Interview with Matthew Labuda

Senior Commercial Manager

What do you do?

I am Senior Commercial Manager at Angel Trains. My role involves negotiating the leasing of Angel Trains’ rolling stock to train operating companies in the United Kingdom which itself includes preparing bid submissions for new and existing trains, advising the Board of Angel Trains on rolling stock strategy and negotiating legal documentation. Angel Trains has trains on lease with every train operating company in the country which makes my job very busy but also tremendously exciting.

Why the rail industry?

I originally worked in the wine industry as New Business Development Manager.

Wine is still very much a hobby of mine which explains why I was delighted to be invited to support Women in Rail’s wine tasting evenings for two years running!

When I decided to change career in 2008, I was looking for a job which would combine my existing skills with a new challenge in a completely different industry.

I joined the railway in March 2008, working for a group of companies across a range of rail services. In my role, I was responsible for market research and promoting the services that the businesses were offering including the overhaul, repair or refurbishment of trains. It was a diverse and challenging role but enormously exciting.

I joined Angel Trains in April 2012 and have not looked back. It is a great company to work for. The people here are highly skilled, loyal and passionate about the railway. It is an intense time-pressured job which I very much enjoy. This has been particularly so over the last couple of years given the number of contracts and new build opportunities that we have been negotiating.

Since I joined the rail industry, I have become increasingly aware of the huge range of career opportunities that are available. Often, when you say ‘rail’, people only think of trains and that’s as far as it goes. What people don’t necessarily see are the multiple career options the industry has to offer whether office based or field based, in commercial, legal, finance, and of course engineering to name a few. I have also come across people who had more than one career in rail!

What part of your job do you find most challenging?

It is fast-paced and intellectually very demanding. There are a lot of skills that I need to bring together to deliver what is required. This involves dealing with the engineering, legal and finance teams on a regular basis and ensure everyone understand the deal, the priorities and timelines but also, when at the negotiating table, build a rapport with the customer to ensure when the deal concludes, both parties are happy with the agreement that has been reached.  Fortunately for me there are some really excellent people working in the industry who are always willing to help and offer advice but also willing to explore new ways of doing things.

What perception do you feel people have of rail?

It is sometimes thought of as simply a way to get from A to B or perhaps about heavy duty manual engineering. Obviously depot and infrastructure activity is crucial to the success of the industry but rail involves much more. There are a broad range of opportunities available and, more importantly, many roles across the industry that women can thrive in. Technology, for example, is advancing at great speed, which in turn has developed a new need for talent.

Is there anything specific to rail that you feel could be done better?

The industry needs to work on the perceptions, internal and external, and some of the misconceptions attached to it. It needs to present itself in a way that attracts more people – especially women. We need to get better at communicating that rail is a modern and dynamic industry that brings tangible benefits to people in the country. People use the railway for business and pleasure; trains enable people to see their families or relatives and to get to and from work. The railway can enable people to live somewhere in the county, where they can raise a family and still get to do a job in the city that they enjoy.

We need a more gender balanced workforce and for that we need more women engineers, more women lawyers, accountants or commercial managers. We need to showcase the opportunities across the industry, from running or maintaining the trains themselves to technical, legal and more traditional office roles. Above all, we need to get better at explaining the diversity of roles that are available.

Rail needs to find a way to showcase it is a caring industry, for its people and the general public. I think if rail starts presenting itself in that way, it will open itself up to attracting a more diverse and stronger workforce.

Tell me more about your London to Paris cycle. Is that something that you’re hoping will bring men and women in rail together?

I wanted to organise something to show that when men and women work together, they create better results. There are many statistics on this but I wanted to allow people to see it working in practice and to raise awareness of this fact.

It will create an amazingly collaborative atmosphere; the pairs riding by tandem will be going through the struggle together and egging each other on, building that team dynamic.

Plus, we wanted to raise money for The Railway Children, a cause very important to Angel Trains.

What’s it going to involve?

A 178 mile (286km) cycle over three days – from bustling London streets to quiet roads in East Sussex and then across beautiful French countryside and finally through Paris to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

It’s not a race. It’s an opportunity to make a massive achievement, with a group of like-minded people!

What will a typical day be like?

We’ll have to get on with it! Wake early, check out of the hotel and warm up. Then we start the ride and continue cycling until lunch with regular water and snack stops in between. In the afternoon, we will carry on cycling arriving at the hotel in time to unwind and freshen up. Then it’s an evening meal and drinks in the bar… plus lots of sleep.

What’s the cost?

A registration fee of £150 and a minimum sponsorship of £1,500.

When is it?

14th -17th July – so we need to get people signed up! It’s an amazing opportunity, and I would encourage anyone interested to get involved.

 

Interviewed March 2016