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DfT: Commercial Development Programme - Interview with Oliver

Category: Interview, placement, economic, department of transport, talent development, summer internship

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We spoke with Oliver - member of the Department for Transport’s Commercial Development Programme.

Oliver studied Economics and French at the University of Leeds and was completing a summer internship in a logistics company in Qingdao, China before joining the DfT Commercial Development Programme in 2014.

Why did you decide to apply for the Commercial Development Programme?

I was drawn to the Commercial Development Programme because it’s a challenging scheme that provides broad exposure to different commercial areas. It was also crucial for me to be on a programme that invests in your professional development by supporting you to undertake a professional qualification and the scheme offered us the choice of between a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants or Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply qualification.

What did your first placement involve?

As a Corporate Finance Adviser, I worked on some of the most significant projects, programmes and policy initiatives across the Department’s portfolio. This included:

  • Providing specialist corporate finance and commercial support to internal clients across a range of business areas with a particular focus on public/private partnerships;
  • Writing submissions and briefings to Ministers and Investment Boards;
  • Working on the installation of financial and legal advisers; and
  • Leading on team improvement initiatives.

I found the scope of work broad as well as stretching and I’ve had the opportunity to work with very talented and intelligent individuals at DfT.

And how about your second placement?

My second placement was a secondment into the Procurement Operations team of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd as a Commercial Analyst. I gained experience of the procurement cycle (procurement strategy, ITT preparation, bidder commercial evaluation, bid moderation, contractualisation and contract management handover) by leading on appropriately sized procurements and supporting senior colleagues on higher value requirements.

What has your final placement entailed?

As Commercial Manager I lead the commercial and contractual relationship between the Department for Transport and the train operator for the West Midlands Franchise: London Midland.

Overall, my responsibility is to manage compliance with the Franchise Agreement to ensure that contractual obligations are delivered and passenger benefits are realised. This is in the context of continuously aligning the contract to changing market needs and Departmental policy. I manage a small team in the form of a Contract Manager to whom I delegate appropriate work. I also represent the Department at external stakeholder events.

I provide quality, accurate and timely information to advisers Ministers and senior colleagues as required, including responses to Prime Minister’s Questions, Parliamentary Questions and briefings, etc. as well as other franchise specific information to colleagues where required.

What’s next for you now that you have completed the programme?

I have successfully secured a middle management position in Rail Franchising on a permanent basis.

Rail franchising is an incredibly exciting area in which to work, where no two days are the same and you have to be flexible and adapt to a very dynamic working environment. I also really enjoy the political atmosphere and meeting external stakeholders, particularly in the context of the new devolved arrangements to managing the successor West Midlands franchise in partnership with West Midlands Rail.

Your proudest achievement so far?

If I had to identify a single piece of work that I am most proud of, it would have to be challenging the existing commercial arrangements of a particular contract. I built a financial model to support my position, created a negotiating strategy, led the negotiations with the external stakeholders and sealed a deal of £1.2m value to the taxpayer.

If you’re interested in the Commercial Development Programme, you can find out more here.

Are you interested in a career at Department for Transport? Please click here.

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.


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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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