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Helen Ryan is a Contract Manager with HW Martin (Traffic Management) Ltd and has been in the industry for 11 years.


Helen is a highly motivated and well-respected mentor at HW Martin (Traffic Management) Ltd, responsible for putting upwards of 50 people to work on the road network every night. She is an aspiring leader, carving out a space for herself in an environment that is traditionally considered to be ‘male dominated’.
Helen is an integral part of the team at the company’s depot in Peterborough, providing togetherness and unity and supporting everyone to thrive. She is known for being fiercely loyal to her team and credits them for helping her achieve what she has to date. To her, every success is intrinsically linked to teamwork and family.
She is a huge advocate of diversifying the workforce in traffic management, and acts as a proactive ambassador for change. She has contributed to the development of people of all genders at the business, but in particular, mentoring Peterborough’s three female traffic management operatives.
We asked Helen why she joined the industry, how she has navigated the minefield that is being a career mother, the challenges she faces in her role, and how she pays forward the opportunities she has had. She said:

I joined the industry 11-years-ago on a part-time basis when I was at university. The flexible options and good money were appealing, particularly when I had limited time to dedicate to a job whilst studying. I started as a Yard Operative, loading the vehicles on Saturdays and Sunday’s, and repairing frames and lights. I had every intention of leaving once I’d completed my qualification in Criminal Law, but it didn’t pan out that way because I ended up loving it! Once I finished my degree I joined the team full-time and took advantage of every opportunity to build my experience.

I love it because of who I work with. We have a good group of people here, it’s like a family. They accept me, and I can be myself.

After I had my daughter I returned to work as a Sign Maker. This was probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. I felt like a completely different person with new priorities. There was an expectation that I’d dive straight back in and thrive as I have before, although, to be honest, most of that pressure cam from me. It was my team that helped me through. I know it’s a more male-dominated industry, but it didn’t affect my experience. There wasn’t one person who wasn’t supportive.

I’ve also worked as a Quantity Surveyor with our commercial team, but I missed the operational side of the business. I’ve been a Contracts Manager for the past two years, responsible for putting upwards of 50 operational employees to work on the road safely every night. I think the fact I’ve performed most of the tasks I ask people to do helps when I’m communicating with my teams. I feel I can speak on their level about what they’re doing, problems that need solving, their progression plans and things like that. I helps to speak their language when I’m communicating with them. Credibility and respect are so important in what we do, it helps me get the best out of my teams. I helps that they know I’ve been there and done it.

I admit it was hard to be a woman in the industry at first, especially as I had no knowledge of traffic management. There are times when my peers don’t see my potential, especially if they don’t know me. Sometimes people talk down to you or try to invalidate you, but you just have to get on with it because you’ve got a job to do. You quickly grow a thicker skin! I don’t care what anyone thinks of me!

I maybe had to work a little bit harder to prove my worth, but to be honest that’s just how I work! I put my whole self into every role I perform. And I’m naturally quite self-reflective so I continuously work on improving my performance. I’m pretty calm when it comes to conflict, I think the industry probably taught me that, to be honest. I try not to call people out but to bring them into the conversation instead and focus on finding a solution to the problem. In the end, I found that once you’re in the club, you’re in! You’ll never meet a more loyal, dedicated bunch of people. This was evident when it came to returning to work after I had my daughter. At that time, I questioned my capability and got in my own way a bit. I credit my team with helping me manage those experiences.

I’m really proud of the contribution I’ve made to bringing more women into the workplace.

As I said, we have more females here than ever before, and it keeps growing as more women see it as a viable and attractive career just like I have. The women I support, they love their jobs, and they want to progress and do more and more. I think that they see me progress and that makes them feel empowered, and like there is a place here for them. I’m proud that I can be a role model for them.