Interview with Pippa Higgins

Senior Design Manager, winner of the Women in Rail Award 2014

How did you get into the rail industry, was it by choice or accident?

I first dabbled in the rail industry in my student days when I was on a placement as part of the Jubilee Line Extension Project. However, more recently I joined the Civil Engineering division of Vinci Construction in 2009 when the Building division didn’t have any opportunities for me post my second maternity leave, and since then I have been on rail projects.

What do you do?

My works varies depending on the actual project that I’m on. As a Senior Design Manager, it generally means that I am managing the design process and ensuring that the design is developed in line with the programme, in time for construction works and to the quality required to be approved by the Client’s assurance process.

What is a typical day?

As most people would say, there is no typical day. My workload changes depending on where the design is along the development workflow. Near to a review point or submission date my work is focussed on a specific set of design deliverables. In between, I try to look ahead and identify opportunities. I work closely with our document controller to streamline the delivery process, and also I chair the Safe by Design meetings, where we review the live designs to ensure that safety has been considered for construction, maintenance and demolition.

What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging?

Constantly managing change to our scope of works is the most challenging, remembering what’s in, what’s not and deciding what would be best to incorporate now to avoid re-work and yet ensuring we will be paid for any additional work.

What do you like the most about your job/the rail industry?

I like the variety, the amazing structures that we construct like Kings Cross Western Concourse that I was involved in. I like knowing what is going on behind the hoardings, and smiling to myself on the train when I hear other commuters talk about the project as they think they know what it’s all about!

What made/makes you stay in the rail sector?

I still feel quite new to the rail sector, even though I’ve been in it for over 6 years, so I still have lots to give, so I don’t see me moving out of this sector just yet.

What would you say to a young graduate considering a career in rail?

Anyone interested in rail as a career should go for it, there are so many different jobs to choose from. Working in rail, you make such a difference to many people’s lives.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a woman who has achieved a senior role in her career?

I don’t see it as being that I am a woman who has achieved a senior role, I just am who I am. I never thought that I couldn’t or shouldn’t have a career in construction and rail. I am proud that I have been recognised for working hard and for doing my job well through the promotions that I have achieved.

Do you think men and women handle leadership roles differently?

I think everyone leads in a slightly different way. It’s about finding out what is most effective for you, such that you communicate effectively, solve problems together, gain respect from your team and so lead them to successful delivery of a project.

 

Interviewed June 2015