A seat close to the fast-paced pit crew at a Formula 1 race track gave Chloe Barnett the excitement to pursue engineering.
Now, she helps a team on a very different type of track …
We ask Chloe why now is the best time to be an engineer and what she thinks of diversity on the railway.
Watch Chloe in this video:
“It’s a pivotal time to be in engineering.”
“Seeing the problems and … making a difference”
What’s your job?
I’m a materials and logistics data manager … We manage the catalogue of non-heavy products, which allows our people on track to order equipment in and help projects … It’s a really key part of making sure that people on track have the right materials to do the job that they’re doing and make sure they’re safe.
For instance, when covid hit, we were the ones that were distributing PPE to our on-track staff and people around the business as well … It’s really important to do something meaningful.
Why do you love your job?
I love my job because I’m learning all the time. It’s one of the things that encourages me to wake up every day and return to that job.
Did you go to university?
I didn’t go to university, I went to college, did an access to engineering award, which allowed me to – if I wanted to go to university – I could go but I chose not to. There are loads of jobs where you need the degree but there are so many opportunities where you can start form the bottom and work your way up and Network Rail offers both of those.
Why is now a great time to be an engineer?
We’re at such a pivotal moment in our generation where change is going to happen … where there are actually opportunities to make the change and there is funding from the government to create that change whereas before, there wasn’t always that … Right now, we’re at a good point where we’re having support and so your ideas are being created … It’s a pivotal time to be in engineering.
What were you like growing up?
I wanted to be a rally driver … I liked stuff that involved my hands and building stuff and creating things.
Do you remember the first time you felt excited about engineering?
My mum took me to a race at Silverstone and we were sitting quite close to the pit and I saw how quickly the mechanics fixed the car and got it back out there. And then I was like, ‘I want to be a mechanic’. That’s what led me to choosing engineering as a GCSE. Did I want to build buildings? Be a civil engineer? Bridges and that kind of stuff? It just interested me to more work with engineers than be an engineer myself.
Why are science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) exciting?
Every kid should have STEM … the youth of today are so good with technology, it’s crazy. STEM’s ever changing, technology’s ever changing. Mathematics is one of those things that stays the same but that’s comforting because once you know it, you know it and you can apply it everywhere in any part of your life.
Engineering is all about creating new things and that’s why I’m like, ‘don’t you want to be part of the future?’
What do you wish you’d known at school?
When I was at school I wish someone would have told me you don’t have to have it all figured out right now.
What would you tell a young person?
You can keep pushing and keep trying and you’ll find your place. Sometimes you don’t have to look to know what you want to do but what you want to do finds you.
Do you enjoy working with young people?
I love working with younger people. As much as I love working with people who have been in this workplace for years and years, working with younger people, they have a whole new drive and energy that kind of pushes me to think, ‘ah, I want to do that as well – create’.
I’ve got people in my team who have started at Network Rail from teenagers and learning from them about the things they’ve experienced … they’re fresh out of uni, some of them are fresh from college and they have a new energy and a new impact and they teach me so much more.
What do you love most about your job?
The part that I love the most is developing people. I love being a manager, I love being a leader of my team. Continuing to push myself every day and enjoying the work that I’m doing.
Getting it right, seeing the finished product, knowing that it was a bunch of materials and now it’s this. The longevity of your work as well.
Where do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years?
I want to be really good at being a leader so just being there more for my people, seeing opportunities for them, helping them grow to those, helping my team. Whatever job I’m doing, grow to be the best at what we can do.
Seeing the problems and working towards a difference, making a difference.
Stepping up and saying, ‘hey, I’m a person of colour who works at Network Rail and I enjoy working at Network Rail’ and encouraging other people who look like me to apply for here and telling them about the things that are going on.
It’s such a big company and there are so many opportunities that if you want to work in HR, we have an HR department. If you want to be creative … we have creative roles at Network Rail.
What do you think of diversity and inclusion at Network Rail?
I don’t think we’re as diverse as our top leaders could be but we are actually more diverse down the company so as in our entry level candidates are more diverse, which is really good because it means we’re encouraging people to join us …
The fact that we are open go the conversation and we’re talking about it, it’s really great. A lot of our directors are talking about it among their departments …
People need to remember diversity is not just colour … it’s disabilities, culture, religion, gender … the fact we are open and those opportunities are there, that’s the most important thing. I would be really surprised if … we had more diverse people at the top and hardly any diversity at the bottom – that’s where the majority of people are … There are so many more apprentices and people at entry level than at the top level … I don’t think it’s a problem but we can improve.