Tell us about yourself…
The college I went to wanted us to take 4 subjects. I knew the 3 I wanted to do but didn’t know what to take as my 4th option. On leaving the department, I met a student in a hard hat who told me about geology. I took that option, studied it and loved it! It fits with what I enjoy most: being outdoors and interpreting nature. I took an Applied and Environmental Geology degree. It taught us about engineering and mining while considering the overall impact on the environment. I’ve been with Geotechnics for 3½ years. Geotechnics is one of the UK’s largest independent site investigation companies covering the design, implementation, interpretation and evaluation of geotechnical and contaminated land site investigations. I started as a site Engineer, giving me great scope to travel around. I am now more involved in the project management side of the business. I have since been promoted from a Graduate Engineer to an Engineer and enjoy the variety my career offers.
What brought you into the rail industry?
I started in rail when there was an opportunity to work on the North West Electrification Project. I took a PTS course which allowed me to get involved in the project and I have since ran a wide variety of rail projects. The most recent project I have been involved in has been investigating the ground conditions for the design of track lowering around bridges to allow for the installation of overhead line equipment (OLE) as part of a major electrification project. This has included using various drilling rigs to investigate the ground conditions and existing trackbed, coring into bridges to investigate the internal structure and thickness as well as exposing bridge foundations to inform the design and determine the best techniques to lower the track. My dad has often said how jealous he is of my job. His job is monotonous. He does the same thing day in and day out. This is where I feel particularly lucky to be involved in the rail industry.
What in rail are you passionate about?
I like being outside, travel and being involved in large projects as part of a team of professional engineers. I am constantly learning new skills and I like the fact that I am never quite sure of what challenges the day might bring. In my role, there is so much variety – from night time closures, getting drilling rigs on and off track, supervising multiple crews and setting up and managing both large and small projects. I also really like the social aspect of the job. I work with a great group of people who have a wide range of knowledge allowing me to continually learn and grow as a valued member of the team. I also enjoy the teaching aspect of my role and would love to do more of this to help graduates start on their own career paths.
What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging and rewarding?
The most rewarding part of my job is when working on site at night. You can’t just phone someone to ask for advice so you really have to trust your own skills and judgement to make the right decisions. I think I’ve learnt quickly from more experienced colleagues and I’m now able to make these decisions with confidence. The variety of sites and the unpredictable nature of ground investigations provides a great challenge. I have to adapt to whatever happens and any unexpected ground conditions encountered on site. In 2016 I was working on the ground investigation for the Midland Metro Tramline in Birmingham and I managed 2 phases of works. Both were delivered on time and resulted in repeat business from a valuable Client. Given that a lot of the work was done at night, we were well known to traffic wardens and even clubbers out and about at that time!
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years’ time?
I ultimately want to become a principal engineer which is achievable mainly through experience and running bigger, more complicated projects. In the shorter term, I am working on my continuous professional development with the aim of gaining Chartered Geologist status.
Being a winner of the 20 rising stars hopefully sends a powerful message about women in rail, how do you think it will be interpreted by colleagues?
Colleagues have been very happy for me and they all seem to believe this award is well deserved. I give 100% every day and try my hardest to succeed, it was a great feeling to be nominated for the award and know that my hard work isn’t going un-noticed! It really makes me feel a real part of the team and that I have been recognised by them for my work.
What do you think the rail industry could improve, should start doing, stop doing or continue to do to support/attract more women within the rail industry?
On a less serious note, having more “women-shaped” PPE would be great! But on a more serious note, a key for attracting more women would be to communicate to the right people the variety of jobs that the sector has to offer. There are lots of other types of jobs needed to make the trains run, other than just the obvious drivers and it is so important to share that. Targeting colleges and universities may be too late so the earlier the better (everyone knows young children love trains) and getting parents knowledgeable about careers in rail is important so they can engage with and encourage their children. People just don’t seem to realise the vast variety of careers available in the rail industry.
Have you/how have you used your influence to drive change for gender equality in the rail industry? How will you use this accolade to promote rail to young girls and women?
Being in my role and being female has never really bothered me. I may have got the occasional eye roll when I first got out of the van, but now that my colleagues and our drillers and subcontractors know me, they are all fully supportive and pleased when they know that I am involved in a project because I have proved myself to be a capable member of the team. In my role gender equality has not really been an issue. Within Geotechnics women make up a good proportion of our engineering team and a lot of our Clients are also led by female engineers.
What are your interests outside of rail?
I love anything related to music and am now learning to play the keyboard. I have recently moved house and I am currently looking to find a local Brass Band that I can join as I also play the trumpet.
Interviewed August 2017