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Women in Transport Network

Tricia Wright

Chief People Officer for Transport for London​

Women in Transport Network

Meet Tricia


Tricia Wright is the Chief People Officer at Transport for London (TfL). A transport industry professional for over 20 years, she reports directly to the Commissioner for Transport for London, Andy Byford, and is a member of the TfL Executive Committee. Tricia was awarded HR Director of the Year in 2014 at the HR Distinction Awards. Prior to her current position, Tricia worked as HR and Change Director for Northern Rail, where she also spent a period out of HR as Area Director (Operations and Customer Service). Tricia is a fellow chartered HR professional, has an MA in Human Resource Management and has worked in both public and private sectors. After her degree, Tricia joined British Rail as a Graduate Personnel Management Trainee and has subsequently worked for a number of organisations including Eastern Infrastructure Maintenance, Burger King and Eurostar.

1. Tell us about your career so far and what attracted you to work in the Rail industry? ​


Initially I was unsure of my career path having studied for a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies. I applied to various graduate trainee schemes and was drawn to the Personnel Management Training scheme at British Rail. The schemes were highly regarded and offered a comprehensive set of placements and learning. At the end of the scheme I did a number of roles in different parts of the railway and gained experience across the spectrum. I left the industry after ten years and then went to work for Burger King as HR Manager. This was a complete change of organisation in terms of sector, commerciality, culture and workforce dynamics. What I really appreciated was the diverse experience there, but also that in terms of personnel/HR practices and approach, the rail industry was quite leading-edge at that time. It just wasn’t promoted as such. Having spent four years at Burger King I secured a role in Eurostar. The first opportunity to use my Languages degree! I progressed from an HR Manager to Head of HR and then an HR Director in the organisation. I was then head-hunted into a new role for Northern Rail onto the new executive team and re-located to York. I was responsible for HR and People change in this role in a newly formed Train Operating Company. The role was a great challenge and having done three years in the role I moved into an Area Director role (operational and customer service director). I had an MD at the time who believed you could switch roles as it was all about leadership. I had to learn a lot being in a completely different role, but the team really recognised the diversity of thought and approach I could bring. This helped me to get the role at London Underground, then progress to a Group HR Director role with TfL. ​

2. What career highlight are you really proud of? And what challenges have you faced in your career?


One of my highlights was working in the lead up to and during the Olympics. There was immense pressure on Transport for London to deliver a great transport games and we did exactly that, and did it brilliantly. There was a real team spirit where we put our customers at the heart of everything. All professional services teams spent most of that summer as travel ambassadors, really helping our customers move around London seamlessly. I loved every minute despite having very tired feet at the end of the shifts. Another recent achievement that I am proud of is how we have galvanised as a team to support the business during the last year. I recall the day before we moved to working from home and saying to the team that whatever we do, we have to #dotherightthing for our people in very exceptional circumstances. And that is exactly what we have done, and this was reflected in our recent employee survey. As a leadership team, we have put a lot of effort in being agile and listening to our employees. ​

There were some challenges around perception and that maybe transport is not a suitable career for a woman. It is a great industry and the key thing is to be yourself, and not what you think people think you should be. There was a perception when I undertook the Area Director role that I couldn’t possibly do it because I wasn’t an operator. I wasn’t but had a team who were highly capable. It was about bringing a different leadership and style.

3. What changes have you had to make in your working practices?​


During the pandemic, we worked closely with the business to provide timely and up-to-date advice and guidance. We had a key focus on wellbeing, communication with our employees, trades unions and stakeholders and have made sure our people have all the tools to work safely and to ensure we all stay connected. We have learned a lot about how we have worked differently and really want to build on that in the coming years. ​

4. How have you remained positive during the crisis and looked after your wellbeing and mental health?​


I was a bit late in getting into a routine as everything was so full-on in the first few months. What I do now is early morning walks and sometimes one at the end of the day. I did set myself a challenge in October/November by joining fellow Trustees at the Railway Children to raise money for Rail Aid, by walking as much as I could over five weeks whilst still working. I managed to walk 526 km over the five weeks. More importantly, we raised money for a great charity. I am trying to continue with my walks but have to confess it has been harder with the winter weather and dark mornings and evenings, but I will be persevering.

5. What can the industry do to attract and retain high-calibre women and people from ethnic minorities?​


Since the killing of George Floyd, we have run 100 listening sessions with our employees, which has been really powerful and has highlighted areas we need to focus on and build trust. In terms of what we are doing to attract and retain people, we have introduced a number of things to move us to be a truly diverse and inclusive employer. By way of examples, we have an anti-racist charter and we have moved to blind CVs in recruitment. It’s really important to see diverse talent progress, to unlock potential and opportunities for our people, and to be more inclusive and provide safe places for people to discuss issues. We undertake reverse mentoring as we appreciate diversity of thought. We are also devising a simplified talent framework focussing on potential. Gender diversity is about retaining and attracting talent, and it’s important to eliminate the myth that the rail industry is not for female leaders as there are opportunities. ​

6. What advice would you give your younger self?


Advice for my younger self would be to do more networking, be brave and courageous, and always choose an organisation whose values align with yours. ​

7. What are your three top tips for women who want to break the glass ceiling?


1. Believe in and be yourself. ​

2. Have confidence and don’t be constrained by stereotyping. ​

3. Make sure you choose your network wisely. ​ 

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