On the right track: Nigel Dennison’s leap of faith into a new career
Nigel Dennison has come a long way from home. From walking barefoot in the snow in his homeland of the United Kingdom to working on 130-tonne locomotives at Rail First’s Goulburn Maintenance Facility, Nigel’s not one to shy away from a challenge. Our Electrical Loco Maintainer brings pride, passion and perseverance to his role, and looks forward to going further in his career with Rail First.
An Electrician by trade, Nigel never imagined himself working in a factory. Oil runs through his family’s veins – his father and two sons are mechanics – but Nigel never liked the feel of oil on his hands. So, when he announced he was joining Rail First Asset Management, Nigel’s family thought he was joking.
But for someone new to the rail industry and the world of heavy machinery, Nigel has loved every minute of it.
“Some of the jobs I’ve undertaken I would have seen as impossible a few years ago,” Nigel says. “But I’ve just gotten in and done them, and I’ve earned respect from my peers from doing that. One thing I’ve learnt since joining Rail First is that they teach you how to swim, but then trust you to dive into the deep end and do it yourself. You’ll always have people looking out for you, and you’ll be given everything you need to get the job done, but you’ve got to be prepared to give anything a go.”
Nigel brings this trademark positive attitude and willingness to learn into his role as Electrical Loco Maintainer every day. He takes pride in knowing he’s helping to keep Australia moving, and values being part of a close-knit, connected team.
“The people you work with make the job what it is. The team here is very supportive; we get along great. It’s like a family. Everyone eats lunch together, and we have social days outside of work where we can bond as a team. It’s refreshing to know you’re working with people who really care.”
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Up for the challenge
As an Electrical Loco Maintainer, Nigel maintains our market-leading fleet of locomotives, rollingstock and service extras, and finds and repairs any electrical faults. Every day at Rail First brings something new for Nigel to cut his teeth on, which is what he loves most about his new career.
“I like that it’s such a mix of different work. You can come in each day and never know what to expect. Last week was quieter and we were waiting for things to pick up, but this week it’s all systems go and we’re back to the grindstone.”
Nigel admits he still has a lot to learn, but he’s grateful to have the constant support of his team as he faces up to each new challenge.
“Learning on the job has been challenging, but I feel lucky to get plenty of guidance from the engineers, as well as the yard in Adelaide. It’s great to know I’ve got that support while I’m still finding my feet. Right from the very beginning, it was clear that we’re all working towards the same goal.”
In it for the long haul
Nigel joined Rail First in early 2021 through an employment agency, which helped the UK expat find an employer that would accept him as a temporary resident. He was shocked when Rail First offered to sponsor him to apply for an Employer Nomination Scheme visa, allowing Nigel to stay in Australia permanently.
“I was quite choked up when they said they were prepared to sponsor me. None of the previous companies I’d worked for were ever in a position to do that. I got quite emotional. I was so proud that they would take a punt like that on me and my family. The way Rail First treats their employees here is one of a kind, it’s the best company I’ve ever worked for.”
Nigel has certainly found a home at Rail First. He enjoys living in the close-knit community of Goulburn, where he can be close to his two adult children and five grandchildren (and growing!).
“I like the people and the way of life in Goulburn, it’s a fantastic area. It’s a huge rail town – you go down to the local pub and half the people there do the same thing you do. Some of them are quite downtrodden and don’t speak highly of the companies they work for. It makes me appreciate Rail First even more because I see how much they care about their staff. And it’s a two-way street – you want to give back because of how much they give to you.”
Now that Nigel’s found Rail First, he’s in it for the long haul. He has his sights set on a change of scenery down the line, and with friends based in nearby Adelaide, Rail First’s Islington Maintenance Facility in South Australia seems like a perfect fit. Nigel has aspirations to progress as a supervisor or manager, and his colleagues say his determination, integrity and humility are ideal qualities for a great leader.
As Nigel grows with Rail First, he knows he can count on having a supportive team behind him every step of the way. We can’t wait to see what he achieves next.