A day in the life: Lead Route Control Manager with Network Rail
Sara Trevor has worked with Network Rail for 16 years. During this time she's taken on multiple roles and seen the company grow from a male-dominated environment into the supportive and diverse workplace it is today.
This article was written in partnership with Network Rail and Mumsnet.
Please describe your role in Network Rail?
I currently work as a Lead Route Control Manager at the West Midlands Signalling Centre. I lead a team of 19 Controllers who manage all incidents and emergencies affecting the operational railway, including the response to incidents and recovery of train services.
Sometimes my days can be quiet and other times I can be on the go all day. You never know what you’re going to get!
My first introduction to the Control environment was when I worked in what was originally ‘Fault Control’ from 1998 for approx. 10 years. I was the first woman to be successful at interview for a job in Control and nervously turned up for my first shift to a team of all men, a theme which continued for many years. A couple of women who gained roles within Control after me have always said that I gave them the confidence to apply and made it possible for them to pursue a career they didn’t think was an option.
What attracted you to work for Network Rail?
I joined British Rail in July 1989 – two days after my 16th birthday. I had a place at college all lined up, but when my parents saw an advert in our local paper for British Rail trainees, and knowing that the prospect of college wasn’t that appealing to me, I was encouraged to apply. I can honestly say now that I have never looked back. My whole life has been shaped by applying for that role (including meeting my husband at work!).
How has Network Rail developed as an employer?
British Rail in 1989 was a very different story to how things are within Network Rail today. Female employees were few and far between – except in the ‘traditional’ roles, for example in human resources. As a new group of trainees, we were put on placements within various departments. My first was within Stations and Retail where I was lucky enough to secure a permanent job. At 17 years old I was a Senior Rail Person at a station on the Cotswold Lines, working shifts and weekends in a booking office but also looking after the whole of the station (including watering the hanging baskets, manning red star parcels, and cleaning). None of my friends were earning wages like mine, and certainly did not have the responsibilities that I did at such a young age.
It still felt unusual to be a woman in the Rail Industry for a number of years, and eventually I decided to try a role in Admin hoping that it might open up new opportunities. I secured a role at a local depot close to my home, which turned out to be a good thing, as upon turning up on my first day I discovered there were no female toilets at the depot! I remember the Off Track Supervisor and his team knocking walls down and re-jigging layouts to provide me with my own toilet facilities – that was around 1998. Fortunately the company quickly caught up, and those days are now long behind us.
Where I currently work at the West Midlands Signalling Centre, there is a large number of women in senior roles. Almost all of us have started much lower down the ranks, which I think encourages new starters to aim high and proves that Network Rail is a company that supports growth and development no matter what your background is. I left school with very limited GCSEs, let alone A-Levels or a degree, and I deem myself to have had a very successful career. I am now in my 30th year of continuous Railway employment, something I am extremely proud of.
Network Rail also provides opportunities via secondments, which is a great chance to apply for roles for short periods of time. You’re able to gain an insight into roles that you may not have considered, and this provides you with the confidence to apply for roles outside of your experience.
What’s the most exciting part about your work?
Every day is different, and you have to be flexible – if a major incident occurs, your schedule for the day will alter. My current role as Lead Route Control Manager is a secondment, so the learning opportunity within Operations has been a fantastic opportunity for me to further develop skills and knowledge.
Do you have advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?
I would encourage anyone with an interest to go for it. There are so many opportunities within the company as you progress through your career – once you realise the opportunities available to you, it's extremely freeing. I love being a woman working on the Railway, and feel so proud of what I have achieved at Network Rail.
How does Network Rail support you with balancing family life and work?
I have found Network Rail to be extremely flexible when it comes to balancing family life and work life. Meeting locations are always considered for balancing travelling times, and diaries are constantly reviewed to find out where you could be saving time.
In addition, there is a lot of support for work-from-home days. Where I have identified work that needs to be done in a peaceful and quiet environment, this is actively encouraged. On odd occasions family life and other needs have disrupted my working day, but I've never worried as I know there'll be someone to cover for me