Interview with Barbara Williams

former Membership & Administration Director at Railway Industry Association

How long have you been in the rail industry? What brought you to the railway industry? (why did you join the rail sector or what inspired you to join the rail sector?)

Having spent 20 years in administrative roles in the graphic design industry, I was asked to help bring some structure to a then very small team, which was facing major changes in its industry sector.  We had 60 member companies and I became the 6th member of staff. 21 years on we are now 190 companies and 14 staff.

What does your role consist of? What is a typical day?

Being the longest-standing member of staff I am involved in many aspects of the business, so no two days are the same. I could be out representing the organisation at a major conference one day and desk-based organising events or dealing with personnel management another.

How do you balance home and work life? What advice would you give to other women?

Whatever I am doing, for however long I am doing it, I give it 100%; – that applies to family & leisure as much as work.  It is about being present in the moment and giving your all.

What is it about the industry that you love? (what do you find most rewarding in your career?)

The people I deal with day in and day out are interesting and stimulating.  Most rewarding is delivering an event or service which gets acclaim.  I am also lucky enough to work with a fantastic team of people.

What would you say is the achievement you are most proud of?

Probably being nominated as an inspirational woman!

In your career, what is the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

I really don’t know, but looking back I could write a book about some of the curious situations I have faced.

Has anyone inspired you during your career (and, if so who and why?)

Francis How, who was the Technical Director here at RIA for seven years was an inspiration to me.  He is the most astute, organised, intelligent, productive person I have ever worked with.  The example he set for managing people was outstanding.  He was a good listener and an effective speaker. In my opinion he achieved excellence across the board.

In your opinion, what is the recipe for success – for a team, career, or otherwise?

Within a team the recipe for success, without doubt, is communication. Knowing and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and championing your colleagues. Doing everything wholeheartedly, striving for excellence, seeking improvement, and learning every day.

Do you think women handle leadership roles differently from men?

I think gender is irrelevant.  What is important is agility, wit and integrity.  Both men and women can possess these qualities.  Knowledge, openness, emotional intelligence and a willingness to learn continuously defines leaders from followers. You cannot lead unless you impress those following you.

What do you see as the challenges to attracting more women into rail and what do you think could be done to make a difference?

Few people have a defined career path at the outset of their working lives.  Careers develop as opportunities present themselves.

 

Spotlight articles on “successful” or simply “positive” women who work in rail and have a story to tell, in the press, in magazines, in careers advice and on social media, will help to show that rail is as good an industry as many others.

What advice would you give to young women / other women working in rail?

Believe in yourself and understand that resilience is vital. Be patient but do not be fobbed off.  If you know what you want do not be afraid to aim for it.

 

Interviewed September 2016 – updated September 2017