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 Community Rail for 11 years. Previously I had worked in sustainability at a local authority so the link to sustainable transport and community development was one that interested me greatly.
What does your role consist of? What is a typical day?
My role is incredibly varied. I lead educational familiarisation trips for schools; liaise with designers and printers for our promotional materials; organise events and press calls; assist the local community with events near stations and local stakeholder organisations who want to encourage more use of trains to their attraction or event. As we are based in a University I also run a series of volunteer projects with student volunteers and take part in events which promote our local branch lines. In any one day I could be doing at least three of these things.
How do you balance home and work life? What advice would you give to other women?
There is a fair amount of travel involved in my job and I regularly have to spend nights away from home or late finishes. My partner is a musician so he is often very busy at weekends so it does present some challenges sometimes. However, when we do find ourselves in the same place at the same time we try not to plan too many activities so that we can just spend time together. We are also very fond of travelling abroad so like to go to places which are very off-grid so that we can enjoy some quality time together.
What is it about the industry that you love? (what do you find most rewarding in your career?)
The thing I enjoy most about Community Rail is that no day is ever the same and it is very rewarding to work for an organization which is recognized for being a leader in its field.
What would you say is the achievement you are most proud of?
In 2008 we were part of a project in collaboration with the Student Union in Plymouth which accessed funding for students with disabilities to be able to take part in volunteering activities. One of these students, who was partially sighted, became the project leader for our Rural Stations project and her life turned around completely through this opportunity. She was such as inspiration to everyone that she was picked to be an ambassador for the London Olympics and carried the Olympic torch through Plymouth City Centre.
In your career, what is the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Finding the right person to contact and then getting a response from that person has always been the most frustrating thing when it comes to projects. I have had to learn to be patient or ever so slightly pushy in order to achieve results.
Has anyone inspired you during your career (and, if so who and why?)
Our volunteer leader Rachel (mentioned above). She was so fearless, fun-loving and positive despite having to deal with a lot of health issues that any challenges in my life seemed irrelevant compared to what she had to go through.
In your opinion, what is the recipe for success – for a team, career, or otherwise?
Communication and supportiveness are the keys to a successful team. A team only works if everyone knows what each person is working on at that moment in time and if they need support to be able to achieve it.
Do you think women handle leadership roles differently from men?
I don’t think it is a question of male or females doing things differently, it just depends on the person. A good manager allows someone to grow and flourish in an organisation by actively encouraging training or career development so that person becomes an even greater asset.
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 think more and more women are being attracted to the rail industry and particularly in Community Rail. The challenge is what roles are these women taking, and are there enough of them in managerial roles.
What advice would you give to young women / other women working in rail?
The rail industry is full of interesting and exciting career opportunities. Don’t be put off by any of the technical stuff as this can all be learnt!
Interviewed September 2016