Tell us about yourself?
I am married with three children who are 13, 11 and 9. In addition to my full-time career and family I also have a small-holding complete with sheep, pigs, chickens, cat and dogs which, although time-consuming, is an enjoyable haven! I joined the rail industry at 18 having s a Stewardess with British Rail. I held a number of roles including Graduate Manager, Customer Service Manager and Catering Manager. I left the industry for 4 years due to family commitments. I worked at a college in Carlisle during this time as a Lecturer. I re-joined the industry 5 years ago working for Northern as a Conductor, back on the front line of operations. I applied for the role of Operations Manager and got it! I truly believe that if you want something you have to put the effort in. I feel I have a lot of patience and I really enjoy helping others to be the best that they can be.
What does your role involve?
I manage an area as far North as Workington, Cumbria and as South as Blackpool, Lancashire with around 300 staff and provide the structure and strategy to help the business meet its objectives. I have to a good understanding of all train operations in my area. You have to be flexible in your approach – tonight for example I am working a train! This keeps me in touch with the front line and the core of our business activity.
What factors did you consider when joining the railway industry?
Initially I was probably a bit naive – I thought that a job in the railway was a job for life. When you get through the door you realise the range of jobs available – train operations, track, engineering, projects etc. We have a mixture of old infrastructure and new hi-tech railways so we need to be able to adapt and understand. I’ve always liked the railway environment – it’s got a real communal spirit. Coming to the small depots is like coming home.
What in rail are you passionate about?
People, absolutely! My team, they are my pinnacle. I try my best to be support, challenge and encourage them. Front line customers are important to me and am equally as happy to put my uniform on and be on the front-line. I like to keep the wheels turning and provide my customers with a decent service. I like to drive efficiencies – you have to balance delivering a profit with delivering a service. If the business is not efficient then it is the customer that this has finical and inconvenient detriment on.
What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging and rewarding?
A lot of the challenges in the rail industry are inherited. The industry is heavily regulated both internally and externally. This is great, however this can bring challenges to the role. Trying to balance work with family demands can be challenging. Watching someone you have been involved in training, delivering with style, can be very rewarding. Helping people realise their full potential is something which I take great joy from. I love the autonomy which the job bring and I enjoy learning from experience.
What has been your biggest success to date?
Getting a place on a graduate scheme out of all of the people applied. I didn’t have a degree at the time, but I had skills and training which could be applied. The introduction of the food offering on board Pendolinos, this was a challenging project which had to be delivered on time and on budget and it was a great success.
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time, how would you like your career to progress? What do you need to do to get there?
I didn’t have a plan when I rejoined the rail industry 5 years ago. It sometimes seems like the less career focused I am, the easier it has been to progress! Supporting my children is what drives me. Being happy in my job is the best thing. To keep moving forward you must evolve, you need to constantly upskill and continue to believe in yourself.
What do you think the rail industry could improve to support and attract more women?
Flexible working is good but can be limiting for the business. Giving women male cut clothing and expecting them to perceive we are inclusive is not acceptable. I do believe we have front line equality with regards to pay grades, which is exactly how it should be. The industry is still predominately male dominated, but I definitely feel change is underway. There is a definite influx of senior Managers/Directors being female. I have never come across any limitations due to being a woman. I a great believer that irrespective of your sex, the right person for the role (based on skill/attribute/experience) should be appointed.
What would be your advice to young women entering the industry?
Apply yourself, work hard, recognise that you are equal in every way. “Just do it!” You can learn from your mistakes.
Do you have a role model?
Definitely my parents. My Dad taught me to focus, knuckle-down and not to give up when things get tough. My Mum gave up her career so that she could give us the best chance in life and I’m really grateful to her for doing that. They have both had a massive impact on my approach and continue to do so.
What are your interests outside of rail?
Raising a family and the small-holding pretty much takes up all of my spare time! My life revolves around my children and husband – their interests are mine. I have always par taken in some type of study completing the 2nd year of an MBA. I try to make sure that I don’t feel guilty about spending time with my family and having a different life outside that of my job role.
Interviewed August 2017