James Whitaker

What do you do now?

I am the Shift Production Manager for Crossrail. James.jpg

I left South Craven in Summer 2005, after completing my A levels. I wasn’t quite sure where or what I wanted to do for a career, so I took employment in an office-based role in Skipton for three years. I decided that joining the military as an engineer was the path for me. It would not only give me the engineering qualifications required to have a career in that field, but invaluable life experience to go with it. 

I joined the RAF in September 2008 and spent the next three and a half years going through their modern apprenticeship program, passing out as an NVQ level 3 qualified Aircraft Technician in April 2012. I was posted to a frontline Typhoon squadron where I travelled to places as diverse as Corsica, Jordan, Oman, The Emirates, USA and The Falkland Islands. 

I left the RAF in late 2016 at the age of 29, as I had decided that I wasn’t going to remain in the military for a full-term career of 22 years. I took the plunge and transitioned into the rail industry, beginning employment in January 2017. This was difficult in the sense that it was totally new to me, in an industry I was very unfamiliar with, having trained in aeronautical engineering. That said, the skills and experience I gained from the RAF were invaluable.

After spending 18 months contracting with various projects, I took a permanent role in London in early 2018, working on the fleet earmarked for the new Crossrail project. Moving to London, and working on part of a new and important project for transport in the capital, gave me a real sense that I was part of something which would impact millions of people every day. 

Over the last six years, I have remained with the same company and progressed to become Shift Production Manager for the Class720/Greater Anglia fleet, operating out of East London. This is a fleet of 100+ trains and is a very dynamic and fast paced environment, which ensures that every day brings new and diverse challenges. 

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

Firstly, it doesn’t matter what you do - there will always be a direct correlation between how much effort and time you put into something and your eventual outcome.

Secondly, there are far more opportunities out there than just going to university and doing a degree. Whilst university is a fantastic thing for those who want an academic pathway, not everyone (including me) is suited to that. Apprenticeships and associated experience can almost count for more further down the line, which is something I see in my current line of work. 

What are you most proud of? 

I am very proud of the progression I have made.

When I left the RAF, I was employed in a junior supervisor role, but I had to start at the technician/shop floor level again when I moved into the rail industry. I wouldn’t have changed this approach though, as it has allowed me to grow within my new career into the management side of the industry. 

There is now a clear pathway to progress further into a senior management position in the future.