Ellen's Route into Rail

Ellen Collins from Sheffield, 18 months with EWR Co. A rising star within the business, Ellen Collins working in our Strategy & Sponsorship team here at East West Rail Co.

Ellen is proof that you don’t need an engineering degree to find your place in the rail industry. Growing up in the North East of England, Ellen didn’t want to break out of her life there, but wanted the same opportunities as people living further south. She called it ‘levelling-up’ herself.  

Sheffield was where Ellen gained her Masters in Public Policy, while at the same time she worked in services provision for a breast cancer charity. “I got really interested in policy that drove improvements in people’s lives, there was a definite wellbeing focus.” 

Her career was about to change as the role of Strategy Analyst became available at EWR Co. “I was surprised that I could find a job here. 18 months ago I didn’t really understand the roles available in the sector, thinking it was all about engineering and operations. So, it was a nice surprise to see something in governance, where my administrative experience helped – and the project was all about bringing new connectivity to the Oxford to Cambridge region which was appealing from a public policy and wellbeing side of things. With so many different roles available, covering customers, stakeholders, inclusion and strategy and planning, I see how I can grow in the sector, it’s been an eye opener.” 

 

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In a short time, Ellen has become a rising star at EWR Co, known across the organisation for her analytical thinking, and for driving our inclusion strategy and the EWR for All working group. “Being a woman, and young, can combine to make you feel sometimes that you’re not taken seriously. On the flip side, there is a big focus on women in rail but I do feel women shouldn’t be separated or alienated. I would say the only bugbears sometimes are use of language, such as ‘hi chaps’ which can feel a bit isolating if you’re the only woman in a meeting. I do pull people up on it.” 

Ellen would recommend a career in rail to other women and talks to her own peers about her career. “My friendship group thinks I’m a train conductor, nobody really understands what I do. The industry is quite different to what people from outside looking in think it is.” 

And Ellen thinks the industry could do more to showcase the wide variety of roles to encourage more diversity: “Lack of experience in the sector has not been detrimental to my role. Working at EWR Co is future-proofing my career, because trains are part of the transport of the future and this is a very interesting place to be. I wish the industry would do more to profile those alternative roles beyond operations and engineering.  

Ellen would recommend a career in rail to other women and talks to her own peers about her career. “My friendship group thinks I’m a train conductor, nobody really understands what I do. The industry is quite different to what people from outside looking in think it is.” 

And Ellen thinks the industry could do more to showcase the wide variety of roles to encourage more diversity: “Lack of experience in the sector has not been detrimental to my role. Working at EWR Co is future-proofing my career, because trains are part of the transport of the future and this is a very interesting place to be. I wish the industry would do more to profile those alternative roles beyond operations and engineering.  

 

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“I’ve found it important to be myself and I think my biggest piece of advice for women who want to join the rail industry would be to be confident that you can thrive, go for that job, and know you can do it, because there will be a man sat somewhere looking at the same role with absolutely no doubt in their mind they should go for it. You deserve to be in the room.”