Please tell us a little bit about your background..

I was born in Brighton but lived in America and in Australia for 5 years.  I did my secondary education and degree in the UK.  Living in different countries and moving around has enabled me to be comfortable with change and to embrace the requirement to get involved.

What has been your career journey so far?

I did a degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. However, I didn’t want to do anything with chemistry, so went into technical pre-sales and worked in a small company.  From there, I pursued the commercial route for about 4 years.  Bombardier was my first role in the rail industry but not my first one in a male dominated industry, so it wasn’t that challenging! I started working on Technical Support Spares Supply Agreements (TSSSA) for Electrostar trains. I did this for 2.5 years and last month was promoted to the General Manager’s position on the South Western Railway contract. I am accountable for the Wimbledon site depot, responsible for Health and Safety, contractors, Profit and Loss of the TSSSA and ensuring the project delivers its obligations.

What factors did you consider when joining the railway industry?

I wanted something new and something a little bit more interesting to do.  And as I’ve always had a technical mind, the engineering aspect of rail was attractive to me. In my last job, all the contracts were standard whereas in rail, the projects are all different. So, the ever-changing dimensions keeps me interested.  Technology wise, I think the rail industry is a bit behind compared to other industries but we’re moving in the right direction. The multidisciplinary aspect of rail keeps me interested. It’s important not to be bored at work. I love being challenged. Each project throws up an operational or commercial challenge, which keeps you on your toes but I particularly like the engineering challenges, even though I’m not an engineer!

What motivates you to put forward your greatest effort?

Getting recognition as my career goal is ultimately to be running the business.  I think some women don’t push for the recognition in the hope they will get it anyway, whereas men tend to be more forthcoming about what they have achieved and why they should get recognition for it. I want to be the best at what I do and that’s what drives me.  I want to be known to be doing a good job.

What aspects of your role do you find the most challenging and rewarding?

With respect to challenging, being promoted to the General Manager’s position on the South Western Railway contract. I took a career focussed move forward into a more challenging role. It was a big risk, including that of potentially upsetting a line manager as I felt I was leaving him in the lurch.  But actually, he was really supportive and continues to be.  I really had to think about it and take a lot of time to make my decision. As for rewarding, I recently extended a TSSSA with GTR to include additional fleets that Bombardier had sold them without a service contract. It took us 1.5 years to achieve and it absolutely consumed me. One of the hardest projects I have done to date but it gave me the most rewarding feeling and it was a huge relief once completed! One of the most stressful few weeks of my life but the reward was so worth it.  I took it from start to conclusion and that is very fulfilling.

What do you need to do to get your dream job?

I need operational experience, Profit and Loss responsibility and taking a position abroad at some point by means of an international assignment or secondment for example.

Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?

I think I would like to be head of something globally in Bombardier or the rail industry.  I am passionate about rail and I want to operate at a senior level.

What do you think the rail industry could improve to support and attract more women within the sector?

Rail needs to make the roles and opportunities more visible to women at universities. The same applies to apprenticeships. Attracting women when they’re already in work is difficult if they’re not in a male dominated environment. Women need to know that, if they want something that’s challenging, then rail is a great industry to get into, an industry where you can progress your career quite quickly. The rail industry involves so Many projects and that aspect of the sector will never go away, so there’s always going to be an opportunity.

What would be your advice to young women entering the industry?

Male or female, just keep pushing yourself forward and if you’re in a company like Bombardier, which is huge, put yourself forward for projects and seize the opportunities that present themselves, even if you’ve never done them before. And join Women in Rail because it will give you networking opportunities and access to many different resources.

How have you used your influence to drive change for gender equality in the rail industry?

I organised fundraising for the charity “saying good bye” which supports people through various periods of grief relating to miscarriage through to death in early years.  The topic is not gender related as it affects both men and women. I support Women in Rail and talk about the group’s initiatives and I also call people out on gender equality if I see something that needs to be addressed.  I think you have to be prepared to call it out or nothing will change.

Do you have a role model?

Sheryl Sandberg – I feel like she’s really going out there and telling women as it is.  Encouraging them to get a mentor.  Everything she says I can relate to.


Interviewed August 2017