Translink is supporting Arlene Dallas through her engineering degree at the University of Ulster
What is your educational background?
After completing my GCSE’s I gained two additional qualifications, the first was an NVQ, City in Guilds, ILM Diploma Level 4 (Management) and more recently I completed my HNC BTEC in Mechanical Manufacturing.
Translink has also sponsored and is supporting me through a degree course in engineering at the University of Ulster. This has really assisted my training and development as I am able to study part-time while also working full-time with Translink, allowing me to put the practical theory I learn into practise. I am now in the final year of this degree course.
How long have you been in your current position?
I have been with Translink for over 12 years and have been a qualified electrician for nine years. I started out as an apprentice with the company back in 1999 and have been working my way towards becoming a fully qualified electrical Engineer during this time.
What was your very first job?
My first job was actually as a sales Assistant in Debenhams. This role involved selling shoes and is very different to the career path I eventually chose!
What does a typical working day involve?
Every day brings a different challenge and it is this aspect that I love most about my job. The daily challenge is diagnosing electronic faults and rectifying these - modern buses like cars have an electronic brain known as ECU’s (black box) which control everything.
Having recently moved to the Short Strand workshop (previously I was based at the Falls Road workshop) and being involved in remedial maintenance I am now in a better position to employ my main skill base of diagnostic skills.
What are the main skills you need for your job?
It is vital to have a wide-based electrical and mechanical knowledge to cope with the daily demands of the job. Time management is essential in order to keep on top of the workload - ‘down time’ is the length of time buses are inactive because of faults and we strive to keep this to a minimum in order to maintain excellent customer service for our passengers.
Being a team player is also extremely important, especially in the repair and maintenance of buses, as this needs to be completed before a bus goes through a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) test.
Does your role offer ongoing training and development?
As I mentioned previously I am currently completing a degree in Engineering at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. Working for Translink I have continually been provided with excellent training opportunities, both initially during my apprenticeship and subsequently after being offered the position as an electrician. Working for Translink fuelled my ambition to go to university whereas beforehand I hadn’t really considered it.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I’ve just recently returned to work after becoming a mum for the first time so it’s been a challenge re-adjusting to work while also trying to juggle family life and studying part-time. I thought working and studying was time consuming in itself but it takes having a baby to really put things into perspective. Sleepless nights and long days – however, I would not change my circumstance one bit!
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I really enjoy problem-solving and carrying out tasks which require you to think logically - for instance, taking a complicated electrical fault and repairing it. I also enjoy working under pressure and dealing with multiple tasks on a daily basis which is essential in my job.
What aspect of your job would you most like to see progress over the next 12 months?
I hope to continue learning new skills through theory-based learning at university and putting this knowledge into practical application as part of my job.Over the next 12 months I will continue to work on my degree as well as challenging myself to work towards becoming a supervisor in my section.
What project have you been involved in that you are most proud of?
I was involved in the design and fitting out of the innovative Translink Safety Bus from the planning stages through to implementation. This unique resource uses specialised AV equipment and on board presentations to challenge young people to consider issues such around personal safety and implication of vandalism and other antisocial behaviour.
What personal qualities does your job require?
Good communication skills are essential as well as a willingness to work as part of a team. You must also have a logical approach to fault-finding and possess the ability to think analytically to find solutions to problems. As the only female electrician at Short Strand I have also learned that a thick skin and a strong personality helps to be able to participate in the ‘banter’!
What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a similar career?
My advice would be to have confidence in your own ability and definitely be prepared to study hard; if you do you will achieve all your goals.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
In my spare time I enjoy swimming, shopping and socialising with friends and family, although being a new mum I don’t get much time to do this anymore.