How Axis boosted my graduate career in planning and gave me a flexible work/life balance​

Hannah's Journey

Hannah Walsh really wanted to work in development planning, but with very little experience, she was unsure on what to do once she graduated. Hannah explains how Axis helped her develop her career from graduate to Senior Planning Consultant, and gives tips to graduates wanting to follow in her footsteps.

Hi Hannah, how did you know you wanted to go into planning in the first place?
Well I studied BA Geography at the University of Birmingham, and really enjoyed the urban planning modules I took in my third year. So after graduating in 2015, I secured a graduate Transport Planner role at Tetra Tech to see if I might enjoy it. I worked alongside Planning Consultants and realised I preferred the variety of work they got to do.

How did you find the job application process at Axis?
A contact who joined Axis invited me to apply for a role working across both the Transport Planning and Planning teams at Axis. This variety really appealed to me and meant I could work in planning too. Everyone was very friendly and approachable at the interview, and it went well. We discussed my previous experience, I answered a few technical Transport Planning questions and asked some questions myself. A few days later I got my offer letter, which I happily accepted!

What were your first impressions of Axis when you joined?
It was so nice to work in a smaller office, where everyone knows each other really well, and I loved getting involved in a much wider range of projects. Compared to my previous job, Axis entrusted me with much more responsibility from the beginning.

How did it feel working across the Transport Planning and Planning teams? It was easy really. We all sat in the same office, and I kept both teams updated so that I wasn’t overloaded with work at any one time. I often worked on both the Planning and Transport Planning aspects of a project, which was interesting.

Image of Hannah Walsh neé McGuinness at Axis
Tom Roseblade Journey - picture of a turbine

How did you transition to becoming a full time Planning Consultant? I gradually took on more and more planning work, as my knowledge and understanding of the planning system grew. Eventually, I stopped taking work from the Transport Planning team altogether and was fully focused on planning.

I still use a lot of the skills I was taught by the Transport Planning team, like how to use AutoCAD, to draw up my own planning application drawings.

You went on maternity leave in 2020. What was it like coming back to Axis?
Axis was great – the company worked around my needs as a new parent, encouraging me to come back to work part-time with hybrid working. So I reduced my hours to three days a week. It was a really smooth transition, much easier than I thought it would be, and the team were all really supportive.

What’s the best thing about working at Axis?
You get to work on a HUGE range of projects. So far I’ve worked on motorway service areas, ‘Energy from Waste’ facilities, battery storage facilities, residential developments, solar farms and retail developments. And I often manage the whole lifecycle of the project – from the pre-application stage, to submitting the planning application, managing the determination period and when needed, managing the appeal process too.

What’s the toughest challenge of working in Planning?
It’s very hard to pick the toughest challenge as every project is so different and comes with its own challenges. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that I face day to day is liaising with Local Planning Authority Officers and Technical Consultees. It can be so difficult to get responses from them, so I’ve learnt to be patient and persistent to get the result I need!

What is the culture like at Axis?
The culture at Axis is inspiring and motivating. Everyone is hardworking and committed. This is great because we’re expected to produce high quality work and are always provided with the resources and support we need to achieve it.

What about personal development and socials at Axis?
I represented Axis at the Energy Storage Summit 2020 in London. This was a really positive experience for me and built up my confidence massively! I networked with energy developers (potential new clients), met with existing Axis clients, and went to a number of interesting talks about new energy storage technology.

Hah, the socials! We always have great fun at our office socials in Wilmslow, which we hold quite regularly. The best social of the year is of course the annual Axis Christmas Do! This tends to be in Chester at a lovely restaurant where both the Wilmslow and Chester teams get together, everyone gets on so well and we always have a good laugh.

And finally, what three tips would you give other graduates looking to follow in your footsteps?

  • If you want to progress your career in planning and are aiming to become a chartered planner, begin the application process with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) as soon as you can. This process can take a few years to complete, so the earlier you start, the better
  • Always complete any task given to you, no matter how small, to the best of your ability. People will notice and it will pay off!
  • Never be afraid to ask questions. This is the best way to learn on the job.
The culture at Axis is inspiring and motivating – everyone is hardworking and committed.
Hannah Walsh
Senior Planning Consultant with Axis

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