Life has its highs and lows. For Nichola Rutterford, this is something she was acquainted with after experiencing some setbacks. When it’s up, she enjoys the scenery, and when it was down, the team at Southeastern Railway had her back. Southeastern has programs and resources to support employees and their mental wellbeing, which was invaluable when the pandemic hit.
“All of us are suffering with what is going on in the world. Southeastern is on the ball and has always been when it comes to supporting our mental health. I’ve spoken to people, and they don’t have the same health benefits as I have here. Southeastern is normalizing talking about mental health. I love what I do here and don’t intend to leave the rail industry.”
Learn and lead by listening
Nichola has learned a lot about leadership during her seven years at Southeastern. She says the best skill any leader can have is to be a great listener — and that is something you don’t learn from a textbook.
“Sometimes, we need to acknowledge that we cannot change things beyond our control, like the weather or the pandemic. I make myself visible at the depot to be there to listen. I want my team to know I am there for them.”
Nichola is on a secondment as a Depot Manager. She is responsible for managing the smooth running of the day-to-day operations.
“I manage the team of 76 conductors at Ramsgate Depot. I make sure they are supported to do their job. I started this role in October 2019, and it’s been a great learning curve and opportunity.”
Nichola is finding her secondment extremely rewarding, thanks to the supportive team she gets to work with every day. When she first started, she faced some setbacks in her personal life, but Southeastern made it easier for her to bounce back.
“Within the first 18 months of working for Southeastern, I faced some personal challenges outside of work. Most of my colleagues knew what was happening in my life and its demands on me. Everyone was so supportive, particularly on the hard days. Once I could move past this, after a couple of years, I felt I was ready for a new challenge. I was successful in applying for the seconded role [as Depot Manager] and was embraced and supported by everyone.”
Putting people first
Nichola couldn’t imagine a career without working directly with people face-to-face. She enjoys the interaction.
“I am a people person. I like working with people and seeing how they think. You could have two different people with the same situation but completely different reactions. It’s fascinating.”
Nichola says she never imagined a career in rail. She initially thought it was an industry dominated by men — but she is happy she was wrong.
“I worked within the motor trade for 13 years before joining Southeastern. The workplace started to affect my mental wellbeing. When I started with Southeastern, I felt like a brand-new person. Working in the rail industry is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
A great move
Nichola enjoys the long list of benefits at Southeastern. One big one is free travel.
“There are so many benefits to working at Southeastern. My husband is very social, so we take advantage of the free travel. We have friends all over the country. Once we can travel overseas again, I would like a summer getaway somewhere. My family are in Scotland, so hopefully, that is on the cards soon.”
The pandemic has also brought a new furry addition to her family.
“We have been busy with our new rescue cat. We got Cookie just before Christmas and is seven years old. We’ve been enjoying making her part of the family.”
Nichola is always talking about her remarkable career with her friends. She wants to encourage more women to join the industry. We asked her what her top career tips are. She shares:
- Work hard for it: “Whatever you do, do it well. Master it. It will eventually happen. I was looking for a job where I could work for the rest of my working life. I’ve found a company where that is possible, and I will never regret making that move.”
- Take that leap of faith: “Joining a new industry was a big step for me after being in the motor industry for thirteen years. I’m glad I took the plunge. My advice is to learn what skills you need for the opportunity or the industry. Once you’ve developed the skill, go for it. But as always, be open to receiving feedback so you can keep on improving.”
- Ask for help: “Be vulnerable and approach people for advice if you are unsure about anything. I don’t work as a conductor, and since I look after them, I have asked many questions about their role. This helps me to understand their challenges and how I can support them.”