I joined TfL on the Civil Engineering Graduate Training Programme in 2003, after gaining a Masters Degree from the University of Nottingham. I come from a long line of male engineers on both sides of my family, so engineering seemed like a natural career choice for me. I wanted to work in London to be near my family and TfL had a great programme that gave you the opportunity to undertake work placements both out on-site and in the office. I also liked the idea of being part of something bigger and it appealed to me that everyone at TfL works every day to provide a safe and reliable transport service that Londoners depend on.
I have worked my way up through the ranks in over 17 years at TfL and taken different opportunities throughout, from Major Projects to Renewals, and in both Surface Transport as well as London Underground. I am now the Director of Investment Delivery Planning, where I lead the sponsorship of TfL’s Capital Investment Programme and help to shape the future of London's transport network, above and below ground.
There have been some great moments in my career, from delivering my first project on-site, a ground stabilisation project, to being part of the team getting the railway ready for the new S-Stock trains (the ones that run on the Circle line). More recently, as part of the team delivering the Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019, we have seen significant decreases in the most toxic emissions in central London, making it a better and healthier place for people to work and live. I’m proud to be supporting Londoners to travel more sustainably so we can clean up the air for everyone in the city.
I am also very proud of my appointment as Director at TfL in 2020. I’ve worked hard to achieve my goals and always look to take the opportunity to develop myself further. It’s really important to me that I help others to realise their potential, through coaching and mentoring. Having role models is very important for inspiring future leaders within the transport industry.
The biggest challenge is probably my own worry about ‘working mother’ guilt. When my children were young, I worked part-time as I chose to be at home more. When they started school, I wanted to focus on my career again and it was challenging trying to ‘do it all’ – I wanted to be the perfect mother and employee at the same time. I think the key was accepting that no one is perfect and making active decisions about prioritising my time, setting the boundaries that mean I focus on work and quality family time. Be kind to yourself to avoid feeling guilt. Another key to overcoming the barrier is to have an open and honest conversation with your partner on your goals and discuss how to share the load.
Firstly, it’s been fantastic to see how TfL has come together to keep London moving throughout the pandemic, providing safe access to public transport for key workers, and I have to say a massive thank you to all the TfL staff for everything they have been doing. I am really proud to be part of this fantastic organisation. The pandemic has had a massive impact across the board on the transport industry: there has been a significant fall in passenger demand and therefore revenue.
This has been an evolving situation and future customer behaviour and therefore the financial impacts have been difficult to predict. This has the potential to impact on service levels, the ability to fund new investments on public transport and also that we could see a car-based recovery and an increase in road traffic, which in turn could increase road danger and decrease air quality.
Across London, increased levels of car use is one of the main drivers of poor air quality, which improved significantly when car use decreased over lockdown earlier in 2020. In response to COVID-19, TfL is working closely with London boroughs and key stakeholders to enable more sustainable travel – walking, cycling or using public transport.
Public transport already provides access to work, leisure and education. It also supports new homes, jobs and economic growth. But I think now more than ever before, transport has one of the most significant roles to play in making cities cleaner and healthier places, reducing carbon emissions and stimulating green technology and innovation.
As part of my role at TfL, we continue to modernise and improve our roads and public transport, and are working to provide safer, more reliable and greener ways for people to get around for a more sustainable future.
The pandemic continues to change the way we’re living our lives, personally and professionally. It’s crucial we stay connected and look out for each other. We have moved from an office-based team, to being in a completely virtual team environment. We have coped well with the logistical challenges of getting everyone set up to work at home, but I think the real challenge is in how we lead a team and bring people together in a virtual world. Connectivity and making sure that people have the opportunity to engage with each other on a more personal level is important for team building, productivity and wellbeing. If we are to be successful longer-term, we need to think more about how we bring people together virtually and ensure that they feel part of the team to achieve common goals. Also, particularly, for people joining new roles or for people just starting their careers, it will be challenging as the opportunity for shadowing and making those key connections in an office environment will not be the same. We need to find new ways of training and supporting our future leaders in the transport industry.
Looking after personal wellbeing and mental health has been so important during the pandemic. For me, it’s been challenging to maintain the work / family life balance, maintaining boundaries between ‘office’ hours and personal time. But it is vital to protect our physical health and mental health.
Also, keeping an element of routine. I try and start my meetings after nine, so that I walk my children to school in the morning. It means that I have that family time and get my steps in at the start of the day. When I was rushing into the office every day, I only did the school run once a week. It has been one of the positives, making the walk to school part of my daily routine. At the start of the pandemic, I also bought a bike. I hadn’t really been on a bike since childhood, but I took the opportunity to use some of the cycle lanes in my local area and build my confidence on a bike when traffic levels were lower. It has been great being able to go out with my children and use our bikes to explore our local streets and discover new green spaces and woodland right on our doorstep.
It’s really important to showcase the contributions women have made and continue to make in the transport industry. We have some great role female role models at TfL: Siwan Hayward, who is our Director of Compliance, Policing and On-Street Services; Claire Mann – Director of Buses Operations; Caroline Sheridan - Director of Engineering Delivery; and Esther Sharples – Director of Asset Operations. All are fantastic female role models who are transport leaders today, making a real difference to the transport industry. I had a fantastic mentor, Esther Olorunfemi, when I started my career, who inspired me and helped me to focus on achieving my potential and supported me in making active career choices. When I joined the Graduate engineering programme at London Underground, I was the only female engineer in my year. It is great to have so many female role models today to inspire the future generation.
I also believe that removing barriers is key to providing access to everyone for all types of roles. And it is so important to have a diverse and inclusive approach to our staffing and talent management. Post COVID-19 there is an opportunity to review flexible working and what can be achieved remotely. This again will provide opportunities for work-life balance and make the workplace more accessible to all.
Learn to celebrate success and enjoy the moment. I have habit of always looking to the next big thing and not taking the time to enjoy the achievement!
1. Take opportunities when they arise, don’t sit back and wait the opportunity to come to you.
2. Do network and put yourself forward to make key connections in wider industry circles.
3. Do your research and negotiate for your pay.