Dave Shaw: The mutual benefits of hiring from beyond the rail sector
Many roles at East West Railway Company don’t need a background in rail. Award-winning retail strategist Dave Shaw has surprised himself by how much he’s enjoyed applying his skills to an entirely new sector.
“I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.”
― Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
Like Anna, I also like trains. I’m a frequent train user and grew up by and have almost always lived near the tracks. One of my earliest memories is exchanging waves with a train driver whilst on a footbridge, and they have a special place in my heart; however, if you told me as a kid that I would be working in the rail industry when I grew up, I never would have believed you.
The last twenty years of my career have been spent in the fashion and retail industries. Starting as a Sunday junior aged 15, I have since had many roles in the sector, from sales through operations, management and marketing communications.
The rail industry isn’t renowned for its design flair, and as a commercially-minded creative person, I didn’t know there would be roles in the rail sector that would allow me to use my skills. I was wrong. I have been able to help bring East West Railway Company’s exciting brand to life through producing and directing all its campaign photography and using my knowledge of print and design to help onboard a fantastic creative agency to help. My retail background has been useful in terms of customer-facing designs – here we want to take the communities we serve on the journey with us as the infrastructure project moves forward, so it’s crucial all our stakeholders recognise us and want to engage with us.
At East West Railway Company I’ve also had the opportunity to learn new skills. My experience of the private sector is that some decisions can be made hastily without robust processes in place. As a taxpayer I have been really astounded by the attentive structure that facilitates expenditure here, making sure money from the public purse is spent wisely. Being more of a spender than a saver – I hope to be able to adopt (some of) this approach in my personal life too!
I think that employers can also benefit hugely from hiring outside their usual networks. East West Railway Company has a very different business model from other rail groups and a remit from the Department for Transport to positively disrupt the rail industry, so it’s encouraging that they are keen to hear from potential workers from diverse backgrounds. There’s an awareness that any organisation looking to shake things up, build a different culture and create a radically different end goal is unlikely to succeed if their own people can only draw on their previous experience from the same-old working environments. East West Railway Company’s openness to innovation and diversity makes it a really interesting place to work.
When you look at recent success-stories and disruptors in the business world - from Monzo Bank to Made.com - their founders have taken a left-field approach and got their inspiration from the most unexpected sources.
It’s definitely worth being bold and stepping outside your comfort zone as the opportunities are endless for both employers and job-seekers.
Dave Shaw is a marketing communications expert, with experience across different sectors. When he isn't working, he likes to spend time exploring the high street and playing backgammon.
East West Railway Company is currently recruiting. Whether you’ve worked on large infrastructure projects or whether you can inspire us with ideas and experiences from other industries, we’re looking for people with the right skills and mindset to support our drive for innovation. Our latest career opportunities can be found here.