From mum to management, postnatal depression and inspiring women into rail – Charlotte Curtis from First Group talks about her career


by Jessica Tabinor on

Due to expansion and significant investment in infrastructure, confidence in the UK rail industry is at its highest. Crossrail and the soon to commence HS2 projects are just two of the landmark schemes that are helping the sector to flourish. Consequently, the rail market has the opportunity to be a catalyst for change, as the success of these technical projects depends on reaching into a diverse pool of talent to deliver them.  With initiatives such as the (Morson sponsored) Big Rail Diversity Challenge, the rail sector is actively embracing the opportunity to improve gender diversity within the industry and, most importantly, inspiring the next generation of diverse talent.

One of the companies at the forefront of rail transformation in the UK is First Group who are a leading provider of transport services in the UK and North America. First Group is one of the UK’s most experienced rail operators, carrying more than 260m passengers across their three franchises and their open-access operation a year.

We sat down with Charlotte Curtis, Project Manager at First Group to find out more about her career journey and aspirations for the future…

“Currently I work in a project management role delivering the design and build of Feltham Depot. It’s a large project, consisting of 10 sidings, a staff accommodation block, connection to the mainline and enabling works. The purpose of the scheme is to stable the new 701 fleet trains.”

Charlotte explains that there is no typical day at work, one of the best things about her role is that it’s varied and always challenging:

“My days differ dependent on the lifecycle stage of the project for example during Grip 3 (option selection) I found myself attending frequent IDR (Initial Design Review) sessions with our appointed designer.

During the same period, I supported our designer with preparing all of the environmental studies that are required to submit to the Council as we needed planning approval from the from Hounslow in order to commence with the development.”

Young women are enormously underrepresented in rail and engineering, and yet stand to make a massive contribution. Charlotte discusses some of the challenges she has encountered working in a male-dominated environment:

“I'd like to think I bring diversity to our current team being a full-time working mum of two in her late 30s. 

I came on board to this project with a fresh pair of eyes and I was able to bring not only my experience within the rail sector but a positive attitude and exceptional organisational skills having juggled two children under the age of two years old.”

The use of our railway lines is expected to double in the next 25 years and so to meet this challenge we need a diverse workforce with innovative ideas at the forefront of rail operations. Charlotte chats about her aspirations for the next 5-10 years…

“Firstly, being a mum of two girls, I'd like them to witness that women have the power to accomplish anything especially when it comes to their careers. 

I would also like to increase the value of the type of contracts I'm managing. I'm currently owning and monitoring various workstreams, but I would like to learn new things and develop my contract awareness through training courses.”

Charlotte chats about how she juggles being a busy mum of two and working full time:

“I’d like to think I maintain a good work-life balance and I think it’s all about using your time wisely. I have a 1.5-hour commute to work every day, I tend to use my journey time to respond to emails whilst I'm on the train. I push myself to go to the gym every lunchtime Monday – Friday, I think this breaks up my day and releases tension.

I threw myself into my role at First Group and have encountered many occasions where I’ve ended up spending my nights working on my laptop after my children have gone to bed. Very different from being a full time stay at home mum!

I thrive on the fact that I have a good job and great people to work with who show me respect and offer support. I can't imagine not working as it gives me a sense of purpose, so my advice to all those mums who want to get back into work, just do it!”

After taking three years off work to have her children, Charlotte was unfortunately affected by post-natal depression and struggled to get back into the industry she loved. She discusses how she got back into work with the help of Morson…

“Taking three years off work to have my two children seemed like a lifetime and despite doing admin tasks for my husband’s company during this period, I still felt like I’d lost my identity.

I can remember some companies turning me down for an interview because I’d spent more than 12-months working within in a non-rail environment. I felt like I was being punished for wanting to raise a family, but I was determined to get my career back on track and all I needed was one person to believe in me.

One day I got a call from a Staci Hodson-Glenn at Morson (also a driven hard-working mum) who was about to give me the break I deserved. She put me forward for a role with one of her clients, First Group and I haven’t looked back since.”

Charlotte has now embarked on a new challenge as Project Manager for South Western Railway. She will be working on a 2-year project worth 5.3 million, delivering CCIF (customer and community improvement funded projects). We wish her all the success and look forward to catching up with her about her new role soon!

Morson’s dedication to diversity

As an organisation which operates in sectors hardest hit by imbalances, Morson is dedicated to improving diversity within the industries we work; in 2017 our CEO, Ged Mason OBE, pledged to double the number of female engineer contractors we have working for us by 2020, a figure which we’re well on the way to achieving.

In March, we announced our first official diversity ambassador, CEO and founder of Northern Power Women, Simone Roche MBE, to help us on our journey to creating truly inclusive workforces. Simone joins a growing list of existing Morson ambassadors across business, sport and the armed forces. Find out more about our partnership with Simone here. 

For more information on Morson's commitment to diversity check out our Diversity Portal. Or to find your next opportunity search jobs here.  

Cx Jobs

Contract Support Officer

Job Title: Contract Support Officer Job Type: Permanent Salary: £24,045.00 Per Annum - £29,400.00 Per Annum Benefits: 27 days holiday per annum plus benefits Location: Leeds Recruiting for a Contracts Support Officer to provide support to the rail franchise contract work stream and coordinate the management of documentation to assist in the successful delivery of contractual obligations, ensuring timely and collaborative compliance of all related activity leading to the overall economic development of train services across the North of England. The primary aim of the role will be to support the delivery of distinct elements of straightforward projects or contribute to the control/delivery of projects/programmes of work as required. You will be required to support the processes needed to answer questions from government, stakeholders and members of the public on the performance of train services across the North of England. You will support rail franchise contract delivery, support the Contract Management Delivery teams and are expected to be a team player, with the ability to communicate highly and effectively whilst providing exceptional customer centric services. You will be adept problem solving, have experience of rail industry's commercial environment and ability to develop credible relationships with industry leaders. You will have a flexible and adaptable approach and ability to think through complex issues to co-ordinate multi-faceted aspects of projects. Qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience required at selection stage: Degree in a relevant subject or equivalent experience. Working towards professional qualification or chartered status. Skills and expertise: Experience of rail industry commercial environment and ability to develop credible relationships with industry leaders at executive level. Experience of managing both internal and external resources appropriately, ensuring that the quality of service is upheld and that appropriate programme and project management, risk management and financial resource management skills are delivered effectively. Proficiency in operating relevant project management software. Experience of working on projects and programmes. Good communication skills, including the ability to liaise with peers and senior colleagues and build and maintain relationships. A logical approach and ability to think through complex issues to co-ordinate multi-faceted aspects of projects. Commercial awareness. Requires experience of providing support to projects. Problem-solving will is guided by application of a diverse range of procedures. Primary focus is the delivery of own work and individual performance indicators.

Cabinet Wirers

Our successful client has an immediate requirement for a number of electrical wirers, capable of building and populating a range of control cabinets. Previous recent experience is essential, and must include: Reading and working from electrical schematics to produce control panels Soldering to a good commercial standard Wire preparation and crimping experience Assembly of electrical / electronic products Familiar with PCB's & electronic components Preference will be given to candidates with a proven work history and supporting references. Depending on work availability, these roles may end up being Temp to Perm. Hours are Monday to Thursday 7.30am to 4.15pm and Friday 7.30am to 12.15pm. Rates will be between £9hr and £11.19hr (depending on skills and experience). To apply, or for more detail, please contact Steve Johnstone at Morson International on (02392) 499988 or (agy)

Senior Design Engineer

Job Title: Senior Design Engineer Job Type: Contract Location: Manchester Rate: Negotiable depending upon experience A leading client in the Rail Industry is recruiting for a Senior Design Engineer to work on a contract basis based in Manchester. Role responsibilities Ensure Project teams are adequately and appropriately resourced to enable efficient delivery of design outputs to programme. Provide parent organisations and sub participants appropriate design resource forecasting information to enable efficient support. Identify opportunities for staff to be mobilised to provide them with development opportunities. Ensure issues identified within design teams are identified and escalated where appropriate. Support efforts for Design to Cost and Value for Money by providing direction to the design team Provide cascade briefing for design team supporting compliance, lessons learnt, best practise and continuous improvement Support key improvement efforts and initiatives for design Monitoring of design performance and conformance with KPIs Ensure consistency of design checking and quality across all Projects. Champion/encourage use of Design Close Calls within the design team. Ensuring blended cross-organisation teams are developed to enable effective delivery. Position Overview Provide support to Design Director. Provide support Engineering Director (and team) as required. Provide peer support and challenge to Design Package Managers and design teams within Projects. Establish and champion sharing of best practice and processes between design teams working within Projects. Forecast and secure appropriate design resources from within parent organisations and design supply chain partners. Provide support to the Bid Team during preparation of Section Proposals (consistency / peer review / challenge). Promote collaborative ethos throughout the design function in line with the Transpire Charter. Key Skills Multi-disciplinary Design and Design Management background Connected within parent organisation to enable deployment of appropriate resources/tools to enable efficient design delivery Good with dealing with people at all levels

Attribution Manager

Job Title - Attribution Manager Location - Glasgow Rates - £263.62 Umbrella/Ltd or £230.17 PAYE day rate IN SCOPE OF IR35 About the role: A leading client in the Rail Industry is looking for an experienced and enthusiastic Attribution Manager to join their busy team based in Glasgow for a period of 6 months with a view to extending. What you will do: Ability to be a leader of a diverse team Be able to develop skills of the team Manage performance and development of the team Provide overall direction with regard to the application of the delay attribution guide, providing support and guidance to relevant managers across the route. Apply consistent standards, consistently, throughout the route for all delay attribution and TRUST incident creations. Lead the capture of train delays in line with KPI reporting. Undertake briefing of staff on changes to the delay attribution process and guides. Promote understanding of the delay attribution process with customers, contractors and other interested parties. Provide technical support and advice to the Customer Service team in respect of TRUST / TRUST D.A. Assist with the development of data capture contingency plans and monitor the introduction in the event of TRUST failure. Assist with real time support to the route control during disruption. Undertake competency assessments identifying, recording and implementing any development needs. Your experience will include: Essential Experience of managing people Knowledge of people management policies and procedures Detailed understanding of business process manual and commercial environment Investigation skills Negotiation skills Crisis management skills Influencing skills Work on your own and be self sufficient Confident in development personal improvement plans Desirable Relevant experience of Railway industry Understanding of negotiating machinery Knowledge of budgets