Interview with Kristin Thorslund

Head of Product & Engineering Performance Western Europe, Middle East & Africa for Bombardier Transportation

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 worked in the rail industry for about 25 years. Nearly 20 years in Bombardier Transportation. Entering into the railway industry, was more accidental, in Sweden I was working as a Mechanical Engineering Consultant, and part of my assignment was at Adtranz (now Bombardier), I then considered moving to the UK, and Bombardier was a natural choice to apply for a job. I have no regrets. It’s a fantastic Industry to be in, environmentally friendly and full of global and local challenges.

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

I have worked in most functions in Bombardier, and my longest time was in bids, today I am back in engineering, managing the part of the organisation that assure performance, improvements, standardisation of processes & tools and governance. A typical day has regular review management calls, and a basket of emergencies to deal with. No day is the same and there is always something to learn, and I enjoy the variety of the people I work with, as well as the subjects.

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

This is a really tricky area, I have a young family including 2 children of 8 and 10 years old. My husband has a 9-5 job, which makes it easier for us to operate as a family with my travels and irregular schedules. There is not only one right answer to this question, so my advice would be that each family talk and work out an operating model that fits. I have noticed over the years that I spent less time on me, so I set a challenge earlier this year to get back into regular exercise, it has really worked for me, as we are doing it as a group and report the weekly km achieved. In essence what balance is all about is to set your objectives and boundaries, and follow them (easier said than done!!).

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

Passion, people, education and globalisation are the first 4 things that comes to mind when I think about the industry. I love the can do attitude of the people in our industry – The willingness to get it right, achieve more, evolve. I have had the pleasure of working globally for many years, whilst WIR currently focus on the UK, I feel that its applicable across the globe.

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

There are many achievements I am proud of, making it into management comes very high on my list, however if I should select one area, it is the development of myself. I was given very hard feedback 3 years ago around delegation, assertiveness and presentation skills. I had a choice to make, and I decided to take it onboard, and this really was a stepping stone to enter into a world of coaching and constant development emotionally and as a leader. It is the hardest thing I have done, to learn what my energy blockers are, and navigate through the world with a different set of eyes, realising that I am responsible for my own feelings, and what I do will affect people differently.

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

My own fears of failing, limiting my performance and accepting that I am good, just the way I am and therefore I had to learn how to trust my own ability and judgement.

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

I have had many inspirational leaders and peers around me, they have all had an impact on the woman I am today. I feel it is unfair to single out only a few, I’d rather answer generically, the inspiration in the early days came from leaders with more confidence than me, it then transitioned into leaders that are creative like me, that have the guts to implement what they have created.

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

Honesty, teamwork, a clear plan and objectives that are governed.

Do you think women handle leadership roles differently from men?

I think the difference is due to personalities rather than being a man or a woman.

There is a trend however, that women have lower confidence in themselves, and this may be less noticeable in a man. Confidence in oneself and others are key as a leader.

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 don’t see much advertising around rail being an exciting industry, so I think proactive campaigns attracting the right individuals should include success stories, learning abilities, culture etc. Also explanations on how the individual will contribute to an exciting, environmentally friendly and growing industry.

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

Sign up to mentoring and coaching, work on your confidence, set your goals and celebrate when you meet them !

The only one that limits your achievements are yourself !!

 

Interviewed October 2016