What it’s really like to be a Road Safety Engineer

What do professional speed skating and road safety engineering have in common? It’s important to avoid collisions in both. Here’s how Renata became a road safety engineer without A-levels or degree after retiring from speed skating at 20.

Renata was a professional speed skater. After retiring at the age of 20, she quickly found herself a bit stuck for career ideas. After working in a customer service role, a job came up in a traffic & safety team which offered studying traffic engineering in college one day a week. She grabbed the opportunity and hasn’t looked back since! Plotr dove straight in to find out more about being a road safety engineer.

Tell us about your job….

“I work in London as a senior road safety engineer. That really means I study road traffic collision statistics and identify trends and patterns and recommend ways to improve safety.

I am also a road safety auditor; we carry out audits on highway improvements schemes to ensure they are safe for Road Users. The best bit of my job is analysing data about road workers and road users to carry out complex risk assessments to decide if certain elements of schemes can be included within schemes.

I do a lot of this type of work for Highways England Major Projects, like the new Smart Motorway Schemes being implemented at the moment.”

What are the best bits about your job?

“The people I work with are some of the best you could get. I get up every day to go and join them in solving problems and identifying trends to try and stop people being hurt on our roads. I love working as part of a team.”

Tell us about a notable moment in your career so far…

“Since I joined my company – Jacobs – two and a half years ago my career has really taken off. I have a fantastic support network around me and they have encouraged me to apply for Engineering Technician through the CIHT. I achieved this last summer. Since I’d never got a degree or finished my A-levels, this was a massive achievement for me.”

What 3 top skills or qualities are important in this job?

  1. Being open minded. There is often no definite right or wrong answer.
  2. Being a logical thinker. We problem solve - if you don’t like problem solving you’re not going to enjoy this!
  3. Being a team player. As an auditor you are always part of a team.

How did you get into a career in road safety?

“I was a professional athlete early in my life so I didn’t pay as much attention as I should at school, but when I retired from sport, I realised I was qualified to do nothing.... scary!

I fell back on my ability to talk to most people and seeming to get on with others – customer service it was for me. At this stage in my life I had no clue what to do, I needed to earn money to support myself but had no qualifications beyond a handful of GCSE’s. I didn’t even consider there might be a career for me in anything, the last thing I’d have expected it to be was engineering!

After a couple of years I started a temp job for Balfour Beatty answering phones in their 24 hour centre as contractors for a Highways England Area contract.

After a couple of years I’d moved up the customer care ladder a little and the one thing I did know was that I loved working with Highways. I spent a lot of my childhood travelling the UK and seems I may have picked up a fair bit. Dad was a Traffic Police Officer when I was younger too and I was always asking him about the accidents he had to deal with; unfortunately I had only a year prior lost my younger brother in a road traffic collision.

So when a job came up in the Traffic & Safety Team along with the chance to go to college on day release I grabbed it and got it. I went back to college for two years and passed my Traffic Engineering, all the time learning on the job too.

At this point I was starting to feel like I’d fallen into a job that I was made to do. 10 years later I have continued to learn at every opportunity, I recently passed my EngTech with the CIHT and am already starting my preparation for IEng. I am on the Committee for the Society Of Road Safety Auditors. And every day I work towards saving the lives of Road Users in this country, which feels pretty cool!”

Any top job-hunting tips to share?

Be yourself. For years I thought my bubbly enthusiastic personality put employers off but turns out it was a big plus when I was interviewed for my current job. A wise person told me you can teach someone technical fields but you can’t change them. Manners and a smile will always go a long way too!

Get in touch with the CIHT too. They will be able to provide you with guidance as to what you need and what is available and they will support you through your career from the very first day. They are a fantastic bunch and very friendly and approachable.”

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