Interview with Dr Ann Mills

Professional Head of Human Factors at RSSB

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?)

I have been in the rail sector for 16 years.  I joined in 2000 just after the Ladbroke Grove Accident and the Public Inquiry that highlighted the need for the industry to focus on Human Factors (HF) issues and Safety Culture.  Since joining the company I have worked to raise the industries understanding of the discipline and its importance to the rail industry and to help our members address their hf issues.

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

Every day is different! It may be drafting industry standards, undertaking research, providing support and advice to our members, delivering training to name but a few.  What all of these activities have in common is that they are aimed at helping the industry get the best from their most important resource – their staff.

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

It’s a struggle because I enjoy what I do so much – that said I ensure that I really prioritise and ensure I get as much time with and enjoyment from family, friends and the activities I love to do outside of work – that way you can give your best when you are at work.

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

I love the fact that despite working in the industry for such a long time I still learn something new every day, that and the people who are always exceptionally helpful and committed to the industry. The rail industry in is their blood!

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

The fact that the GB railway is seen to be the one of the most advanced in understanding and addressing its HF issues.  I truly believe that the team at RSSB has had a key role in this.

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

I think it was early in my career convincing colleagues of the business benefit our discipline could bring to a very traditional and well established industry.

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

When I joined the railway I was lucky enough to work with Emma Lowe.  She is now at Network Rail and her dedication to our discipline and its integration into their activities in such a way non-specialists can understand has formed the blueprint for many of our approaches at RSSB.

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

Listening and valuing others opinions and really caring about the impact your work will have.

Do you think women handle leadership roles differently from men?

Yes – I think we take less risks, by that I mean we only undertake something or put ourselves forward when we know we can deliver 100%.

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?

I think it is still perceived as a very traditional industry and I don’t think we are always as good as we could be about promoting all of the exciting opportunities that it brings.

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

Learn from your experienced colleagues, take every opportunity that presents itself to you and never be worried to question established approaches – you never know you may have an alternative that is safer or more productive.

 

Interviewed October 2016