International Women's Day 2023

NRC Celebrates International Women's Day and Shares Some Insights from our Colleagues Around the Globe


Emma Duncan, Director, Rail Advisory

How did you become the Director Rail Advisory at Network Rail Consulting, Australia?

I started my career in Rail Consultancy whilst studying at university in London, as part of a nine-month work experience internship. I never intended to join the rail industry but was looking for an opportunity to apply my analytical skills. I enjoyed the variety consultancy offered and the ability to work on public transport projects which genuinely made a difference to the community. But ultimately, I really liked and respected the people. When I was offered a graduate role in the same company, for me it was a no brainer to accept.

The original graduate opportunity didn’t disappoint. Since then, I have worked for Public Transport Authorities and private Operators; both in a consultancy capacity and directly. A career opportunity and curiosity led me to Australia 17 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I now call Sydney home. I’ve been fortunate to work on major city shaping projects such as Sydney Light Rail and Sydney Metro. I have also ventured slightly out of the rail industry, occasionally working on other transport modes such as Ferries and Buses. But my heart is in rail, and I was keen to return to it. I was confident that Network Rail Consulting (NRC) would tick this box for me; and it certainly does.

What insight can you share from your career?

I would summarise the key insights of my career by the key points below, but they are all inter-related:

  • Build Relationships – Take time out to build relationships, it’s much easier to call and ask for a favour of someone you have a rapport with, than not. In my early career, I never realised the huge value of Friday night work drinks and the rapport I was building inadvertently with my colleagues;
  • Avoid Unnecessary Emails – I try and start every email with “As discussed….” This reminds me to speak to someone face to face, or to give them a call-. Generally, if I discuss the subject with someone, then I can avoid sending an email or the email is more about sharing information. If there is an issue or misunderstanding, it can then be discussed and resolved much more easily without it escalating into a real issue;
  • Cull Meetings – In one of my previous roles, I was drowning in daily meetings. This resulted in me getting continually stressed as meetings would overrun and I would then be late to the next one. I often lacked presence in the meetings as I was thinking of the next meetings in my day, with no time to prepare. Question and challenge the value of meetings, whether you can delegate or eliminate the need for one at all. Ensure you have plenty of time blocked out in your calendar to think, prepare and also influence the outcomes of the meetings; and
  • Surround Yourself With Good People – Try and build a supportive culture. Appreciate each individual’s strengths and weaknesses across both their technical and softer skills to optimise performance and support their role satisfaction. We spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our family – so try and make the time enjoyable.

What’s your advice for someone looking to join the rail industry?

It doesn't matter if you don't have a railway background before you join the industry, you can still have a fulfilling and enjoyable career. I wouldn't work anywhere else, and no I'm not a train enthusiast!

Emma Duncan
Director, Rail Advisory
Network Rail Consulting

United States of America

Tina Bui, Managing Consultant, Station Operations and Management

How did you become a Managing Consultant at Network Rail Consulting, US?

One of the greatest gifts of the human experience is traveling. Of course, trying a culture’s food is always a novel and enchanting experience, but what I love about traveling is seeing how everyone else’s daily routine unfolds. When does a city awaken? What does it look like for kids to go to school? What are the tiny victories commuters feel by the time they get to work? Movement is what stimulates a vibrant, healthy community.

I just returned from a 3-week trip from the UK for the NRC Orientation Program. I had the opportunity to tour various stations throughout the country and visit each of the departments to learn about their technology, staffing requirements, processes, and infrastructure. Getting to see best practices and pick up on the commonality of those practices is what affirms my belief that the work we do has the power to improve lives. Whether the commuters we serve are electricians or teachers, we contribute to the important work they do by creating and regulating the systems that get them to their destinations safely and with a peace of mind.

I got into transportation engineering in 2011, where I started in the traffic operations industry. I initially focused on traffic management and emergency/evacuation planning, then specialized in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) design. Eventually, I found myself in station management and operations. As a Managing Consultant at NRC, I enjoy being in spaces where I get to be a part of the dialogue that helps shape the positive experiences of people in the DMV area.

What insight can you share from your career?

While I can’t say that this notion stemmed from my career, it certainly has made life in NRC and all my previous workplaces more fulfilling: ask people questions about themselves. People want to feel sought out. They want to feel connection. Yes, you can always make conversation with people over third-party topics, or, you can ask them something that matters to them. Ask them about themselves or their family. Ask them about the last time they surprised themselves. Here’s the thing though, as you’re learning things about the people around you, it’s not just to edify them. You’re drawing yourself closer to someone’s story—not their background, not their resume, but what makes them irreplaceable in personality and character. I don’t see myself working for a railway company, the names have never really mattered. I do identify the places I’ve worked in my career by the people on my teams I got to work with. As your professional network expands, you might not remember the exact title of their position, but you never forget how someone made you feel.

What’s your advice for someone looking to join the rail industry?

When I started in transportation engineering, I was on a team that designed and standardized regional evacuation and incident management plans. The members of our team would butt heads over the most minute details such as sign orientation or line style for displaying evacuation routes on a map. We had different ideas about how to approach traffic incident management standards. It was easy to see this contention as a lack of progress, as though we were stuck. After building several years in managing and consulting, I now appreciate teams that wrestle with such deliberations. Disagreement isn’t a negative product, but a healthy and vital part of any decision-making process. If you find yourself in discord while working to find a solution for something, lean into those differences. The rail industry is about people. By taking the time to investigate not the fastest solution, but the one that would render the best outcomes, you honor the people you’re working with, but more importantly, the people you’re serving in your community.

Tina Bui
Managing Consultant
Network Rail Consulting