Interview with Sally Shellum

Head of Programme Development at Network Rail

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 joined the Rail Industry in 2002 so have been here for 14 years.

In all honesty I found my way into the Industry almost by accident after leaving University.  I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and European Studies so the Rail Industry was not an obvious career path; however I was fortunate to discover it.  Over the last 14 years I have undertaken a range of roles including Project Management and Sponsorship and been involved with a large number of projects.  The Rail Industry provides the ability to do this and also allowed me to gain my Master’s degree in Transport Planning.

What is it about the industry that you love? (what do you find most rewarding in your career?)

I love the ability that my role has to make a difference to people’s lives and to leave a legacy.  There are parts of the railway that now look and operate differently because of projects I have been involved in and work that I have undertaken whether that is through managing contracts, securing funding or identifying / selecting options to achieve desired outputs.

One of my earliest projects required me to lead a multi-million pound signalling contract on the first project within the wider re-signalling of the West Midlands area.  This has made a huge difference to the area I was born and grew up in, so the impact of that work feels very personal.

What would you say is the achievement you are most proud of?

Quite simply my career as a whole.

When I look back over the last fourteen years and the things that I have achieved (both big and small) I am immensely proud.  This includes the projects that I’ve been involved in, the relationships I have built and the teams that I have led.

In your opinion, what is the recipe for success – for a team, career, or otherwise?

It sounds obvious but honesty and a willingness to learn.  It is impossible to know everything but if you are open to admitting this and willing to ask the people around for potential answers then you will find them.

Overall – talk to everybody and listen to what they say!

What advice would you give to young women / other women working in rail?

The main thing I have learnt is to be yourself and play to your strengths.  I often found I was the only young female in a meeting but this can be a positive thing as you are more likely to be remembered later on.

I also found that as a relatively young person I could ask the stupid / obvious questions that others felt they couldn’t.  I learnt a lot through this approach and would encourage anyone to try this.

 

Interviewed October 2016