What has been your career journey so far?
I graduated from Imperial College London in 2012 having studied Mechanical Engineering. I started my career in the Automotive sector but quickly realised I wanted to work on infrastructure so I moved into Highway Intelligent Transport System. There, I discovered that my passion lies in finding sustainable transport that efficiently connects cities and people. This led me to ARUP where I am now a Senior Engineer working on Tunnel Ventilation Systems. I originally worked on different aspects of Mechanical and Electrical systems in tunnels and underground stations. My specialisation now lies in technical design services of tunnel mechanical, electrical and ventilation systems. I am currently based in Sydney working on projects in Australia and in Singapore.
What in rail are you passionate about?
I am passionate about delivering passenger comfort and safety with the help of tunnel ventilation systems. Railways to me is a transportation mode for everybody. Cars are restrictive, either you have to drive yourself or have to rely on someone who can. Trains are a transportation that everyone could use, or should be able to use, even if you have reduced mobility.
What motivates you to put forward your greatest effort?
When seeing the benefits of certain infrastructure systems, I want to be a part of the team that delivers them. For example, I saw Crossrail as a solution to congestion, a connection between people and the opportunity to offer more freedom to travel and I wanted to work on it.
What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging/rewarding?
Working on Crossrail, a £15-billion project, was very rewarding and definitely represent some of the proudest moments of my life. It was surreal at times to be part of the contribution, effort and hard work that went to ensure a safe railway system could be delivered to connect people east and west of London and to London. I worked as a tunnel ventilation engineer and then as a materials compliance engineer. I felt that I had made a significant contribution and had a deep sense of pride and satisfaction. There were some technical challenges but they were enjoyable and that’s how I grew. Especially in London, space is a premium and the challenges of fitting a safe system into the available space was very interesting and satisfying when it all came together.
What do you like the most about your job/the rail industry?
The rail industry is versatile, systems engineering requires input from various departments, needs teamwork and we learn to trust each other. TEAMWORK!
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
I would like to become a technical expert in tunnel ventilation systems and write and present papers. I co-wrote a paper for a conference in France in the coming months on Rail Tunnel Ventilation. Ultimately my goal is to be known and recognised as an expert in the technical field of tunnel ventilation. I would also like to work in different countries. I want to learn how different countries use different standards and guidelines, good industry practices and strategies for a safe railway system. I can hopefully use all this information to enhance my career and bring different ideas to the global rail industry.
What do you think the rail industry could improve to support and attract more women within the sector?
We need to start early and go to schools to make sure that students are aware of the wide range of career option our sector can offer and make it common for women to join the rail industry. Companies also need good parental leave processes to encourage women to stay in the rail industry. A few women I spoke to want children but feel that their qualities or commitment to the industry may be misjudged once they plan to have children.
What message would you have to encourage girls to join the industry?
It is perfectly okay to do Maths and Physics and, if they like the subjects, they should go for it! Maths and physics requires logical thinking and are not gender specific. Engineering is a subject for everyone and can be enjoyed by everyone. Objective views are required and engineering is all about passion. Some men’s ideas of comfort and some women’s ideas of comfort are different, so if we want a railway system for everyone we also need input from all genders to put an equalising view on it. The Rail industry is one of the best industries to work in. If you are passionate about sustainability, by being in the rail industry, you can directly contribute to sustainable design.
How have you used your influence to drive change for gender equality in the rail industry?
I go to Schools 3 to 5 times per year for full-day activities to promote engineering as well as the rail industry. I feel that students need to see Senior Engineers and not just graduates though so that the students get a view of a possible career progression in the engineering industry.
Do you have a role model?
Anyone who is passionate about their work is an inspiration. For example, in London, one of our Director’s PA is really good at her job, she goes above and beyond and knows and cares a lot about the engineering world and she is one of the biggest inspirations. I feel that everyone contributes to the industry if they are in it, no matter what function they perform. For me, there is nothing more inspiring than watching someone enjoy their work and excel in it to help the society.
What are your interests/hobbies outside of rail?
I play football and enjoy cycling. I also perform stand-up comedy at open mic nights. This is another field that could have more female participants, but it is an area that inspires confidence.
Interviewed August 2017