National Coach Week 24 Spotlight On Jenny Mernagh National Express

Spotlight On Jenny Mernagh, Operations Manager

This week is RHA’s National Coach Week – The UK coach sector employees around 45,000 people across approximately 700 coach operators, handling 400 million passenger journeys, contributing around £6bn to the UK economy each year.

To celebrate National Coach Week, this week, the Women in Bus and Coach “Spotlight On” initiative shines a light on the incredible contributions of women in all roles across the coach sector.

Today we focus on and find out about:

Jenny Mernagh
Operations Manager
National Express

How did you get to where you are today?

I got to where I am today by putting in a lot of hard work and commitment and really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I have worked ever since I was 13 and have tried various different roles.

My first taste of the transport industry was in 2002, I was 18 when I started as a Bus Driver for National Express. I loved the role, I enjoyed the working environment, it was like having a second family. There were not many female drivers at the time when I started but it never felt like a male dominating environment.

After 5 years of being a bus driver and also becoming a mum of two, as much as I loved the role it just did not suit my current situation. From there I went into Childcare and got all my childcare qualifications, a level 5 management and leadership qualification and opened up my own childcare business. It was terrifying, I knew nothing about opening a business, I just had to do the research and dive in head first. It was perfect as it worked round my children and home life and even gave me the opportunity of being a mom for the third time. I had the business for 10 years but always felt there was something missing.

I had the opportunity to work for a coach operator who ran National Express services, it really opened my eyes to another area of the transport industry. It was so interesting, and I really felt I had found my calling. I helped to get them to Gold status in their Evaluation tables and they won an award for most improved operator.

This was where I really fell in love with the coach operation, however there was no room for progression where I was.

I then saw an advert for a Training Coordinator for National Express, it sounded like an interesting role, and I was lucky enough to be offered the role and started back at National Express in November 2017.

Since then, I have had varied roles within the business, some chosen by myself and some I have fallen into. Each role I have had, I have put my heart and soul into to try and make a difference whether it is a benefit to the business or people within the business.

My ultimate goal was to become an Operations Manager and the different roles and training opportunities I have had along the way I believe have moulded me into the manager I am today. I became an Assistant Operations Manager in May 2022 and then I applied for the Operations Manager position in Coach in November 2022. I thought it may be too soon to apply as I had only been an Assistant Operations for 6 months, but I thought I would benefit from the interview experience even if I was not successful.

I was surprised to have been offered the job as Operations Manager. However, the doubt soon kicked in, am I ready for this? I am now 16 months into the role, I have an amazing team behind me, and I couldn’t be happier.

Did you experience any challenges getting to where you are today?

There have been roles I have found quite overwhelming, and I really thought I would fail and had thoughts of giving up.

If so, how did you overcome them?

The roles I did find over whelming, I quickly learnt that you just need to speak to someone, don’t suffer in silence. You don’t realise how a quick conversation can change your whole outlook on everything and can really save you from giving up.

What do you like about the sector?

I like that no two days are the same, it’s challenging, fast paced and there are so many different elements to coach. It’s very hard but so rewarding at the same time.

I also get to work with so many different people every day and there is also a social element to it.

What does a typical day look like?

I would normally start my day by checking in on my team making sure everyone is okay and have regular check ins throughout the day seeing if there are any issues I need to aware of and offering any support they may need.

I would look at KPI’s, Stats and performance for the previous year day and check compliance areas. Always looking to see where we can make improvements.

Meetings with stakeholders and completing set tasks for the day.

I always have an open-door policy where any member of staff can come and speak to you whether it is a concern or just for a chat.

There can be days you may need to drop everything to deal with a situation that has arisen that may need your immediate attention.

Ultimately, we are all working to the same goal to ensure the service runs well and on time and an excellent service is provided to our customers.

What advice would you give to women thinking about a career in the bus and coach sector?

My advice would be to go for it, it is the best thing I ever did. There are so many opportunities in the sector to find the ideal role that suits you. I have always found the sector to have a family feel, you always feel part of a team and included.

What has been your bus or coach sector highlight?

I would have to say passing my Transport Manager CPC first time. It was hard work but a huge achievement for my and I was really proud to be put on the O’Licence as a Transport Manager.

What three things could the bus and coach sector do to improve the industry for women?

  • More things like this to showcase women in the industry and their achievements.
  • Flexible/Family friendly working hours were possible.
  • Toilet facilities for female drivers.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

I am so happy in my role right now I have not really thought about it. I am open to progress in the sector, I would like a role where I can mentor other Operations Managers to share my knowledge and experiences. I think the next natural step would be to become a head of a department, whatever happens I am sure there will be many opportunities to come in my career.

Thank you for sharing your story, Jenny, you are truly an inspiration!

To find out more about who Jenny works for, and career opportunities visit: Home | National Express Careers

National Express are founding corporate members of Women in Bus and Coach.


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