Interview with Sara Gimeno

Graduate Trainee, Quality Department

How did you get into the rail industry?

I could say I got into the rail industry by “unintentional choice”. After graduating I had many interviews and phone calls with companies of all sectors and the only feedback I got was that I was not what “they were searching for”. At Bombardier, their HR department took good care of me during the interviews and I felt like my talent was being appreciated for the first time. They did not too long to call me back with a good Graduate Programme offer so I really could not resist entering the rail industry and joining them.

What do you do?

I work as a Graduate Trainee at the Quality department of the headquarters of Bombardier Transportation in the UK. I have been with the company (and in the rail industry) for a year now. This year has been a great learning journey into the world of Quality and Rail engineering. Currently, I support the Abellio-Greater Anglia Depot with the 379 fleet, bringing Continuous Improvements and Lean practices to the site. This autumn, I am due to move to Thailand, to second the setup of the Asia Pacific Regional Quality Department. One can really see that the national and international opportunities in the rail industry are endless.

What is a typical day/night?

There is no such thing as a typical day in the Quality department. By definition we are continuously working in improving the way we do things as a company, the way we provide rail mobility solutions, meet customer’s needs, etc. Furthermore, being a graduate in the rail industry means that I am continuously learning new facts about the network, the rolling stock, the UK market…

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

I find that changing people’s mind-sets is a great challenge. As part of my role, I bring “change” to departments in the shape of standardisation, new processes, new tools, etc. Whilst everyone is keen to obtain the benefits, there is often certain resistance to change “the good old habits” into the new ones. I take special care into showing my fellow workers “what is in there for them” to obtain a good level of buy-in. I like a win-win situation!

What do you like the most about the rail industry?

Something I really like about the rail industry specially is the history behind it. On one hand, trains have evolved from huge and noisy steam driven machinery to the high-speed comfortable sustainable vehicles they are today. On the other hand, some of the engineering systems in them still remain essentially “the same” as naturally simple and smart solutions. This contrast fascinates me.

What made/makes you stay in the rail sector?

I believe that the rail industry has a key role to play in one of the biggest challenges of society: climate change. It is only through finding effective and efficient means of manufacturing, transporting and consuming that we will ensure we do not exhaust our resources. The rail is an energy-efficient mean of transport that is used daily by millions of people around the world. Contributing to improve the rail means contributing to improve society’s footprint on the planet.

What do you think could be improved within the rail industry for you personally?

We need to improve our image, in my opinion. Public perception of the rail industry is something on the lines of an unpredictable dangerous old-fashioned environment. People pay very little attention to the improvements that the rail industry continuously brings to their daily lives. I would like to think we could show the challenges of the business and the great projects we all deliver to reflect on the great importance that this industry has in the lives of millions.

What do you think the rail industry should start doing, stop doing or continue to do to support women within the rail industry?

  • Start: Asking the young generations of women how do they see this industry and understand what do we need to do in order to be their career of choice.
  • Stop: Preconceptions. The rail industry has opportunities for keen employees of any speciality regardless of gender and experience in the sector.
  • Continue: Promoting the search for women professionals in HR departments. There are many capable women out there, we need to keep actively reaching out to them and bring them into the rail industry.

What about to attract more women within the rail sector?

I think the rail industry is doing a good job at bringing women talent to their teams. The numbers of women in rail grow steadily thanks to the efforts of everyone in the industry. The number of women in rail engineering in the other hand is very small. In my opinion, we need now to talk to the girls in schools. Show them what the rail is all about and the impact they can make in their careers and in society. This way we will ensure the continuity of female generations in the sector.

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

I would tell them that the rail industry is not only in need of talent to bring the future into reality in our railways, but also in need of the benefits that diversity brings to the workplace. Joining us in this industry is also a smart decision for the future of your personal career as many countries around the world have identified the rail as a key for sustainable societal development.

What would you say is the biggest achievement of your career to date?

My biggest achievement so far, I think is the fact that I have come to see “the bigger picture” in my role. Thanks to working in different departments in manufacturing, services and seeing others’ perspectives; I can see some of the strengths and weaknesses in our company. I keep on working in my personal development so that one day I can be a strong support for our entire organisation.

Why did you join Women in Rail?

I joined because I felt I had to, because this industry is still in many areas a “man’s world”. I think joining the group and contributing to it with the best of my abilities could help change the perception that women have of the rail industry and with it the way that we all do business.

 

Interviewed September 2014