Syeda Ghufran joined Hitachi Rail in 2021 as Fleet Engineering Director. Ahead of the Women in Rail awards, she writes about her experiences as a woman in the rail sector and how she’s working with Hitachi Rail to promote engineering as a career choice for young women.
From a very young age I’ve always been drawn to a career in STEM. Maths and Science were my favourite subjects at school, and this led very naturally to a degree in engineering at university. From there, I pursued further qualifications in Mechanical Engineering, Management and Business.
When I entered the rail industry with ScotRail in 2010, I was worried that my colleagues would judge my lack of experience working ‘on the tools’.
However, I found that what really set me apart was the fact I was the only female in the ScotRail engineering team of over 200. I soon made it my mission to prove that that my relative inexperience and gender were no barrier to excelling in my work.
Joining Hitachi Rail
After working hard as an engineer, I moved into project management at ScotRail before rising to Engineering Director in 2018. After three years in this role, I was approached by Hitachi Rail to take on the role of Fleet Engineering Director of their UK Operations, Service & Maintenance (OS&M) department, and I knew it was the perfect challenge for me.
Over the last two years I’ve had the opportunity to take on numerous projects and upskill myself through challenging work. Alongside the hard work from engineering and maintenance colleagues, I’m proud to play a role in Hitachi Rail's record-breaking reliability over the past few years. Seeing our labours rewarded with accolades such as the Golden Spanner Award for our Hull Fleet gives me great satisfaction.
Supporting women in the rail industry
I’m proud of how far my career has advanced since joining the sector in 2010, but I’m also conscious that my role at Hitachi Rail gives me the opportunity - and in my view responsibility - to help other women into a career in rail.
I want young female students to become the engineers of tomorrow. This has led to me working with local schools to promote engineering as an attractive career choice for young female students, to become the role model that I never had when I started at ScotRail.
This goal has also led me to engage with the wider sector, through working with organisations such as Women in Rail and the Institution of Railway Operators. It has also driven my ambition to help foster a truly inclusive workplace where everyone, regardless of gender, feels valued.
I hope my career can serve as an example of how far the rail industry - supported by companies like Hitachi Rail - has come in terms of supporting women and creating inclusivity. There is still more work to be done, but I’m hopeful that no female engineers will ever be the only one in their team again.