Graduate portrait: Transportation Systems course
«I'm not afraid of new, innovative approaches»
Martin Grolimund completed the degree programme in Transportation Systems at the ZHAW School of Engineering. Today, he coordinates various construction sites for the SBB throughout eastern Switzerland. The key aspects of his work are optimum timing and maximum security.
After completing an apprenticeship as an electrical fitter and then taking the vocational baccalaureate, Martin Grolimund was on the verge of registering for the degree programme in Electrical Engineering. Then, at an information event, he found out about what, at the time, was still the relatively new degree programme in Transportation Systems. "Everyone was talking about the construction of the NEAT railway tunnel through the Alps back then – which perhaps made me more aware of the subject of transportation," he says. "Helping to actively shape the future of mobility in a way that is relevant to society motivated me to opt for this degree programme and still drives me today." During his degree programme, however, he never imagined that he would end up in rail transport, since he was initially more interested in private transport. "During my project work and Bachelor's thesis, I was still working on simulating the advantages and drawbacks of a 140 km/h speed limit on the motorways," says Grolimund, looking back. After graduating in 2015 and spending a year as a graduate trainee at Stadler Rail, he gained a foothold as a project manager for railway safety systems at BÄR Bahnsicherung. Rail transport has kept a hold on him ever since.
Helping to actively shape the future of mobility in a way that is relevant to society motivated me to opt for this degree programme and still drives me today.
Martin Grolimund, graduate in Transportation Systems and execution project manager at SBB Infrastructure
Good planning is half the construction work
Today, Martin Grolimund works as an execution project manager at SBB Infrastructure in Winterthur. In this function, he coordinates the work on several building sites in eastern Switzerland. "I particularly like seeing the progress made at the actual construction sites. I then always obtain direct feedback as to whether the implementation is proceeding as I imagined it would," says Grolimund. He spends about half his working time in the office and half at the construction site, explaining that "not all the planning work can simply be done at a desk. It is extremely important to see for yourself what is happening on site and to include this in the plans." The earlier he is involved in a construction project, the better, since it is his job to coordinate the on-site operations of all the specialist services. From when to when can the individual jobs be scheduled? How does the material get to the site? The aim in each case is to ensure that the construction site has the least possible impact on the ongoing railway operations and hence on the end customer. At the same time, however, Martin Grolimund, as safety manager, holds a great deal of responsibility, since safety is accorded the highest priority on the building site.
A degree programme as the perfect preparation
As an execution project manager at SBB Infrastructure, Martin Grolimund requires an overall understanding of the railway system and an independent, responsible approach to work. He acquired both of these during his Transportation Systems degree programme. He also appreciates the fact that he frequently dealt with new technologies during the programme: "Thanks to my degree programme, I am not afraid of new, innovative approaches. That is a key point, because there is always potential for improvement within a large company. This allows me to make an active contribution and help shape the future," he says. At the same time, he points to the scientific fundamentals, which should also not be underestimated: "Transportation Systems is an engineering degree programme, and hence enjoyment of mathematics and logical thinking constitutes the basis for success."
Demand for experts in all areas of transport
Because the content of the degree programme is broad and generalist in nature, Martin Grolimund's former fellow students have ended up with very different employers. "The degree programme contents are as diverse as the transport sector itself – not all graduates inevitably go on to work for the railways. Despite that, public transport is a key piece of the puzzle in the overall mobility system, with all the problems that we transport engineers are called upon to solve." The fact that Transportation Systems is one of the smaller degree programmes at the ZHAW was certainly an advantage for Martin Grolimund. "We had very personal contact with the lecturers and the Programme Director," he added. "We students also got to know each other very well and are still in contact today.” Grolimund even set up the Transportation Systems Circle for former students of the degree programme. The many individual student contacts have now developed into a network that spans the entire industry.