International Women's Day Q&A series: Sian Church

08 Mar 2024

To mark International Women’s Day, tusp as part of the BMD Group, proudly stands alongside the global community as we strive to make gender equity the foundation of our commitment to inclusivity.

We are shining a light on some of the remarkable women of tusp to gain an insight into their journey in the construction industry and to highlight the significant impact they are making as they forge their careers.

Meet Sian, a Business Change Manager at tusp who specialises in the rail industry, leading projects from analysis to delivery with precision.

We sat down with Sian to ask her a few questions about her role and the opportunities available for women within the construction industry.

Tell me about your role and what it involves.

I am a Business Change Manager specialising in rail. A typical change project will start with a thorough business analysis to understand the desired outcomes, timing, impact and rationale. Once this is understood, I work with the client to build the change model using the MoSCoW principle (MUST have, SHOULD have, COULD have, WON’T have) to define requirements, outputs and set realistic expectations.

Depending on the contract with the client, I would either close by handing over the findings in a full report with recommendations or use that report to move the project into the development phase. During development, I assume a project management role, leading change efforts until delivery. Closure may involve handing over the project with recommendations or progressing to the delivery phase following staged gate approval.

A key component of the delivery phase is ensuring that the change is not only implemented correctly, but that the client has all necessary processes and procedures in place to transition to business as usual. Throughout the process, stakeholder management is critical to ensure those introducing the change and those benefiting from the change are fully engaged and working together towards a common goal. It is these soft skills that really defines the change management role.

What attracted you to the industry?

Necessity! I had been made redundant and was applying for any project management-based role available in Newcastle upon Tyne. I was offered a six-month, contract role with Nexus (who own and operate the metro light rail in Newcastle) .

The project was to introduce smart ticketing to the region, and I was there for seven years, moving through the business to eventually lead the purchase of the new fleet of trains and depot construction programme.

Once in rail, I realised that I enjoyed the complexity and challenges presented by working in a regulated and safety led environment and I have been fortunate to work on many varied projects over the years, which have given me a very broad skill set. I remain in the industry because I learn something new every day and with tusp, I have had the opportunity to work on some really interesting projects!

What advice would you give young women entering the industry?

Ask questions. Endless questions. To the point where you sound like a small child asking “why?’

Don’t be frightened to admit if you don’t understand something and ask for more information.  The more knowledge and understanding you have of your subject matter, the more confident you will feel and the more positive working experiences you’ll have.

Also, don’t be afraid to say no and set reasonable boundaries and expectations.

I’d also absolutely recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to experience operational rail. I have stood on track with the wind and rain blowing up my nose at 4:00am on a Northeast winter’s morning, to support my delivery team, because they deserve a Project Manager who fully understands what they’re asking their team to achieve.

Do you have any role models? And if so, why are they so inspirational?

Harriet Minter. I had the privilege of attending a Women in Rail event when she was keynote speaker, and I really enjoyed hearing her story. I took away her encouragement to ‘proceed until apprehended’ in the context of my career and haven’t looked back since!

What initiatives or changes would you like to see to further support women in the industry?

More female mentors. I’ve learnt the hard way and although I have seen the industry’s diversity improve dramatically over the years, it is still commonplace for me to be the only woman in a room. Having a mentor can positively affect day-to-day management of gender inequality as well as overall performance strategies and this would have been invaluable to me as I was learning. This not only applies to women coming into the industry, but it would also benefit male colleagues to have a female mentor, due to the value of a different perspective.

Also, I’d love to see better PPE that is actually designed for women. When I last needed mid-layer steel toe-capped work boots I only had a choice of two styles due to my foot size and one had pink trim. And don’t get me started on the clothes! Being on site in uncomfortable and ill-fitting PPE is unpleasant and makes a tough job that much harder.