Ibbie Omideyi describes her first day at London North Eastern Railway (LNER) as arriving home. She shares why she “absolutely loves” her job as Community Engagement Manager and the importance of working for an organization with shared values.
Ibbie has three core values: respect, compassion, integrity, responsibility and consistency. They’re even written in her phone to serve as a daily reminder. And she’s learnt the hard way what happens when she works for an organization that doesn’t have values that align with hers. “It’s a disaster!” she laughs.
“I’m committed to these values and that means staying true to them even when I’m being tested, or if I might profit from turning a blind eye. It means pointing out bad behavior and making a stand if you have to. And I’ve learnt that I’m always happiest when I can work within my core values.”
It was shared values that motivated Ibbie to join LNER in November 2018. The train operating company has four core values: Bring Passion, Be Bold, Own It and Always Care. It was the latter that resonated with Ibbie the most.
“When I had my first interview, the warmth of the three people interviewing me was incredible. They were really genuine. And once I got into the company, I felt at home, that these were my people and that they truly cared,” she says.
“It’s such a great feeling to come to work and have your colleagues genuinely care about you. There’s no fake smiles. I feel like I’m really cared about, our customers are really cared about and our people are really cared about. LNER is definitely a relationships business, a people business.”
And always caring is essential in Ibbie’s role as Community Engagement Manager. “If you’re not passionate about the issues you’re working on, and it’s all about posing for photographs, it rings hollow and there’s no real connection,” she says.
“You’ve got to have compassion and you’ve got to be committed in my role. You can’t give up. You’ve got to get the bit between your teeth. And you need to show your personality to do that.”
Engaging with the community
Prior to LNER, Ibbie had spent 10 years in the charity sector (and a brief stint in the private sector in construction and insurance), working across issues such as homelessness, education and disadvantaged youth. So the role engaging with community and charity partners along LNER’s route to create, plan and implement initiatives that promote LNER’s community investment strategy and wider responsible business agenda was the perfect fit for her.
“I had never worked in the rail industry before but it was like someone had taken my CV and written a job description just for me. It was a combination of everything I’d done and am passionate about.”
With mental health a big focus of LNER’s community investment strategy, the organization has partnered with CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) who are dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
“We support CALM through a number of fundraising initiatives, such as sporting activities and raffles, and there’s also our Delay Repay campaign, which is where passengers can choose to donate their compensation from a delayed train journey to CALM.”
To date, there have been more than 1,200 Delay Repay donations, amounting to over £100,000.
“We also raise awareness of mental health issues, and have trained employees in suicide prevention techniques and mental health first aid.”
On top of that, Ibbie is responsible for the education and employability pillars of LNER’s community investment strategy, working with local schools and prisons. “To date, we’ve worked with 30 schools on different educational programs and a number of women from Askham Grange women’s open prison to support them back into society.”
Championing diversity and inclusion
A natural fit for her role, Ibbie has recently joined LNER’s Diversity and Inclusion Network, whose mission it is to make LNER a more diverse and inclusive place to work.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the network if I felt it was a façade or hollow cause. But everyone in the group is so passionate and authentic. We truly want everyone from all genders, backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and sexualities to feel like they have a home at LNER and in the rail industry more broadly.”
There are a number of initiatives underway to achieve this, such as the internal Stonewall training that was recently conducted at LNER, educating employees on what it means to be an authentic and inclusive ally to LGBT+ people in the workplace.
“For me, that’s really putting your money where your mouth is. It’s not a bit of marketing or PR gloss for pride. That’s really saying we want to change the organization from within.”
This year, Ibbie will also be working on a passion project of setting up BAME Rail, an inter-talk network that will help people of color find allies, advocates and mentors within the rail industry.
One of the things Ibbie appreciates the most about working at LNER is that she can just be herself. “I can get the job done in a way that works for me, and not in a fake way. I can bring my personality, and I love that.”
Ibbie also enjoys the benefits of flexible working. “I’m not a morning person, so flexibility is good for me. It means I can start a bit later and finish later. Or I can take some last-minute leave if I’m feeling a bit worn out.
“It’s great that I can come to work and be myself, and work in the way that’s best for me.”
Ibbie is happy to have found her home in rail. “I just really love my job – I love the people, my colleagues and the community I get to work with.”