Tell us a little bit about yourself..
I always knew from a young age that I would have a vocational career in engineering of some sorts. My dad is a civil engineer and my brother is a structural engineer. To be honest, with my degree I could have gone into a number of sectors and it was, in some respects, just chance that got me into the railway. I visited a Graduate Assessment Fair and a man I met there in one of the stands told me about rail and sold the industry to me! What is great about the railway is you can have a really extensive and varied career in the industry. I moved from Northern Ireland to Newcastle to study MEng in Structural Engineering in 2008. I joined Aecom and progressed as Project Manager and Engineer across a number of projects, including working with Network Rail. It was as a consequence of that work that Network Rail asked me to join them as Scheme Project Manager. I have now been one year into the client side role. It has been an amazing journey so far!
What in rail are you passionate about?
I am passionate about making a positive impact in whatever I am involved in. Every day is a challenge and this is great. I am particularly passionate about all aspects of safety, which is my primary concern in everything I do. I also love the diversity that my job brings and I love the people. In Network Rail, we work hard and play hard and that is great. There are potentially multiple career paths that I can take and still stay within the sector.
What has been your biggest success to date?
It may be too early to talk about my biggest success to date but I do hope that I have a long and distinguished career in the sector, that all my projects are successful and that they are done in collaboration with all the team members and companies involved.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
In 5 to 10 years’ time, I see myself being a chartered engineer. I would love to manage large and complex projects as an Engineering Project Manager. Having a dream job is so difficult to think about as it could change over my career but for me it is all about managing a number of people and projects at any one time.
Being a winner of the 20 rising stars hopefully sends a powerful message about women in rail, how do you think it will be interpreted by colleagues?
My team has been very supportive. They are incredibly happy for me and proud. We all share individual and collective successes, which is a brilliant way to work. We form incredibly strong bonds as we work long and intense hours but at the end of the day, we still socialise with each other so we definitely are a close knit team.
What would you say to a young woman considering a career in rail?
Do not let yourself be put off by the stereotype that it is a male dominated industry. I don’t see discrimination in any way about being a woman in rail. Show interest and don’t be scared to speak up, stand up and take pride in what you do is really important, but that isn’t specific to women.
What do you think the rail industry could improve to support and attract more women within the rail industry?
The rail industry needs to more actively promote itself as being the place to have where you can have a viable career, whatever your circumstances. Network Rail has lots of women and encourages flexibility and positive ways to juggle work and home life: you are absolutely able to do both. You can rise through the ranks quickly so this also needs to be promoted. In terms of what it could do to improve, it is really important to get into schools and communicate what the rail industry can give people. It isn’t all about being on site, getting dirty, long hours: there are so many other roles out there. What is missing, though, is having a great number of women in senior roles. This is changing, particularly in Network Rail, but they are not as visible yet to be well-known role models.
How will you use your influence to drive change for gender equality in the rail industry?
I hope I do a great job and earn the respect of my peers. I strive to work to the best of my ability and I remain committed at all times to resolving any issues satisfactorily.
Do you have a role model?
So many people have had influences on my career to date but the most important one has been my dad. Due to what he wanted to give my brother and me in terms of a vocational career, he showed me how to work hard and take pride in what I do. He’s also a civil engineer and has always thought that there are huge benefits in having women working in engineering.
What are your interests/hobbies outside of rail?
I do a lot of charity work in Blackburn, specifically working with a charity that helps homeless ages between 16 to 24. I also deal with the local schools and get them on site too. I really enjoy working with my different types of stakeholders. I love yoga, dog walking and travelling. At the end of last year, I took a month out and went travelling in a motorhome around New Zealand and I have spent 4 months in and around Asia too.
Interviewed August 2017