Women in Engineering Day

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

To help celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, we’ve spoken to some of the amazing women at East Midlands Railway about the work that they do, and how they found their route into the world of engineering.

Karen Hope

Project Manager

Karen Hope

Why did you decide on a career in engineering?

​My route into an engineering environment has come about organically through changes in roles and career pathways rather than by design.

I started my EMT/EMR career in Finance - undertaking a number of roles in the 4 years I was there including leading the Business Analysis team. I then moved into a Commercial & Regulatory contract role within the Estates & Major Projects function where I was involved in the Derby Re-signalling project and the Neville Hill IEP introduction. This gave me a taster of business transformation projects and the world of Fleet & Engineering.

At the beginning of 2020 I took a leap of faith and became the project lead for the Infrastructure & Operational Readiness programme at Bedford Cauldwell which combined civil engineering works with introduction of the new electric fleet maintenance environment. I wish I had become involved sooner and now I am working within the field I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. There are such great roles within engineering in rail - it's a very dynamic field and the opportunities to be part of a progressive and evolving environment with disparate needs for engineering expertise are plentiful.

What is your favourite thing about your role?

​By far my favourite thing about my role is the diversity it brings - I can honestly say that no two days are the same. Additionally, I really enjoy the challenge that comes from needing to deliver solutions into a complex operational environment.

What advice would you give to women considering a role in engineering? ​

I would say to not allow any negative pre-conceptions of either the environments, individual organisations or gender stereotyping to put you off - I have found that absolutely none of my pre-conceptions have borne out.

In our organisation women are embraced within the engineering field along with the organisations of many of our industry partners and stakeholders. There is wealth of female talent already in the rail industry and there is no reason the proportion of women should not increase further. It's a great field to work within.

Who is your engineering hero?

Right now, my engineering hero would be Rachel Turner. Rachel is leading on such a vast, complex and highly visible project for EMR in which all areas of her expertise are no doubt being tested but she always has time to support colleagues as well as championing the wider engineering professional community. Rachel clearly loves what she does and is inspiring to work with and learn from.

Emma Winson-Yates

Fleet Manager

Emma Winston-Yates

What is your favourite thing about your role?

I love working in Fleet due to the variety in my role. I manage a depot which involves, people, safety, Fleet, trains but also day to day movements and contingency for disruption, timetable change and engineering.

My favourite thing is the vast variety of my role and the knowledge I've gained, I don't have an engineering qualification, but I understand how depots and trains work, how Fleet revolves within the company and how important each area of Fleet is to making a train go from A to B.

How did you come to be in this role?

I started in 1998 straight from college at the age of 18, mum said get a job, so I went to an agency and interviewed for a Customer Host role under MML.

I then got offered the role full time, moving to Senior Customer Host, then Train Manager. I then went in to planning while expecting my son and on return from maternity I went into Performance where I spent 10 years. During that time, I worked closely with Fleet and when the role came up, I applied for the role of Fleet Delivery Manager where I was responsible for Duty Maintenance Managers, Duty Fleet Manager, Train Riding Inspectors (TRIs) and London Fleet presentation team. This involved working with the Control service delivery team and I still manage Duty Fleet Managers.

Since then I've worked in Fleet Performance and Planning. I've recently taken on Kettering Depot Sidings and been involved in new timetable work and cleaning projects.

What is your favourite fleet/engineering project you’ve worked on?

I think my favourite was Derby Re-signalling because it really bought Fleet and other areas together and the sense of teamwork was great. As it was also at the beginning of my Fleet career, it taught me so much so quickly, meaning I enjoyed the learning of my role including how Fleet worked, maintenance planning, depots, external stabling and mileage requirements. It was a really enjoyable project, so rewarding and gave me great knowledge for future work projects.

What advice would you give to women considering a role in fleet/engineering?

Not to see Fleet as an off-limits area to work. I love trains but I never thought I could work in Fleet as I didn't have an engineering qualification. There are so many roles that don't require engineering qualifications, Fleet isn't just about a train it's depots, planning, cleaning, projects and so much more.

Rhiannon Morgan

Fleet Programme Manager

Rhiannon Morgan

What is your favourite thing about your role?

My role at EMR is Fleet Programme Manager, in the Fleet Programmes team. Within Fleet Programmes, we deliver projects that provide business change to the Fleet department of EMR. To name a few, this includes upgrades to our Depots, digital changes to the way we operate, management of Fleet cascades in and out of service, and Fleet refurbishments.

My favourite thing about the role would be the changes that we are working to deliver for the benefit of Fleet and being able to work with so many people within Fleet and the wider business to deliver meaningful results.

How did you come to be in this role?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work across multiple industries in my career within the UK and Australia; Aerospace-Manufacturing, Hospitality & Tourism, Telecommunications, Education and now in the Railway.

Over the last seven years I’ve worked on many exciting projects, as project coordinator through to Programme Manager. I began the Fleet Programme Manager role in December ’21, drawing on my previous project experience and learning all things ‘Railway’ over the last 6 months.

What is your favourite fleet/engineering project you’ve worked on?

Across the Fleet Programme we have 5 key programmes of work, all with multiple projects delivered across the team. A project I’ve been heavily involved in is the Depot Safety Improvement Plan (DSIP), which we began in December as a project to assist the key BAU stakeholders within Fleet & Safety in achieving higher levels of Depot safety over the next three years.

The size and complexity of this project definitely keeps us on our toes; however, the team are consistently delivering to plan, and the changes implemented to improve the Depot safety are great to see come to life.

What advice would you give to women considering a role in Fleet/Engineering?

The world of Fleet is a dynamic one, so I’d encourage any females looking for a career that’s varied and challenging to consider a role in the Fleet department.

My advice is always to focus on your transferable skills – you may not have tried something before, but that doesn’t mean you don’t already have the skillset to do it in the future.

Alexandra Greig-Cooper

Regional Fleet Engineer

Alexandra Greig-Cooper

Why did you decide on a career in engineering?

I have always had a passion for how things work and how they are made. I was very fortunate and had supportive family and friends, including some in engineering, who encouraged my inquisitive nature and constant questioning. Engineering was always the career path for me.

What is your favourite thing about your role?

My role is always changing with new issues and challenges. I really enjoy solving problems together with the Fleet team at EMR and our supply base. I enjoy taking the lead and thinking outside the box to get to a solution and it is great to see some of the changes I have made come in to fruition.

What advice would you give to women considering a role in engineering?

A career in Engineering is challenging and worthwhile, persevere and treat every day as a learning day. Make sure you seek out all the support you can and don't give up!

Who is your engineering hero?

Lillian Gilberth, she was a trail blazer both as a woman and in the field of industrial engineering in the US.

With a background in psychology she understood the importance of human factors in the workplace and in the home and used this to improve efficiency and comfort even down to the importance of lighting. Every time I open a fridge door I am reminded of her contribution to our modern world.

Kirsty Green

Infrastructure & Property Development Lead

Kirsty Green

Why did you decide on a career in engineering?

I decided on a career in construction / engineering when I was in Sixth Form. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a CITB women in construction event in Manchester which was a weekend with likeminded individuals where we explored different roles in the construction / engineering industry.

I never really knew where I fit in before I attended this. I always knew I wanted to do something 'out of the norm', but at the time that meant being a technology teacher in a high school. From this weekend onwards my career path changed.

I pushed myself back a year in college and resat my AS levels to something that fit the narrative as I was committed to making engineering my future. (Philosophy & Ethics, English Literature and Drama didn't really fit the profile of someone who wanted to pursue construction / engineering!)

What is your favourite thing about your role?

I have loads of things in the role that I really enjoy. I get to be creative, I get to problem solve, no day is the same, no problem is the same, I'm constantly challenged and feel like I contribute to something positive every day. The ultimate best thing is seeing things I have worked on and helped create in use for other people and there for the years to come.

What advice would you give to women considering a role in engineering?

Please explore it! It's been the best and most life changing opportunity I have ever had. I've been able to work all over the country, travel the world to look at other projects and products, study abroad and meet some amazing people over my many years in the industry.

Who is your engineering hero?

I don't have one hero, I've met so many people that have been able to influence my career and help and support me on the journey.

I've been so lucky to have the support of many managers over the years who have been able to give me the best guidance. So, my heroes are the men and women who I have worked with over the years and those that continue to support and develop young people in our industries.

Rachel Turner

Head of New Trains

Rachel Turner

Why did you decide on a career in engineering?

Rebellion! I moved region at the awkward age of 15 and went from a mixed comprehensive to a very traditional girls grammar school. It was all a bit cliquey so I joined the local Air Training Corps squadron to meet other young people in the area, they had just started taking female cadets. Part of the ATC experience was regular classes on aeronautics and theory of flight – I really enjoyed those sessions and was good at maths and science so started to look into studying engineering. When the careers team at school told me that ‘our girls don’t do engineering’ I was determined to prove them wrong.

During my career, I have always been involved in recruiting and mentoring young engineers and providing careers advice in schools and always keep an eye out for the quietly rebellious girls with untapped potential.

What is your favourite thing about your role?

That even after 30+ years in rail I am still learning new things all the time. Our new trains are much more technically advanced than the trains that were in service when I started with BR so I have had to adapt to understand newer control systems, software engineering and cyber security for example. However, a lot remains the same and my experience helps me to understand what to focus on and what is important.

What advice would you give to women considering a role in engineering?

If you like solving problems and contributing to improving society then go for it and find out more. There is such a wide variety of engineering careers that there will be something that captures your interest.

The profession is now much more receptive to diversity in the workforce and the benefits that brings and there is lots of support available. Collaborative working is more important than ever which is well suited to women and our natural communication styles.

Who is your engineering hero?

I tend to admire the quiet and unsung, everyday achievers rather than really high-profile people. So, I look up to those that paved the way for me and my career or have progressed alongside me, presenting a positive face of women in rail engineering, and supporting others in their careers.

Women like Carolyn Griffiths, a former BR Engineering Management Trainee who founded Rail Accident Investigation Branch and became President of the IMechE. Other examples are Bridget Eickhoff, Louise Shaw, Rebeka Sellick, Lucy Greaves, Liz Lockwood, Helen Simpson, Chandra Morbey, Farzana Hampshire, Jenny Irish, Zena Dent and Kate Marjoribanks (sorry if I have forgotten anyone) who all get on with being brilliant engineers with a healthy dose of being very much themselves at all times.

I have particular admiration for Wendy McCristal who founded the Mental Wealth Company after experiencing burn-out at work and started her company to support others in making positive change in their lives to ensure that they prioritise self-care and mental health.

Thinking about a career in rail?

If you think a future career in rail could be the pathway for you, we’re always on the look out for talented people to join us. Find out more about what it means to work for EMR by checking out our Careers page.