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HomeGuest WritersPersonal and professional growth: Q&A with Sarah Townsley, Amaro’s Head of Commercial

Personal and professional growth: Q&A with Sarah Townsley, Amaro’s Head of Commercial

Sarah Townsley joined Amaro as a Commercial Manager in 2016. Eight years later, and following a period of dramatic growth for the Network Rail Principal Contractor, she leads a four-strong team as its Head of Commercial. Speaking to RBD, Sarah reflected on this growth – and explained how her own role has evolved.

Hello, Sarah. Firstly, could you tell us what has driven Amaro’s growth over the last few years?

Amaro has always been seen as a trusted partner by its clients, and a lot of its work is generated through repeat business. The ‘Amaro values’, (agile, motivated, accountable, respectful, and open) have allowed us to develop long-lasting relationships and build mutual trust. Clients know that they can rely on us to deliver their objectives. And, due to Amaro’s size, we can react quickly to changes in circumstances and provide alternative delivery options when needed.

Over time, we have built on this experience and reputation – which, in turn, has enabled us to widen our client base and geographical reach. The team now delivers large-scale projects, working alongside other disciplines.

Originally a signalling specialist, Amaro has also developed its capabilities to include power – M&E, E&P, and telecoms. Coupled with its design partnerships and ability to offer early engagement advice, this gives clients the ability to choose one supplier to provide a multidisciplinary service at all stages of the project life cycle.

Investment – both in the Amaro team, and the right equipment – has also played a key role in this growth. Could you tell us more?

I think the personal development plans that John Waugh (Amaro’s Engineering and Operations Director) introduced have been key. He’s always keen to stress that it’s a personal development plan – not your development plan within Amaro, but rather a case of what you want to achieve personally.

As part of this, individuals are given the chance to spend time working with other functions across the business. They’re then able to move into new roles that align with their aspirations. For example, one of our Stores Assistants recently spent a week with various other departments, gaining an understanding of the work they do. As a result, she’s put herself forward for an internal role that she might otherwise not have considered.

Continuous improvement is actively encouraged, which has led to a huge increase in the number of staff with professional accreditations and charterships. This investment in training and development means that people want to stay with Amaro for the long term, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported and encouraged to progress.

How has your own role at Amaro evolved?

When I joined Amaro eight years ago, there wasn’t any commercial function. The work was being delivered by its finance and project management teams. I gradually carved out my role, developing systems and processes that streamlined the work and aligned with client requirements. As the business grew, so too did the workload – and I now have a trusted team of four, with plans to bring in new people over time.

Having the right team around me has enabled me to move into senior leadership, looking beyond day-to-day project delivery. Now, I can help Managing Director, Micky Ewart, to deliver Amaro’s longer-term strategies, ensuring that processes and systems are scalable and support our future aspirations. It’s been an exciting few years, and I’ve enjoyed being part of that growth.

Amaro has also invested in my own personal development. I recently participated in a nine-month leadership programme through Women in Transport, which was incredibly useful.

Over the last few years, Amaro’s team has also grown and evolved, becoming more diverse. How have things changed since you joined the business?

We’re attending this year’s Women in Rail Awards, and have decided to book a whole table because we’ve got enough women to fill it! We’ve never been in that position before.

A key enabler is the fact that Amaro’s roles are advertised internally before being shared externally. This means people can access opportunities they might not have considered previously. As I mentioned, one of Amaro’s female Store Assistants is looking to move into project management. And today, 50 per cent of the firm’s apprentices are female.

And it’s not just about gender. Amaro also works closely with a partner that supports individuals who have been on long-term unemployment, may have a criminal conviction, or may have found it difficult to access this industry. This adds greater diversity to our teams.

Additionally, one of my commercial colleagues and I worked in different industries before joining the business. I came from defence, and there are huge benefits to using transferrable skills gained in other sectors. It means I can bring a fresh perspective to the table.

What do you enjoy most about working in the rail industry?

It’s fast-paced, and no two days are ever the same. I’m also able to work on projects from start-to-finish, which is really satisfying.

To anyone considering a career in rail, I’d say it’s quite a small industry, with that ‘family feel’ so often talked about. You’ll have every opportunity to draw on your transferable skills, develop professionally, and enjoy a long and satisfying career.

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