“I’m a big supporter of professional registration now and I actively encourage people who work for me and around me to go for it. It’s opened up a completely different insight into the industry as a whole: the things you can learn, the contacts you can make and the information you can gain.”
Mark Chapman currently works as the principal engineer for stations at Transport for London (TfL). This role has two distinct parts – as well as having ownership of all maintenance and technical issues, Mark has a strategic aspect to his job and works on the development of maintenance strategies and concepts.
He’s held this position since February 2012, having spent almost 30 years working his way up the career ladder within the organisation.
Mark’s early career
However his life as an engineer didn’t start here – Mark’s first role was as an apprentice at Sykes Pumps, a company that made construction equipment, pumps and winches.
“The four-year apprenticeship was very interesting, but it was in the early eighties, a time of recession. Although they went out of their way to allow me to complete my apprenticeship at the end of it there was no permanent position available,” Mark explains.
“So I stayed for a while, then I saw a job advertised for the London Underground, which had elements of my experience in production control. I interviewed and joined in October 1985 intending to stay only a short while, but almost 30 years later, here I still am!”
Over the years the company’s name and ownership has changed (from London Underground and SSL Infraco to Metronet Rail and currently TfL) and Mark has held a number of different engineering-focused roles. After six years as a technician he took his first steps into management as a support manager, working his way up into more senior roles like the one he holds today.
No defined career pathway
But this wasn’t through a defined career pathway designed by the company, Mark was simply finding out about new opportunities and going ahead and applying.
“At that time it was a much bigger organisation and each week there was a whole book of vacancies that came out. It was very easy to pick your next move, as long as you weren’t overstretching your abilities,” he says.
“I’d moved several times before I realised that I could start to structure [my career pathway] and began looking into what I should be taking on in order to develop my skills and improve my career opportunities. It was when I moved into a middle management role that I began to see the benefits of taking care in what I was doing rather than simply jumping from role to role.”
Is professional registration for me?
Beginning to see how structured professional development could support his career, Mark also began to see the benefits of professional registration, something he that he hadn’t previously appreciated.
Unaware of what professional registration actually entailed, Mark held the same view as many of his peers, that it wasn’t for him, and for several reasons - that you needed a degree, that it took years to achieve and that you needed to be invited to join – all false information.
It wasn’t until the company was partly privatised and became Metronet Rail that he found out that it was something he was capable of achieving and was encouraged to do so.
“Professional registration was actively encouraged by Metronet,” he explains. “It was part of everyone’s personal development plans and money was made available for institution memberships and registration costs. It was a big culture change. It was a two way thing for the company – it benefited them as well as us because it brought ‘quality’ to the organisation.”
IEng or CEng?
Now his mind was changed, Mark joined the IET and began to look into becoming professionally registered. The biggest issue he faced was whether to apply for Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) status. Throughout the process he had spoken with IET staff and volunteers, attended professional registration mentoring events and had a personal mentor, but he still wasn’t 100 per cent sure which route to take.
“I knew I exceeded the requirements for IEng, but didn’t know if I held the minimum qualifications for CEng,” he says.
Many advised him to apply for CEng as if he didn’t meet the criteria he’d still be awarded IEng, but in the end Mark chose to apply for IEng in order to meet his personal time targets.
“Time was an important factor for me and it was going to take a lot longer to apply for CEng. I had deadlines on my own personal development plan at work and so I chose IEng as I knew I could achieve that relatively quickly. Now that I haven’t got any deadlines to meet I plan to explore getting CEng at a more leisurely pace,” he explains.
The benefits of professional registration
As well as helping his professional development in the workplace, Mark is also personally proud of his achievement, as he feels that by gaining professional registration he’s been ‘approved’ by his peers and now he’s keen to help those around him.
Having been educated as to the benefits and gone through the process himself, Mark is a huge advocate of professional registration and encourages all his colleagues to apply. He’s even put together a presentation about his personal experiences that he can use to educate others.
“I’m a big supporter of professional registration now and I actively encourage people who work for me and around me to go for it. It’s opened up a completely different insight into the industry as a whole: the things you can learn, the contacts you can make and the information you can gain,” he concludes.