What has been your career journey so far?
I come from a working-class family in the West Midlands. I have always been very keen on sciences and maths and love learning and problem solving. Early jobs included weekend work in a pet shop and farm work and driving tractors! Having completed my Environmental Science Degree at the University of York, I joined a civil engineering company in 2010 as a Graduate Environmental Advisor. Working in an under resourced environmental team was a steep learning curve where I found working on a variety of environmental focuses very fulfilling. There were some rail projects being conducted by the company. I gained my PTS and, by chance, attended an interview for a role in the rail industry. I joined Signalling Solutions Ltd (SSL) as Environmental Advisor and progressed to the role of Sustainability Manager for the company, which employed approximately 600 people. To excel in the new role, I completed the IEMA Diploma in Sustainable Business Practice thereby expanding my knowledge of strategy development and sustainability best practice. SSL was bought by its parent company, Alstom, in 2015. I became Sustainability Manager for Alstom UK & Ireland in May 2016. I am responsible for improving the sustainability performance of the company which employs approximately 2500 staff.
Please describe your role...
My role is to implement Alstom’s global Sustainability & CSR Strategy at country level. This involves working with the senior management team to establish their buy-in, key priorities and understand how best to drive sustainable development within the organisation. I developed a UK&I Vision Statement, Sustainability Strategy and Sustainability Plan which identifies the annual targets required to meet the 2020 objectives. I chair regular Sustainability Steering Committee meetings where we monitor progress to ensure continual improvement. The Sustainability Strategy is broken down into corporate and local objectives so that employees can easily identify how they as an individual can contribute toward Alstom’s sustainability agenda. Some of the areas of focus have been introduction of a volunteering day, diversity and charitable fundraising.
What factors did you consider when joining the railway industry?
Having sampled a couple of rail projects when working for the civils company I only wanted to learn more. As an environmentalist I was intrigued by the management of a linear site with multiple interfaces to manage. I love working for Alstom and in the rail industry because it is an industry where you can make a difference. My experience to date has been overwhelmingly positive on how people approach change and the role I play in that.
What in rail are you passionate about?
In a general career sense, I am motivated by contributing toward tackling the challenges that are being faced by us all using unsustainable transport modes for work and in our personal lives and, on a day-to-day level, being part of a proactive team motivates me to put forward my greatest effort.
What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging and rewarding?
Seeing results: sometimes this can take many months but when a policy is approved and successfully implemented there is nothing more rewarding.
What has been your biggest success to date?
My biggest achievement to date is probably securing the first Alstom Foundation project in the UK for 2017. I collaborated with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) (a charity which works to improve the career prospects of bright disadvantaged young people), to secure funding of £85k to open an SMF office in Liverpool. In 2016, on a scale of 1 (best) to 324 (worst), Liverpool ranked 256 in a report by the Social Mobility Commission on how good they were for social mobility. I am responsible for managing Alstom’s involvement in the project.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
Hopefully not too dissimilar from where I am now, having successfully met 2020 objectives. I’d like to progress my career by pursuing a better understanding of change management and techniques for introducing change.
What do you think the rail industry could improve to support and attract more women?
Very difficult question. We have started a ‘Voices of Alstom’ diversity campaign to identify and break barriers to recruitment and retention of females. This includes unconscious bias, sharing best practice, engaging with young females to promote STEM subjects and rail, and creating an internal group for women to network, learn about CPD options and get involved in diversity initiatives.
What message would you have to encourage girls to join the industry?
Rail needs girls. To progress transport solutions we need innovative, creative and talented individuals who will be given a challenging and fulfilling career changing the face of transport. A career in rail is an exciting place to be with the opportunity to be part of a bigger movement toward sustainable transport.
Do you have a role model?
My Nanny – she worked hard every day and invested a lot of time in me and my sisters to succeed in all we wanted to achieve. She was very formidable and made sure we understood the importance of education, as the war broke out not long before her 18th birthday she didn’t get a chance to study at university until after she retired when she fulfilled her dream to get a degree after a successful career at the Atomic Energy Authority. She was the older person to graduate at that time.
Interviewed August 2017