Posted on May 10, 2016 · Posted in General IRO news

Whichever stage you are at in your career, good advice can prove invaluable. The Institution spoke with a range of industry leaders to ask what their number one career tip would be for today’s railway operators.


Ben Rule, Operations Director, Great Western Railway:

‘The structure of our railway can put barriers in the way of learning about all aspects of railway operations. If you work for Network Rail it is harder to understand what it is like to run a train operator and vice versa. Make an effort to understand both sides of the operating world. Taking part in IRO activities can help, but being bold enough to consider a role in a different organisation is even more powerful. Being able to understand all aspects of railway operating will really support your career in the long run.’

Steve Cocliff, Managing Director, VolkerRail:

‘If you always display the highest level of integrity, commitment, diligence and loyalty and couple these qualities with a high level of competence and capability within your chosen profession you will all but guarantee a successful and rewarding career.’

Will Dunnett, Managing Director, Hull Trains:

‘Keep your foot on your career peddle. If you stop sponging up the learnings or it starts to feel easy or indeed all you see is calm water ahead then its probably time to move jobs. Working in project management or being seconded to a post that feels a little scary, even if its a sideways steps keeps you surprisingly fresh.

If you want to get on find a sponsor. Especially in the early parts of your career find someone who gets what you are about, usually are in a senior role in a different part of your business. You will be amazed what a small world we all operate in and having a mentor who you can bounce off, or indeed even better someone who may act on your behalf in a senior level meeting can do wonders for your career. Not all recruitment is formal, and added responsibility can come your way just by connecting with the right person.

Finally if you want to progress have a plan to hand. I’m amazed how many really talented people have no idea what they want to achieve and simply go with the flow. You need to understand what your strengths are and those areas that need improvement. Rail is a great industry, if you want to stick around it why not develop a plan!’

Jo Kaye, Director of Network Strategy and Capacity Planning, Network Rail:

‘Despite being often seen as an engineering heavy industry, the railway is actually about people, more so than it is often recognised. So my tip is about people: know your people, look after and nurture them, they are the only way you will get things done and the amount you invest in them is directly proportional to the effort you will get back.’

Andrew Munden, Operations & Safety Director, Chiltern Railways:

‘Remain open-minded and flexible as your career develops. I began my career in the Civil Engineer’s Dept and have been involved in procurement, contract management and performance management on the way to becoming an operator. I have seized opportunities as they have presented themselves which on occasion has meant following a different pathway to that which I had originally set myself. And had I stuck rigidly to the path I thought I would follow I would have missed these opportunities and certainly would not have had the chance to become either one of Network Rail’s Route Directors or even my current role of Operations & Safety Director.’

Julian Drury, Managing Director, c2c Rail:

‘To understand the cause of something always follow the cause chain right back to the root cause. It’s so easy to be distracted by the symptoms and tackle those instead, so many people do. You’ll know you’ve got the root cause when you can go no further back in the chain of causation. Then that’s the only one you should focus on tackling.’

Joel Mitchell, Director, Operations & Customer Experience, Hull Trains:

‘I think my number one tip would be for people to gain as broader understanding as possible early on in their career as to how everything fits together, and how all functions are largely interdependent. Try not to spend too much time in any one function or role and don’t be afraid of moving sideways for learning opportunities rather than chasing promotions. They will come later!’

Tim Shoveller, Managing Director, Rail Division, Stagecoach Group PLC:

1) Try to find a job you love doing – you will be great at it!

2) Keep your Rules and if possible, practical competence skills.

3) Never forget that the people running the railway 24/7 do it in the middle of the day/night, unsupervised and sometimes by torchlight!

finally, I was always taught by great operators:

4) Keep the wheels turning and you’ll be alright – there is a lot to be said for that!’

Tom Joyner, Passenger Services Director, London Midland:

‘Know your business inside out – we should always challenge ourselves and our management teams to know and understand the key performance indicators and the financials of our business.  In making sure we meet this responsibility, we will know where the opportunities are to improve our service for our passengers.’

Have you considered applying for an IRO Mentor? Our free Mentoring Scheme is open for all members and aims to put you in touch with a Mentor who will share their wealth of experience and knowledge to help guide and inspire you. Our Mentors are also all full Members or Fellows of the Institution available across the UK! If you would like to find out more please call us on 03333 440523 – alternatively, please email: