Please tell us about your background..
I am originally from France were I studied engineering construction and transport, especially groundworks and dam construction, as part of my degree. I wanted to specialise in rail engineering but this course did not exist in my French school so I moved to England, Loughborough University, to do the last semester of my degree learning about rail construction and how to perform in a leadership role. It was the best choice I ever made and I have never looked back!
What has been your career journey so far?
I joined TSO in 2014 in my third year and, as part of my final internship, was transferred to the Crossrail Project as Railhead design engineer. My role was to analyse the interface between different systems such as track, plants, overhead electric lines, propose adapted designs and carry out technical and final analyses of the various design solutions proposed. Crossrail was the biggest project in Europe and I felt very proud to be able to be a part of it. Upon completion of my internship, I was assigned the position of construction engineer/handover manager and was put in charge of the handover of the civil engineering works to what is called “system wide”. I was responsible for managing the interfaces within the ATC JV team, external stakeholders, the client and the other contractors to ensure the carrying out of the works was coordinated. This involved checking that the civil works completed by the previous contractors met the contractual requirements and coordinating the remaining works between the upcoming contractors. I joined the Floating Track Slab team as Field manager in 2016 and moved to Deputy Construction Manager in 2017.
Please describe your current role?
As Deputy Construction Manager, my role is to support the construction manager leading the team in charge of installing the track into the tunnel following the handover from the tunnelling team. It involves planning and coordinating the different teams on site, helped by all the site engineers, so as to meet our targets in time and safely. I have to make sure the equipment is installed in conformity with the basic designs and installation procedures, organise key activities in a consistent way and coordinate the various teams, engineering, design, procurement and the interfacing contractors and ensure compliance with health and safety procedures.
What attracted you to the Crossrail project?
I love the challenges. The Crossrail project, and the railway industry generally, is like a puzzle where many parts have to come together in an orderly, structured and timely manner. Once completed, it will improve the daily life of thousands of Londoners. The logistics are crucial as one has to find ways to complete substantial work in a short period of time whilst having restricted access to the site as other contractors are completing their own work according to their own schedule. We all operate as one team, passionate about completing the project in time and to perfection.
What in rail are you passionate about?
My job, as it allows me to challenge myself technically and personally. My team, as my teammates motivate me to do my best. My managers, because they are exemplary leaders: they take the time to understand and adapt themselves to the needs and personalities of each team members. This is how they get the best of us. I learn from this!
What aspects of the job do you do you find the most challenging?
Managing the team and keep all individuals working together in the face of unforeseen events whilst at the same time having the strength and courage to do what is right. The demobilization phase is a case in point. I have to carefully manage the departures of some members of the team, assess the work that still remains to be done by the reduced team and plan the next steps whilst answering questions from the team about their future. I had to take a step back in order to assess it, reflect on it and take the more appropriate decision for the project and for the team.
What do you like the most about your job and/or the rail industry?
The diversity! Being a key member of a team comprising individuals from different genders, nationalities (English, French, Romanian, Portuguese, etc), ages (from 18 to 60 years old), professional and personal backgrounds and experiences, all working together towards a common goal. It is rewarding when I manage to overcome the challenges and know that everyone in the whole team is proud of what we have achieved and is an integral part of the overall success of the project.
What do you think the rail industry could do to attract more women into the sector?
Rail remains today an industry with a small percentage of women but we have make huge progress since the time women were banned from working in the tunnel because of superstition! We should emphasize the nature of the work we do, help people understand what our jobs consist of. Rail is an innovating and challenging industry which connects people both geographically and on a personal level. It is also the path for an international career. You will never get bored!
What would be your advice to young women entering the industry?
First, you have to enjoy yourself in the job you are doing. This is the most important as you will pass this feeling to your team. Be transparent, collaborative and caring: these are, in my opinion, keys to obtain the trust, support and commitment from your team. You have to give as much as you are expecting from others and the rest will follow.
Do you have a role model?
I would say my previous managers as they all led in different ways but adopted a caring type of management which created a trusting atmosphere within a team. If I refer to famous people, I would say a mix between Rosa Parks (activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the US) and Marie Curie (two-time Nobel Prize winner whose work led to the discovery of radioactivity).
Interviewed August 2017