Gagan Singh: a foundation for any career
Gagan Singh is proof that a degree in chemistry can be a solid foundation for any career.
When Gagan graduated from Reading with an MChem degree in Chemistry in 2014, he took a job in the IT sector. A year later, he accepted a position with Network Rail on their Project Management graduate scheme. After getting hands-on experience on several high-profile projects as well as training throughout the year-long scheme, Gagan accepted a permanent position as a Scheme Project Manager at Crossrail - a £14.8billion project that is currently Europe's largest infrastructure project.
“I've now been with Network Rail since September 2015. Project management grabbed my attention because it matched my skillset, which is a combination of communication skills, stakeholder management, analysis and logical reasoning.”
Chemistry as a foundation
While any undergraduate degree would have qualified Gagan for a graduate scheme, he has found that there have been many benefits of having a Chemistry degree.
“I find that I'm good at analysing situations and assessing what needs to be done. One of the things my Chemistry degree taught me was how to plan what I'm going to do. I have friends who did degrees where there is a lot less contact time, so time management was less critical. In Chemistry, you typically have around 20 hours a week of contact time, so you get really good at managing time for independent study and a bit of a social life around this. Developing these skills at university has been invaluable in my project management career.”
Gagan also credits his degree for helping him learn how to present information in an accessible way as well as providing a good technical foundation for his current job.
“I work within the Signalling programme, which can be seen as the 'dark art' due to the technical nature of it and while I don't need to understand all of the engineering that is involved, my background in Chemistry has given me a foundation for understanding technical terms, which is actually very useful. The railway is very safety principled, there are a lot of processes and demands that have to be met, much like Chemistry.”
Being a thrive mentor
Gagan is now part of Reading's global network of Alumni who support undergraduates by providing career mentoring. Gagan has been paired with Ben, a human geographer who is interested in getting into planning. He's introduced Ben to a planner at Network Rail who he works with, so that he can learn exactly what the job entails. But he's also pointing out opportunities that he wishes someone had been able to assist him with while he was an undergraduate.
“If I was to go back in time, I would spend a lot more time taking advantages of courses offered by the University, such as advanced Excel courses. You don't necessarily realise just how practical some of these skills are in the workplace while you're still studying. So I'm quite eager to make sure that Ben understands how useful these skills are.”
Inspired by his own mentor within the workplace, Gagan was keen to learn by teaching.
“Having a mentor within the workplace has been really beneficial for me, my mentor has really aided my development. If I can help Ben achieve what he wants, I will learn through that process also. It's a two way street. The main reason I volunteered to be a mentor is to give back by sharing the knowledge and skills I have gained since graduating, but it's also knowing that I helped someone get somewhere, which is a real motivator for me.”