Where do you work, what do you do?
I am the Rail Specialist for the Department for International Trade in the East Midlands. I help rail companies to export their products and services into international markets. This involves helping companies to understand capability against potential markets, researching markets and target buyers and helping to create a strategy to make it happen. Luckily I have the benefit of a huge team to do this, with colleagues in over 100 countries creating this end to end service. As a dedicated sector role. I really get under the skin of the sector, working across infrastructure, rolling stock, consultancy and everything in between. It also means I get to develop events, missions and activities just for rail, based on what the sector wants.
Please also tell us about your background?
I have an International Business degree and have worked in business engagement and business support for most of my career.
What has been your career journey so far?
Originally from a Business Support background, I have worked directly with the rail industry supporting investment growth since 2010 and most recently specialising in growing rail exports for the East Midlands
What factors did you consider when joining the railway industry?
This was largely accidental, but I really love working with the sector. The people are great, capability is awesome and potential for exports is huge!
What in rail are you passionate about?
I have the pleasure of meeting and working closely with a huge range of rail supply companies in the region and beyond. The capability of the sector is outstanding, with innovation at its very heart. I really want to see UK rail supplying global markets and becoming the “go-to” country for solving rail challenges around the world.
What motivates you to put forward your greatest effort?
Belief in the capability of the industry but also how friendly and engaging the people from these companies are. It’s a great sector.
What aspects of the job do you (or your journey to date did you) find the most challenging/rewarding and why?
I love putting on Meet the Buyer activities. These seem to get the most interest from Industry and of course have the potential of leveraging some real business opportunities. They are massive projects, with buyer recruitment key to stimulating the interest from the UK supply chain. Wider support helping UK suppliers to develop their offer for buyers is also vital if they are to maximise the opportunities. 2017 was busy for Meet the Buyer, with SBB and Stadler in March, and then RVE in October. I will continue to develop our Meet the Buyer activities and wider support for next year. We are taking a Midlands Engine Meet the Buyer mission to Irish Rail in February, activity is in development with Bulgarian Railways and look out for #RVEMTB2018 where I hope to build on this year’s big event!
What has been your biggest success to date and what contributed to that success?
The Meet the Buyer I held at RVE2017 was a great success. We had a huge level of interest; over 100 companies applied and this volume really gave our eight international buyers a massive choice of companies to meet. Getting Alstom, Siemens, OBB, SBB, MTR Tech, Eurostar, CAF and Hitachi in the same room was no mean feat! Indeed, six buyers bought along a second person to conduct extra meetings, such was their interest! Finding the right buyers is key, but also essential is having a supply chain that has a great offer and that is motivated to ‘meet the buyers’ we bring to the East Midlands.
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time, how would you like your career to progress?
A go-to person for rail exports for the East Midlands, the flip side of which is developing a reputation with international buyers for providing a route to solving their network or operational challenges with UK Rail suppliers.
How do you balance home and work life? What advice would you give to other women?
I put a huge effort into my job, delivering real outputs for the sector and DIT. My employer is supportive about a level of flexible working that enables me to ‘be there’ for my children at the same time as meeting the expectations placed on me and my role. My advice to women undertaking a demanding job in any sector is to ensure their employer understands that outputs rather than hours worked are the key to success. Flexibility from employers is hugely important if we are to get away from the straitjacket 9-5 desk-bound approach that makes balancing work and children so difficult for many women.
Has anyone inspired you during your career (and, if so who and why?) Do you have a role model and, if so, who and why?
Of the many sector professionals I have the pleasure of working with, two are particularly inspiring folks breaking the mould. David Brookes from Elite KL is a great ally and friend. His support for export for growth, cascading opportunities and engaging in DIT activities knows no bounds. He also provides great feedback, helping to shape activities as well as taking a truly industry view. Lucy Prior from the Rail Alliance is also a great friend and export supporter. It is easy to try to “fit” with the industry stereotypical image, but Lucy is a breath of fresh air. Focussed and thoroughly committed to the sector, she brings an energy which is different, engaging and which helped me to realise that there is no one-size fits all, and my style, whilst a bit whacky and quirky at times is also valued in a changing sector.
In your opinion, what is the recipe for success?
Cheerfulness! Sounds a bit lame, but taking a positive approach will really help make things happen, inspire others, overcoming challenges that come along and certainly help with working relationships.
How do you think that we can attract more women to the rail industry? What do you think the rail industry could improve, should start doing, stop doing or continue to do to support/attract more women within the rail industry?
We need to present an industry which is interesting, varied, that is innovative, challenging and one that continues to develop. Thomas the Tank Engine first appeared in 1946 but to the untrained eye, some 80 years later, our network hasn’t really changed. Trains. Tracks. If you look at cars, over such a long period, the transition and industry development is huge and as a result appealing to all. We must demonstrate some of the amazing “behind the scenes” advancements and showcase at every opportunity – in stations, on supplier buildings, on trains, because very little has changed in the way the industry is presented.
What would be your advice to young women entering the industry?
At our very core, we are all just people. Talk. Listen. But also be brave and contribute to discussions – the industry wants new, fresh and innovative, and it’s the new entrants to the sector that will bring this.
h)What message would you have to encourage girls to join the industry?
Rail is a very dynamic sector and one which is growing hugely across the world which means there are plenty of exciting career opportunities. As a woman, try to leave your preconceptions at the door. The sector requires the same skill set as any other, regardless of gender and the more women who join the sector, the more preconceptions and barriers will be broken down.
Interviewed November 2017