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William McGookin

William McGookin
Ticketing Systems Manager, Ticketing
Operations Graduate Programme
"Many job opportunities are available throughout the Company and the Graduate Programme gave me the experience and knowledge I needed to move up the career ladder in Translink."
Where did your Translink journey take you?
I joined Translink in January 1995 as a Graduate Manager. In October 1996 I was appointed to the post of Operations Projects Manager, a post I held until 1998 when I became District Manager for Bangor Bus & Rail Depot. I was then appointed Operations Manager for the Integrated Ticketing Project from 2001 – 2003, before returning to District Manager. In October 2004 I was successful for the post of Ticketing Systems Manager and continue to hold this post today.
What qualifications do you have?
Before joining Translink I obtained a First Class Honours degree in BA Business Studies (UUJ) and a Distinction in Diploma in Industrial Studies (UUJ). Prior to that I had obtained 3 3 'A' Levels in German, Maths and French, and 11 GCSE's.
Since joining Translink I have gained several qualifications and attended a multitude of training courses including Prince2 Practitioner Course, Prince2 Foundation Course, Project Management, Certificate of Professional Competence (National), Certificate of Professional Competence (International), Microsoft Project, Recruitment & Selection, ISO 9001 Auditor Training, Presentation Skills, to name a few.
What did you think about the recruitment process and assessment centres for the Training Programme?
When I went through the recruitment process back in 1994 the process was not as rigorous as it is now but it was still very tough. I sat written tests in English comprehension and Maths, and behavioural/personality tests. I then had a face to face one-hour interview with two senior Ulsterbus Managers. I was called back for one final one-hour interview with another two senior Ulsterbus Managers. It was clear that Ulsterbus put a lot more effort into their recruitment process than the previous companies for which I had worked but that just proved that they were extremely keen to get the right graduates on their Training Programme.
Translink has excellent opportunities for those seeking a career in operations, engineering, clerical or management.
Translink offers a Graduate Training Programme for our Operations and Engineering Graduate Training Programmes
What did the Programme involve?
It was a structured training programme consisting of face to face meetings with Senior Operations Managers who outlined their responsibilities and gave advice on key business areas, objectives, risks etc. There were seminar classes where managers in many areas of the business gave lectures and information on how their business area operated to achieve common corporate objectives. I was posted to work in many areas of the organisation in order to build up knowledge and skills required for a post in Operations Management including:
Newcastle, Lisburn, Craigavon Depots, where I learnt the day to day roles of District Manager and depot Inspector, dealing with complaints and customer enquiries, general office duties
Travel Centre where I dealt with customer enquiries and complaints, making reservations for intending passengers on cross-channel services and tours
Inspector General's Dept where I prepared reports, mileage audits, drivers' hours' audits, traffic receipts, bus priority measures, vehicles cleaning, day tours etc.
Craigavon Area Office where I prepared presentations for Area Manager, bus scheduling and timetabling, route census work
Throughout the training period I was asked to keep a log book of all experiences throughout the Graduate Training Programme. My final project/report was "Environmental Issues facing the Bus Companies" and had to be written in detail and presented in person to the Translink Senior Management Team.
What opportunities opened up to you as a result of you undertaking the Programme?
The Graduate Management Training Programme allowed me to quickly obtain detailed information on all areas of bus and rail operations and the respective Head Office functions, and through my placements at various Translink locations, I gained considerable experience in these front-line environments. Furthermore I met many very knowledgeable staff and managers who were happy to impart their knowledge to me.
A number of management opportunities opened up to me as a result and I was able to cite my experience and knowledge gained in my various operational placements as a result – a 'head start' which it would have taken me many years to assimilate had I not been part of the Programme. However, these roles were open to all employees and I had to compete for them so there was never an easy interview and I had to work hard for the jobs for which I applied.
Without doubt, my experiences as a Graduate Manager still benefit me in my current role today as Ticketing Systems Manager as I'm one of very few Head Office managers who has had experience of managing a Translink bus and rail station. This has helped me better understand operational requirements and has allowed me to use previously-formed relationships to progress work more efficiently.
During my time in the programme I also represented Translink on Belfast Junior Chamber of Commerce where I held many roles which included sitting on the Board of Directors for two years acting as Administrative Director and Community Projects Director. Additionally in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, I sat on the organising committee for the Belfast Lord Mayor's Show for a number of years and in fact I successfully carried out the role of Chief Marshall for three consecutive years
Do you have any specific achievements as a result from undertaking the Programme?
My time during the programme was very productive, two specific achievements were that I designed the company's first computerised route-profitability model for Ulsterbus and wrote the training booklet "EU and Me" which was used by all Ulsterbus drivers throughout the company as a guide on bus drivers' working hours legislation.
However, I like to think that all of the achievements in my career to date started due to me undertaking the programme as these were the first steps in making me the manager I am today. For example, the programme gave me an excellent grounding in bus and rail operations which allowed me to obtain my first Operations Management role as District Manager in Bangor where I managed all bus and rail operations throughout the entire 2½ year construction period on what is now the integrated bus and rail station in Bangor. This was an exceptionally difficult task as other recently constructed bus and rail stations prior to Bangor (e.g. Armagh, Newry) were built on a new site and did not have to organise operations in what was effectively a building site. At the same time as this construction, I was able to introduce the company's first integrated ticketing system on the Bangor transport corridor and also implemented a range of Bangor Easibus services for people with disabilities.
Welcome Aboard Video
What are your future career aspirations?
Translink has one of the most innovative ticketing systems in the UK and has the second most successful smartcard scheme behind Oyster in London. We have almost 400,000 people (out of the 1.8 million people in Northern Ireland) using Translink smartcards on a regular basis. It looks easy but looks can be deceptive! Ticketing systems are extremely complex and extremely interesting to work with - there's a lot of work that goes into making sure they work properly. Ticketing systems are becoming increasingly complex with the introduction of EMV Contactless bank cards and mobile phones. I want to build on the success of Translink's ticketing system over the last 12 years and deliver a new ticketing system which will make it easy as possible for our valued customers to buy Translink tickets into 2020 and beyond.
What advice do you have for those considering applying the Graduate Training Programme?
Go for it! Throw yourself into the process and hopefully you'll be as lucky as I was in getting a great job with an excellent company with helpful professional colleagues with whom I enjoy working every day.
Career Development
Translink offer excellent career development opportunities which you can apply for on a temporary or permanent basis. Training and development is also available, including developing personal development plans.