Meet Rachael - an environmentalist driven by her passion for protecting the environment from an early age. With a diverse background in environmental protection and management, environmental geoscience and contaminated land, she has gained invaluable experience and is currently our Global Head of Environmental Excellence at Hitachi Rail. Get an inside look at Rachael's journey and learn about the steps she has taken to pursue a career in environmental protection.
An environmentalist from an early age
My interest in the environment started when I was a child. I had the privilege to grow up in the beautiful northeast of Scotland and the USA, where we were regular visitors to the National Parks.
My early inspiration was my dad, a geologist who always pointed out rocks and fossils wherever we went. Who once even woke the whole family up at 3 am to go and watch a bird migration - his passion was contagious.
As I was growing up, the city of Aberdeen in Scotland was known as the "oil capital of Europe". However, even at that time, the adverse effects of the fossil fuel industry on the environment were already recognized. I aspired to pursue a career that would enable me to safeguard the environment and our natural resources, and so I took several different measures to achieve my goal.
I chose to study Environmental Geoscience, followed by Environmental Protection and Management.
My professional journey
To get some work experience after graduating, I volunteered at a local authority’s Environmental Quality department. Being immersed in that working environment was brilliant, and seeing team members actively enforce environmental protection while supporting local businesses to comply with their environmental permits was inspiring.
Then I changed direction, stepping outside my comfort zone; I worked as a conference producer for environmental and energy commercial events. This role was a game-changer, as it allowed me to develop and learn new transferable skills. I had to research and produce content for events through cold calling senior people across all sorts of industries whilst project managing marketing, sponsorship, and operations of the events on the day. I was always managing multiple events; it was a juggle!
I got to speak to amazing people doing excellent environmental work every day, and I knew that I didn’t just want to speak to those people; I wanted to be one of those people.
The next stop on my path, I specialised in contaminated land.
I travelled all over the country, completing ground investigations, reporting on soil and groundwater sampling results, helping our clients get planning permission, and looking at environmental liability for our clients taking over land and sites. It was a hands-on job, and you had to be quick with problem-solving. One day you could be in a field with cows and horses, and the next, on a demolition site. Every day was different, and it was an exciting role.
Stepping out of my comfort zone
That role led me to Hitachi Rail, starting as Environmental Officer in the UK and working my way up to Global Head of Environmental Excellence. Since I joined nearly seven years ago, I have been lucky to have had very supportive managers who have mentored me through my different roles. They continually challenge me to develop and grow by stepping out of my comfort zone and use my voice in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.
The future looks green
I’m excited about the future of Hitachi Rail. We are committed to contributing to society’s transition to net zero and sustainability. In my global role, it is inspiring to work with colleagues across the company who are passionate about innovation and continuously improving the way we do things, whether through our products and solutions or changing how we do things within our operations.
I’m proud to be part of that.