Vice President Insight - VP Sonya Veerasamy

 My career in transport started working in a survey team at Capita Symonds in 2002. Since then I’ve worked in range of roles including transport planning, business development and marketing across a broad range of businesses from business services, recruitment, accountancy to engineering.

I’ve been a member of Women in Transport since 2008 and I joined the board in 2013. I also volunteer as an Outreach Ambassador for junior parkrun UK and as a Run Director for Barking & Dagenham junior parkrun.

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1. What does your current job involve?

 In January 2018, I started an exciting new role with the diversity and inclusion consultancy, EW Group, as a client manager leading on marketing strategy and working with companies that know that diversity is integral to developing their business.

2. Have you been involved in any major transport projects that you would like to tell us about?

Over the course of my career I’ve been involved in the legacy work related to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Early in my career, as a survey supervisor I was part of the team that walked the entire development area in Stratford to plot the walking and cycling routes (the routes had never been mapped before). Later as a transport planner, I produced several transport assessments to support the legacy developments including Chobham Academy. I was often the only female in the multi-disciplinary project team meetings. In 2017, I was fortunate to work for ENGIE who manage the facilities at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park including operating the ArcelorMittal Orbit, The Last Drop cafe and the two energy centres at Stratford. It was fascinating to be involved in the operational side of a project that has transformed previously derelict and contaminated land into a vibrant, new, sustainable community with social cohesion at its heart. It’s become one of my favourite places in London.

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3. How did you become involved in the transport industry?

When I left university, I took a temporary job with what was then Symonds Group (now Capita Symonds) as a transport surveyor enumerator to earn some money while I looked for a “proper” job. It turned into a career that I could never have imagined. I’m forever grateful to my first male ally, Peter Brewster, for that temp job.

4. What do you like about working in transport?

I no longer work directly in transport but have found that my involvement in the sector and Women in Transport has crossed over with my various roles in ways I never expected. I love the people, I’ve met some incredibly talented, kind and generous individuals throughout my career. It’s such a diverse sector with a wealth of opportunity.

5. How did you get to join Women in Transport?

I became a member in 2008 after seeing a stand at a gender balance event that I attended as an engineer at WSP. I was particularly interested in the professional development events. I joined the board in 2013 following an introduction to Lauren Sager Weinstein by my good friend, Ariella Levine, who works at TfL and I had worked with at Capita Symonds.

6. What is your role at Women in Transport?

After four years as events chair, I became Vice President in 2017. Over the past five years I’ve implemented new processes for our network to make our communications and marketing more streamlined and to better serve our members. I led the rebrand to Women in Transport in 2017 and built our new website to provide a more agile platform for our members and supporters. I also worked with Angela Gainsford and Christine Hurley to launch our first mentoring programme last year. My role includes leading on marketing, social media and strategic leadership of the events and mentoring workstreams.

7. What are you most proud of? (specific projects or personal achievements)

Personally and professionally, 2017 was a great year for me. I completed two marathons (something I would have thought impossible a year ago). Professionally, I’m incredibly proud of the amazing progress we’ve made as Women in Transport. The rebrand has been received very positively by our members and supporters. I’m really proud of the tremendous progress that our network has made and launching the mentoring programme is one the highlights of my career to date.

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8. What would your advice be to women interested in roles like yours?

Don’t be afraid to try something new, step out of your comfort zone and challenge your own perceptions. Be open and if you have the opportunity to help someone else then do it - you never know where it might lead. 

9. How should we encourage young people to pursue a career in transport.

I got into the sector somewhat by chance and I think that one of the main issues is awareness and knowledge of the diversity and opportunity with transport. Better, more informed career advice at an early age and showcasing the careers that are on offer to the widest audience would help to encourage young people to see the potential of a career in transport. As an organisation, we have traditionally focused on professional women working in transport but we have started to do more school engagement work in the past year and will be building on this in 2018.

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