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By Sam Terrace on

Women in Engineering: Caitlin Gent, TransPennine Express

Higher Fleet Apprentice Caitlin tells us how she got into engineering and her ambitions for the future.

As our biggest-ever Future Engineers event gets another step closer, we’ve teamed up with the Rail Delivery Group to find out more about some of the women engineers working in the rail industry today.

Next to answer our questions is Catilin Gent, a Higher Fleet Apprentice at Transpennine Express. She explains more about her work, how she got into engineering and the advice she has for the engineers of the future.


Why have you chosen a career in engineering?

There are many reasons—it’s a career that offers many opportunities and repeatedly poses new challenges as technology develops. Change in technology creates opportunities for young people like me to make a difference and I think it is empowering. I find the industry incredibly interesting, especially in the rail rector as it’s complex and well-integrated.

What are the most interesting aspects of your role?

The aspects that I find the most interesting are working on maintenance depots and attending faults on trains that are in service with passengers on-board. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and developing my technical skills and knowledge.

What’s your favourite thing about working for TransPennine Express?

The nature of my apprenticeship allows me to carry out work placements with other companies within the rail sector. This is an incredibly interesting experience as I gain an appreciation of multiple businesses—understanding what they do, the challenges they face and the impact that they have on our company. This really highlights to me the importance of stakeholder engagement and business relationships.

My hands-on placements focus on carrying out maintenance and in-service repairs on our current two fleets of trains, helping me to develop my technical skills.

My office-based placements help develop my technical knowledge and understanding of processes such as writing Engineering Changes, Maintenance Control Briefs and appreciating the commercial and legal aspects of a TOC engineering function.

Have you faced any barriers in your career to date?

What I find most difficult is living up to expectations and the need to prove myself. When people ask what I do for a living or what I aspire to be, they don’t believe me.

I find people are very doubtful until I prove to them that I am ambitious, I do take the role seriously and I am keen to learn.

What are your future ambitions?

I have a few: I want to successfully complete my Level 4 Apprenticeship in Systems Engineering to the best of my ability and secure a full-time job.

I would like to continue with my education and go on to do a degree. This would enable me to strive towards roles such as Fleet Engineer, Fleet Technical Manager and ultimately become Fleet Director.

If a child asked, how would you describe what you do in one sentence?

I am a train doctor who makes poorly trains feel better.

What did your family and friends think about you becoming an engineer?

My family and friends are really proud of what I’m doing, they encourage me to do the best that I can and really support me when I’m faced with challenges. I think they love the fact that I am challenging gender stereotypes.

What advice would you have for young people considering science or engineering study or careers?

There are so many different sectors, so I would advise to anyone to research them and gain an appreciation for what they do. This approach will help find a career in engineering or science that is right for you.

Secondly, work experience is your best friend! Work experience isn’t about ticking a box for school or college. It’s an opportunity to see if you can imagine yourself in this industry, and find out if it’s what you thought it would be. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns that you may have, but also a chance to discuss the steps you need to take to get to where you want to be.

What do you think about programmes such as Future Engineers—would you have taken part if you were younger?

Knowing what I know now, yes, I would’ve taken part. When I was younger I didn’t feel that these programmes were fully encouraged, nor were the benefits of being involved fully explained.

Since starting my apprenticeship I have learnt to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity, the benefits and lessons may be invaluable.

What was your dream job when you were aged ten?

My dream job was to work in Morrisons at the check-out till—I thought it was so cool. Thank god for self-service!

Have you always had an interest in trains and the railways?

No, the railway isn’t a well-advertised industry and I think it’s a huge shame. It’s an intense and interesting place to be. It’s rewarding.

Do you have a favourite locomotive or station?

My favourite rolling stock is Siemens’ Desiro Class 185 Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU). It’s the first rolling stock I learnt and carried out maintenance on. Fun fact: it’s also the most reliable DMU in the UK!

Who has been a big influence on your life or career to date?

The person who has been a big influence on my career is my current line manager. He’s a living example of an apprentice who has done their time and worked their way up to become a senior manager—I admire that.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the relentless support and belief that he has in me. There have been countless times when I’ve doubted myself, but my manager continues to push me and take me out of my comfort zone, helping me strive to become the better version of myself.

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