Back in April, Women in Rail launched a survey to identify and celebrate the 20 Rising Stars of the UK rail industry 2017. The aim was to create a short list of remarkable women in the early stages of their career in rail, who have already made an impact on their colleagues and who are on track to become the leaders and inspirational women of tomorrow.

The UK rail industry was asked to nominate women who have demonstrated outstanding technical abilities and personal values, who show potential in shaping the future of our industry or display tremendous initiative and pro-activity, either by trying something different or empowering men or women in our sector, women whose behaviour and professionalism has been exemplary and who have inspired others to support fellow women and/or to opt for a career in rail.

Out of the 108 nominations and a difficult short listing process Cate Lough and Sara Martinez have been declared as winners and are listed within their top 20 Rising Stars of 2017.

We caught up with them both to find out how it feels to have been nominated by their peers and what message they would give to fellow women in rail:

Cate Lough, Assistant Project Manager – Infrastructure

When did you find out that you had been nominated and how did you feel when you found out you had won?

I found out in March about the nomination and I was surprised and chuffed to have been considered in the first place. When I receive the email to confirm that I was one of the winners I was honoured and so surprised to receive this recognition and I am truly grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I have had so far in Colas Rail.

How important is it to you to be recognised for your achievements by your peers?

It’s important for everyone to have their efforts recognised and it makes you feel appreciated and that you are making a useful contribution.

Tell us a bit about your journey so far.

I started my railway career on the Colas Rail Graduate Programme. This initially involved working as part of the S&C team on a key Christmas Project on the Brighton Mainline and then working in Plain Line Renewals. I am now a project lead within the Overhead Line Electrification team working on High Speed 2 Enabling Works, supporting OLE aspects of S&C Remodels and process mapping good practise within the Colas Rail Group in order to implement change within the business.

What are your thoughts on Women in Rail and the work they do?

I think Women in Rail is a fantastic organisation that provides support and advice to women already in the rail industry through their mentoring schemes, events and interviews with current industry leaders. It is also a great forum for encouraging other women to join the rail sector and I believe it is very important to have an organisation like this that acts as an ambassador for diversity in our industry.

What message would you give to fellow women in rail?

There are lots of opportunities in the rail industry at the moment for everyone with the skill, ability and the drive to achieve regardless of gender. The more women who move forward into leadership roles, the more visible these opportunities will be for women who might be considering a career in the rail industry.

“I am extremely proud of Cate and Sara, 2 dynamic women in the Top 20 of our industry! This is a great news and I wish to personally congratulate you both on this achievement. Through your commitment and your outstanding behaviour, you are an example for all of us and your contribution puts Colas Rail under the spotlights. Well done and warm congratulations!”

Sara Martinez, E&P Engineer – Infrastructure – S&C South Alliance

When did you find out that you had been nominated and how did you feel when you found out you had won?

Well I was on holiday and I was genuinely surprised. I knew about the nomination but never thought I would be a winner.

How important is it to you to be recognised for your achievements?

I guess as much as everyone else. My day job is both challenging and rewarding, but being recognised is a plus side to it and gives me motivation to keep working hard.

Tell us a bit about your journey so far…

I started with Colas Rail as part of the 2013 graduate programme. The rotations I was in were very enriching. My first rotation started with the great maintenance team on the Docklands Light Railway, were I was exposed to train electrification and distribution for a full year. Then I moved to the design team as Assistant Designer and carried on as Design Manager for the Electrification team in Manchester. Whilst based in Manchester, I learned that great design requires a real understanding in construction and after completing this rotation Colas Rail gave me the opportunity to move back to London to join the S&C Alliance.

For the last two years, I have been the Contractors Responsible Engineer (CRE) for the electrification discipline within track renewals for the South East of England. Currently I am also CRE for the challenging Wessex Capacity Programme, a project undertaking a major upgrade to London Waterloo Station.

What I love most about my job is that it is different every day and it has many challenges to it. From revising designs and involvement with engineering to the hectic construction weekends.

What are your thoughts on Women in Rail and the work they do?

I know Woman in Rail from a few years back as they have a solid and well-known mentoring programme for any woman in the Railway Industry. I believe these type of initiatives provide helpful tools to young professionals.

What message would you give to fellow women in rail?

For me, the key thing is to always support your colleagues and get support from them – regardless of the gender. Any of my professional achievements have been due to team working and great mentoring.

I also would like to encourage other women to push their limits, as you don’t know what you are capable of until you try. There is plenty of opportunity within the fast growing railway industry and there are loads of women doing great out there!