Rochelle Reynolds has forged a successful career in the power industry for more than 13 years, taking on roles spanning everything from power generation through to energy retailing.
But at some point, she realised it was time to expand into something new. The power industry’s loss was rail’s gain.
“The rail industry appealed to me due to the similarities with power generation, including a heavy engineering and regulatory focus, safety and environment implications,” Rochelle says.
“Working in an industry that provides an essential service aligns to my values as well.”
Rochelle joined V/Line as its company secretary four years ago and has held a series of roles in the organisation, ultimately moving into the operational side of the business where she is now Director Business and Transformation, Operations.
“From the very beginning I felt like I belonged in rail. This industry has provided me with lots of opportunities to grow and develop.”
In August, Rochelle will be one of the speakers at the Australasian Railway Association’s inaugural Women in Conversations webinar.
As the Deputy Chair of the ARA Women in Rail Advisory Committee, she believes there are significant opportunities for women working in the industry.
“The rail industry offers women opportunities and variety of work,” she says.
“There is significant investment in rail which only fosters this favourable situation. The rail industry is changing and all organisations are really focussed on inclusion.
“While the rail industry would have previously been considered male dominated, today there is a lot of diversity, not just gender, with lots of career development support provided.”
“For me, I need to feel like I am making a difference, and this includes, first and foremost, our diversity agenda.
“This year I championed an inaugural Women’s Forum at V/Line. The Women’s Forum was a one-day program developed inhouse with the support of a fantastic team of senior women from V/Line.
“We brought together 20 women developing in their career to provide networking opportunities and support, tips and skills for women as they navigate through their career.
“We had amazing feedback from attendees on the benefits of the forum for them.”
Having leaders who believed in her and a great mentor who supported her transition from governance to business transformation and operations has proven very important for Rochelle’s career.
“I had a really successful legal and governance career and thoroughly enjoyed my work in this area,” she says.
“A few years ago, I felt like it was time to challenge myself and broaden my skill set to beyond legal, governance and risk management.
“I had a conversation with my boss about wanting to broaden my horizons and he encouraged me.
“Over a period of time we discussed what my new challenges would look like and he gave me an opportunity to be seconded to a new role.
“With this secondment opportunity, I had the support of a fantastic champion within the business. During the transition, I also benefited from genuine conversations with my mentor and was able to really test where I want to go with my career.”
She says the best part of working in rail is the genuine passion that exists among its people.
“Other organisations often have to invest a lot of money to develop this passion which we have inherently”.
“For me, a good workplace culture is one where everyone is supported to be their best,” she says.
“We all come to work with our own challenges which may impact how we perform at work.
“Where an organisation fosters a constructive workplace culture there will be increased collaboration and teamwork, improvements in morale and productivity.
“Everyone will be aligned to a clear purpose and know how they contribute to achieving the goals.”
In terms of what organisations should do to be more inclusive for females, Rochelle says it is essential to offer opportunities for females to be mentored, either within or external to the organisation.
“I know my career wouldn’t be what it is without having mentors to help guide me,” she says.
“Women, as they progress through their career, need support as they navigate through an organisation, particularly from someone who has real experience walking the same path as them.
“At V/Line, we offer two formal programs, the ARA Women in Rail mentoring program and the Victorian Women in Transport mentoring program.
“We have seen an amazing take up of these programs both as mentors and mentees.
“Identifying female talent within the organisation and providing development opportunities for the females is critical.
“Having a group to champion opportunities for women has worked very well for us.
“V/Line has a Gender Working Party as part of its Diversity Council. The group champions women in recruitment, development and engagement programs throughout the year.
“An organisation really needs a group of passionate champions to actively promote diversity through the year.”
Rochelle recognises, that a lot of work should be done on an individual level.
“Be a champion of change. For me, I have always enjoyed supporting other women,” she says.
“Any chance I have to provide opportunities for other women, I actively promote these. We need more people, male and female to champion the change we want to see.
“Always encourage women in your workplace to participate in development programs, internal or external. This will boost female talent contributing in driving innovations in the rail industry.”
Rochelle joined the Australasian Railway Association for its first Women in Rail Conversations webinar. View the discussion here.