Where do you work, what do you do?
I work as an ‘Assistant Architect’ for the Buildings and Architecture central team of Network Rail. We as a team have an assurance responsibility to ensure that NR infrastructures are designed and built to best practice standards and where possible are as accessible as they can be. We do this by reviewing F004 documents (Architectural Layout and Acceptance documents) and providing comments which hopefully improve the design output of the project. As a DIA superuser, I support the routes with the production of DIA’s and occasionally sign these DIA’s off. In the review of design, I promote accessibility with every opportunity pushing for a built environment that is truly inclusive. My role also includes writing guidance notes to aid in the design of more inclusive infrastructure.
Please also tell us about your background?
My background is in Architecture. I studied Architecture at the University of Nigeria (2010) and attained a Masters of International Architecture at the University of Lincoln (2013). To be registered with RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) I have to complete a part 3 which I am currently working towards. Since joining NR I have focused on access and inclusive design and I am diligently working towards becoming an expert in this subject area.
What has been your career journey so far?
I joined Network Rail as a volunteer architectural intern in January 2015, since then I have worked within the Building and Architecture team of NR and grown to become an Assistant Architect with a continuous development specialising in inclusive design. I have had training in carrying out and reviewing Diversity Impact Assessments (DIA) and I am applying to become and NRAC consultant (National Register of Access Consultants)
What factors did you consider when joining the railway industry?
When joining the railway I was particularly intrigued by the vast learning opportunities available to me. The railway is rich with so many different disciplines all working together and having that regular interface with these other disciplines in related fields was a great opportunity for me. The railway industry is also very dynamic and I believed I’d get the chance to learn and grow so much more from it than if I had gone to an architectural firm.
What in rail are you passionate about?
Access and Inclusion at the stations and on trains. I love the fact that I can make changes to the design and layout of stations which can impact other people positively and ensure more people get to travel independently and confidently.
What motivates you to put forward your greatest effort?
The awareness of the potential positive impact my comments and guidance notes would have on the built environment.
What aspects of the job do you (or your journey to date did you) find the most challenging/rewarding and why?
Promoting inclusive design has been challenging as most people tend to view it as an extra or a nice to have. Others believe it adds additional and unnecessary costs to their projects. When I go out to meetings to provide support to projects, I have to sit there and convince others of how important and necessary accessibility is.
What has been your biggest success to date and what contributed to that success?
Two biggest successes have been this nomination and getting invited to the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering Awards) to be sat at a table hosted by the Director of Safety Technical and Engineering Network Rail. I was apparently selected for outstanding performance at work and it gives me great pleasure to be recognise.
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time, how would you like your career to progress?
I would love to one day become the professional head of Buildings and Architecture for Network Rail making changes and decisions that help make the built environment more accessible.
How do you balance home and work life? What advice would you give to other women?
I moved to Milton Keynes to be close to my place of work but this is because I could. However my advice would be, there is always a tomorrow. If we get all the work done today, there will be nothing left to do tomorrow. I used to work late hours pushing myself to meet targets and deadlines some of which I set for myself but I realise if I do have a breakdown, the work will carry on. So I have learnt to stop and to take a break sometimes.
What would you say is the achievement you are most proud of?
The Rising star nomination.
In your career, what is the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Promoting inclusive design.
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?
Margaret Hickish (MBE) she is also my mentor and has encouraged me greatly to be the best I can be and to speak up and put myself out there. She has trained me and mentored me in access and inclusive and her passion for the subject and the difference she makes is why she is my role model.
In your opinion, what is the recipe for success – for a team, career, or otherwise?
Sometimes all you need is one person who believes in you and you will be well on your way to the very top. Even if that person is you.
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?
Job adverts should reflect things like flexible working and diversity and inclusion a bit more.
What would be your advice to young women entering the industry?
You are no less than anyone. If you know your stuff, show that you know your stuff. Let your voice be heard.
What message would you have to encourage girls to join the industry?
It’s a great place to be. Don’t be frightened or discouraged. Give it a shot.
What advice would you give to young women / other women working in rail?
Seize every opportunity to learn and improve. The world can be your oyster.
Interviewed November 2017