Interview with Sue Gray

Contract Delivery Manager at DB Cargo UK Ltd

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 been in the railway sector for the last 16 years. I was head hunted by Jackson Associates to come along for an interview to join their Sales team initially. I turned this down as I preferred the operational side of the business. I was then invited to meet the Chief Operating Officer and took a post in operations. This was a huge change from my previous roles in the road transport industry.

How do you balance home and work life? What advice would you give to other women?

You cannot be super woman, do not feel guilty for putting your family first. With the technology today you can work from home and cover sick children or elderly parents. Just prioritise your diary and delegate where you can, this gives others a chance to grow. Build a great team then you can all work together to overcome home/work life problems.

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

The people in the rail industry are different from other industries, they seem to have a closer working community within the sectors. I like dealing with all levels of people within the business and especially in developing my own team and in encouraging and coaching them to be better managers. I love the challenge of working within a male dominated sector and being successful.

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

Developing young managers, coaching them, instilling belief and people management and team building. At 63 I have just won the RFG Award for Personal Contribution, I think I have now made it in a man’s world.

In your career, what is the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

I went into transport management at the age of 24; I was frightened of the males who worked there. I overcame this by age 26 and started to leave my mark.

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

Believe in yourself; don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes, they will help you grow. Don’t be patronised in the male environment as all transport sections have a male orientated domination or perceived to have.

Do you think women handle leadership roles differently from men?

Yes, we have a higher degree of emotional intelligence and can sense when something is wrong quicker than our male colleagues. Being a female you can also gain an advantage if you choose to use different skill sets to achieve your goals. I can ask for help and guidance in an area I don’t fully understand, I can be tough (men are scared of women bosses), I can be sympathetic and understanding. As females I believe we also do not steal the glory of anyone that has achieved but ensure that the right person gets the right recognition.

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?

We should be going into schools/colleges and promoting the industry. We should hold career events and get the females of today to pass on their experiences and create the right image for joining rail. We need to make it look exciting and sexy, we have moved on from shovelling coal into steam engines.

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

It is a great industry to work in, different challenges daily and the opportunity to progress. Stand by your convictions and don’t be afraid to challenge even if you are the only woman amongst a male team. Make that difference and keep fighting for what you believe in to improve your status and that of the company that you work for.

 

Interviewed October 2016