I started my career in the insurance industry and spent 5 years there before going to university. After graduating from my Masters I did research and communications for The Spark (Scotland), a family support charity. Then I moved to London to head up BYC’s policy and public affairs team. After that I moved to TfL to build its stakeholder engagement team and transform its external relationships. I’ve been there for 7 years.
What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?
I look after TfL’s relationships with a wide range of stakeholders that speak for our customers and users including business, industry bodies, passenger representatives, statutory watchdogs, consumer groups, and the charity sector (for example, older and disabled people’s organisations, youth transport campaigning organisations and grass-roots community campaigners).
I also support our operating business by leading the communications and engagement strategies for all our major planning projects and our Commercial Development team.
My role is to champion our stakeholders’ needs and act as their advocate within TfL and also to secure stakeholder support, partnerships and advocacy to help drive and protect our reputation.
There is no typical day and it can sometimes be challenging to balance everyone’s needs.
What did your role entail in the run up to – and during – the London Olympics? What were the greatest challenges which had to be overcome?
The key challenge was getting Londoners and businesses to change their travel behaviour so the transport network could accommodate the extra journeys from people travelling to the Games. We led a massive comms campaign to encourage businesses to plan ahead and avoid the busiest times on the network.
I was on mat leave during the Games itself, so faced a very different challenge!
How does working in a public sector public affairs role differ to the charity sector?
I was very passionate about the causes I worked for in the charity sector and it was rewarding to see the difference my work was making to people’s lives. There are many similarities with my TfL role because transport also has a huge impact on many people’s lives. My job at TfL is more high profile and combines business and politics, and brings new and exciting challenges every day.
What do you enjoy about working in public affairs?
Meeting new and interesting people and building relationships, networks and coalitions to effect change.
Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have been involved in?
I’ve always been proud of working on votes at 16. It’s an issue I was passionate about when I left school and entered the world of work aged 16. I felt privileged to be working on the campaign many years later.
How different is working in public affairs in Scotland to Westminster?
I found it very different as my job in Scotland was focused on lobbying the Scottish Parliament and had very little to do with Westminster.
How did you find making the move from Scotland down to Westminster? What challenges/opportunities did you face when job hunting?
I moved from within the charity sector so it was quite easy to make the switch but I did have to adjust to Westminster.
What’s been the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
It’s all about the relationship.
How relevant is Degree subject for a public affairs career?
Unlike many public affairs practitioners I didn’t do a politics degree. I think a philosophy degree gives a good grounding for many careers including mine. And my research background has been useful in helping me understand policy.
You studied for an MPhil: what advice would you give graduates considering continuing with postgrad studies?
For me it was worth it, as my Masters in Social Science Research helped me to get my first job post-graduation, as a Research and Communications Officer.