look after traffic signals. This includes traffic signal design, maintenance, engaging with contractors, responding to the public and being able to get involved in more general highways schemes. I have also been able to visit sites more regularly than my usual projects. This meant I could improve my understanding of how my designs impact what happens on street and how there can be multiple external factors that change what happens at a traffic signal site. I have also worked on a variety of other schemes for clients such as Highways England, Connect Plus Services, Heathrow, Lancashire County Council and Portsmouth City Council.

Outside of projectwork I am currently working on completing my end point assessment for my degree apprenticeship and attaining IEng with the ICE. I have also been updating our traffic signal CAD standards inline with the 3D and BIM work that has been carried out on two larger schemes for the A2 Bean and Ebbsfleet and M25 J10 projects. As the BIM elements had already been created as part of these schemes it was important for me to liaise with the designers to ensure that any updates were integrated correctly into the CAD standards so that they are ready for future use.

What do you most enjoy about your role and what do you find the most challenging?

I like the variation in my role as I can work with CAD and BIM models, design traffic signal sites and controller configurations, visiting sites for commissioning and validations and much more. Each site also has its own problems to solve as no two sites are ever the same. This also allows me to engage with various people across the industry, helping to expand my network and gain knowledge from a variety of sources. This variety does mean that there is a lot to learn, which can be challenging but then there is always something that can be improved upon, which helps me to continue developing.

What advice would you give someone who is considering seeking a career in this role and within this industry? 

My advice is to be open to opportunities and broaden your perspective on roles and the engineering industry. There are so many different types of engineering and skills that can be transferred across them or from other industries. Within my team there are people with a variety of backgrounds and qualifications including civil engineering, mechanical engineering, geography, transport planning, product design, law and sports science.  Just because you have started on one career path, doesn’t mean that it closes others in the future.

Another key piece of advice is to be happy in what you do. Find a job that you enjoy in a team of people that you want to work with. It makes it a lot easier being happy in what you do and being able to enjoy the company of people you work with.