I went to Perth, Australia for my second year of my degree, and this was of incredible value to my personal development

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Orla Downs
Transport Planner for WSP
BA Geography and Planning
Orla discusses her time studying abroad and the work experience she completed whilst studying at Sheffield. She now works as a Transport Planner at the engineering consultancy firm WSP.

Can you tell us what a typical day in your role is like?

My role is to support the development of business cases (ie, the suite of documents that we submit to apply for funding) for transport schemes, predominantly comprised of active travel, sustainable modes, and urban realm enhancements.

This involves a process of problem identification; optioneering: coming up with new ideas to solve existing problems; appraisal: to determine the value of these ideas in terms of the benefits that would result, the economic value for money, and the carbon impact of the proposed scheme; and lastly, reporting.

To complete these tasks, my typical day is made up of internal meetings, analysis using QGIS and Excel, as well as presenting to clients. 

What attracted you to this role, and what aspect do you enjoy the most?

My interest in transport stemmed from my dissertation topic: the sustainability of airport centric development.

Recently, I have taken up a role within our new service line, Transport Communications. This service line is focused on delivering effective stakeholder engagement.

I really enjoy this work in particular, as it places an emphasis on ensuring representation during consultation, and means we can deliver transport schemes that are most appropriate for the local context of the scheme, something which is particularly important to me.

What skills did you learn during your degree that you use in your career?

Reporting, presentation skills, QGIS. 

Why did you choose to study in USP at Sheffield?

I chose to study in USP at Sheffield due to the opportunity to go on a year abroad. I went to Perth, Australia for my second year of my degree, and this was of incredible value to my personal development. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying/looking for work in your field? 

Start thinking early about what you want to do after university - this may evolve throughout your time at Sheffield, however if you plan ahead and get work experience in related fields, this will be of major benefit to you when you come to apply to your preferred job choice at the end of your degree.

For example, I undertook work experience in a private town planning consultancy, but ultimately went into transport planning.

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