Marking International Women in Engineering Day

22 June 2022
HM Principal Inspector of Railways Catherine Hui discusses inspiring the next generation of engineers, and how her engineering experience led to an ORR career and projects including the Elizabeth line.
HM Principal Inspector of Railways Catherine Hui
Catherine Hui
HM Principal Inspector of Railways
Cover Image
Catherine Hui with colleagues on a visit to the Elizabeth line

Thursday 23 June 2022, marks the 9th year of celebrating International Women in Engineering Day led by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). When asked to provide a short piece about my experiences to help celebrate and raise the profile of Women in Engineering, I had an immediate feeling of “Why me? What could I offer?” - something similar to “imposter syndrome”. 

I had never thought of myself as someone who could inspire the younger generations to look towards a career in engineering.  But reflecting on my education and initial career to where I am now, whilst I haven’t continued with a traditional engineering focus, I do not think I would have been led to such an interesting and varied role at ORR without the foundations and learning from those early days.

How it began

As an ambitious teenager I had a keen interest in all things practical and how they worked. The technology sector was experiencing a boom and I decided to pursue a degree in Electronic Engineering that would develop my interest in practical application as well as feed my curiosity in innovation. After my degree I went on to work for an engineering company that specialised in power conversion. Here I gained experience in different transport sectors, both marine and airports. 

Joining ORR

I then joined the Business Planning and Risk team at ORR, which was a bit of a change to what I was doing previously. I soon developed an interest and understanding of our role as the health and safety regulator for Britain’s railways and was encouraged to apply for a trainee inspector role. Despite my lack of previous health and safety or railway experience, I was successful. 

Career progression

Throughout my role as an inspector and now as the Principal Inspector for the Transport for London team, in ORR’s Railway Safety Directorate, I have been able to draw on my real-world, logical and systems approach from my previous education and work experience and apply that to my learning, development and overall professional practice at ORR.  

My work at ORR has exposed me to a wide variety of work including working with large duty holders and organisations like London Underground Ltd and TfL, as well as other regulators and enforcing authorities. Working with people at all levels from across ORR and beyond, and even having a successful prosecution heard at the Old Bailey.

Ever evolving 

Recently I have had regular involvement in the work of the Crossrail project. Working with teams and stakeholders to get the Elizabeth line ready for its successful opening. 

Throughout the COVID pandemic I was also in regular contact with all TfL duty holders and the three airport track transit systems, to understand their plans and preparations for managing their operations and recovery safely. 

My role continues to provide me with a variety of challenging work and continuous development, as well as a great sense of responsibility in the work that we do to regulate and promote continuous improvement of health and safety in railways.

'Imagine the Future' is the theme of this year's International Women in Engineering Day, and my role is just one of many examples where we can continue to encourage women, their career development and innovation at ORR.