Did you know that women make up 47 per cent of the UK workforce yet remain underrepresented in the transport sector accounting for only 20 per cent of workers.
To help celebrate Women in Transport we caught up with Sarah Creaser, Catering Operations Manager at Great Western Rail to find out more about her role within the rail industry.
Sarah fell into the transport sector by chance having spent years working her way up at Pret a Manger, the international sandwich shop chain. Here she explains what made her take the leap into the unknown, her thoughts on working in a male dominated industry and the challenges she has faced along the way.
How did it all begin?
I loved working at Pret and liked what the business stood for, but after 13-years I fancied a change….so, I applied for a role managing train catering crews not knowing a great deal about rail or the industry.
I started off by managing catering crews for a large Training Operating Company (TOC), which involved all aspects of line management and the workings of the railways. It meant I learnt a huge amount about the industry in such a short space of time and it proved extremely beneficial.
Your role now?
Today, I work for a different TOC – GWR – where I manage all catering products and food safety for the business, this includes contract management, logistics, supply chains and product development.
How has your role change over the years?
Rail is a fast moving and fast paced industry and I’ve got to experience different roles along the way, it’s been exciting! For me, if you start your career in rail and love it, you pick things up quickly and your role soon becomes incredibly varied.
Product offerings, new trains and technology are constantly evolving so it’s little wonder that every day on the railway is like a school day, there’s always so much more to learn.
How have you helped the rail industry evolve?
I’m unsure if I have single-handedly revolutionised anything alone, but over the years I have been part of some major changes including the new Intercity Express Trains (IET), these will replace our existing fleet by the end of 2019. The faster trains provide greater comfort and space, a digital reservation system, more tables, improved storage space, Wi-Fi throughout the train and much more.
I’ve also been heavily involved in implementing a new Point of Sale (PoS) system, providing our passengers with a better rail payment experience. It helps to us analyse data streams for greater insight regarding stock, product price and customer purchasing preferences, all of which can positively impact business growth.
How do you think the rail industry has changed over the years (i.e. Women in Transport)?
I think it has become a little more modern and has moved on from the British Rail days, when we used to get served a classic dried up egg sandwich and an over brewed cup of tea! It’s a very complex environment where so many things depend on each other to allow us to operate efficiently.
More women are working in the rail industry now than ever before too but it’s still very much a male dominated industry. I feel that the logic behind women working in the rail industry (and other transport sectors) comes from the old steel and trade days but the number of female engineers in the industry is increasing.
For me, the railway is like a big family and I certainly don’t feel stunted by being female in a traditionally male orientated workplace. I work alongside many female employees – it’s a good balance.
Do you think technology plays an important part of the passenger/crew experience on the trains?
Yes, absolutely. Technology is key for most of our daily tasks from Wi-Fi to systems and reporting. The challenge comes when implementing technology across a huge workforce and getting everyone to use it in the same way.
Our passengers expect a wide range of product and payment offerings that match the modern retail scenario. Contactless payments are increasing, and we rely on Wi-Fi connectivity to make these payments possible via our MPoS system.
Highlights of your career?
The variation of my days/weeks – every day is different; the pace and the need to be a quick thinker, whilst also remembering my audience and how they see things.
Changing my career path was a good move and seven years in the rail industry has shown that I have the capabilities to keep moving forward in a fast-paced environment.
What would your advice be for women wanting to work in the transport (rail) sector?
Be sure it’s for you, it’s a different world and it’s fast-paced but very rewarding.
If you like a challenge and don’t give up easily, then it’s a career you should consider.
ECR Retail Systems provide GWR with an onboard MPoS solution across its network.
The unique, all in one, hand-held terminals and ECR software offer dual capability of handling product sales as well as contactless card and mobile wallet payments. The system is fully PCI compliant and EMV approved and is extremely reliable, offline as well as online.
Since setting out in 1973, we have grown to become a market leader in MPoS solutions, driving sales and delivering high performing systems to our clients and to their passenger and customers alike.
For more information contact us on 0208 2057766 or visit our website www.ecr.co.uk