What has been your career journey so far?
I joined Colas as a graduate on their two year programme, during which I rotated throughout various parts of the business. I started with the DLR maintenance team, which were a great team, looking after maintenance for substations and different electrical assets. Then I moved to the design team in Manchester where I was the assistant design engineer for electrical and progressed to design manager. During my placements at Manchester I learned that a good design requires a greater understanding of construction. I moved back to London to join the S&C South Alliance team and progressed to Contractors Responsible Engineer.
What made you want to join the rail industry?
I studied engineering at university and gained a Masters in Electrical Engineering. I chose the Colas graduate programme as it has a reputation for being a prestigious graduate scheme which offers fantastic support and the benefit of rotating through the different aspects of the business. I didn’t join Colas particularly because it is part of rail. However, now that I’m in the industry, I realise it is complex and technically challenging, made up of lots of aspects – infrastructure, technology etc.
What is a typical day for you?
My days at work are never the same. I work in an office and onsite. When in the office, I participate in design reviews, design integration meetings and interface with other disciplines. When onsite my job is to ensure that the electrical installations are constructed in accordance with the design and meet the relevant Network Rail and Railway Group standards. My role as an engineer has a lot of Project Management aspect too: we have to ensure that the railway we build in only a 52h period is safe for the travelling public. Sometimes we finish a project at 4am and at 6am trains will start using the infrastructure we have just built.
What is it like to be a woman in rail?
I’m surrounded by a great team of professionals – men and women. Onsite it is mainly men, but it really doesn’t make a difference if you are male or female as long as you do your job well.
What in rail are you passionate about?
There is a lot of complexity especially technical, logistics and interface. There is something new to learn every day. Every project has its own challenges and it can be very hectic interfacing with all of the different disciplines. It’s very rewarding making sure each project is safe and delivered to a good standard. It makes me really happy to see that the railway not only works, but is delivered to a great standard. It’s also really rewarding when you undertake the testing after the installation and it works perfectly, first time!
What is your biggest success?
I hope that my biggest success is yet to come! Each project has its challenges which you must overcome, but that’s just part of the job.
What do you like most about your job?
As part of my role, I get to engage with many people who are in different positions, grades and levels and from various companies to ensure that the plan fits within the big picture. Everyone has their own plan but we have to make sure that the plan works for all.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
In the short term I am working to achieve Chartered Engineer status and progress to become a Senior Engineer. I am interested in Operations Management. I think you have more opportunity to make a difference when you are in a managerial role. I plan to keep working hard and remain focused. I am passionate about what I do but I don’t have a “master plan” as such!
How do you think this award will be interpreted by colleagues?
I think some of my male colleagues will be looking for their own award as they are just as deserving! I am very grateful that my colleagues took the time to nominate me and I am really proud to have been named as one of the 20 Rising Stars of rail.
What do you think the rail industry could improve to attract more women within the rail sector?
The rail industry has plenty of opportunities for everyone. I think that it is a wider cultural issue. The perception of engineering in general may not be attractive to young females. Academic disciplines of Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) should be promoted to students at a younger age to encourage them and equip them with the skills they need to undertake engineering careers in rail or other sectors.
What would your advice be to young women entering the industry?
Push the limits! You don’t know what you are capable of until you try it. There are many brilliant women in the industry doing a great job and there are lots of career opportunities.
Do you have a role model?
I have been fortunate enough to have had some really great mentors so it would be hard to single just one of them out. I receive so much support from my colleagues that I have nothing but good stories to tell!
What are your hobbies outside of rail?
I really enjoy travelling, it’s what I enjoy the most. I also enjoy reading.
Interviewed August 2017