This Little Girl Is Me

This Little Girl Is Me

Each year, on 11th October, Inspiring Girls International runs a global online campaign to celebrate International Day of the Girl – This Little Girl Is Me.

To celebrate, we showcased some of the inspirational Women who are driving forward and supporting the new Women in Bus Coach initiative:

Louise Cheeseman FCILT CIRO, Director of Bus, Transport for London

This little girl is me…

Louise Cheeseman

As an only girl of a household of three brothers in the 60’s I was told that staying on at school wasn’t necessary as I would get married and have children and therefore a career wouldn’t be important to me. My mother had given up a promising career in technical drawing to raise the family while my father went out to work.

I left school at 16 and joined a bank before having two daughters at aged 20 and 22 and leaving to raise them as a housewife until my marriage ended when I was aged 39 and I had to start looking at how I managed on my own, with ‘my girls’.

My career started when I was 40 (2001), finding a role as a guard in rail to support my two daughters through university, as a single parent with no financial support from their father.

In 2018 I became Managing Director of a train operating company in the North of England and then moved on to become Director of Buses at Transport for London. I hope that I have proved to other women in a similar situation that your career can start at any age without any qualifications. The only person stopping you is YOU!

Transport has given me so much, and I would highly recommend it to anybody wanting variety and opportunity to grow.

This little girl is me…

Julie Hartley, Sales Director Irizar UK

This little girl is me…

Julie Hartley

She grew up in a loving, working-class family, the youngest of three children.

She struggled academically, not being able to read, spell or work with numbers, and her Head Mistress at school asked her mother why she was so stupid when her siblings were not.

What everyone had missed was that those “daydreams” that she was castigated for were actually epileptic episodes. At 14, after suffering 2 very severe fits, understanding finally came. Medication was prescribed and to the little girl it felt like a light bulb switched on in her head.

She studied hard, moved on from the bullying that had accompanied the education struggles and secured an Apprenticeship at Massey Ferguson.

Work was a whole new world.

At work she was told by her training manager that being the only girl she would need to work twice as hard as the boys – and she did!

She did everything from building tractors on the factory floor, to drawing tractors for international training materials, from working at exhibitions to driving a combine harvester.

From tractors she moved to trucks and into supporting a sales team. Nobody thought she could actually sell – that was men’s work!

But a customer recognised something in her – she accepted the chance to change again – despite lots of advice not to, she went to rent Buses and Coaches.

It was a different industry – gradually she met with lots of amazing women running their own businesses or taking on traditionally male roles. She felt at home. Finally.

Now a Sales Director of a successful coach dealership, she still sometimes struggles with self-doubt and imposter syndrome. But she pushes that aside. She remembers the little girl who couldn’t read or write and everything she has achieved since.

This little girl is me…

Kerri Cheek, Senior Bus Safety Development Manager, Transport for London

This little girl is me…

Kerri Cheek

Growing up I wanted to be a writer, I loved to read and dream, let my imagination roam free. With my mum’s encouragement, I loved being creative; it was my escape from an unhappy homelife.

I worked hard, achieved academically, and pushed myself, always seeking the next challenge, but without any clear idea of what I wanted to be any more or where I belonged. Until one day I found transport, or it found me. My career hasn’t been a straight path but almost 20 years later I’m grateful l that I look forward to going to work every day, that I have a career I enjoy and can be proud of, one that I can be creative in and push the boundaries. I’ve found my people and a place to belong.

In some ways this little girl is still me: I still look for the rainbows and the silver linings; I still love to learn; and I still love to dream. I still let my imagination roam free, but now it’s often on dog walks in the countryside, with my two daughters collecting leaves and snails and conkers. Coming full circle, I am encouraging my daughters to believe in themselves, and I wonder what exciting things they will achieve?

This little girl is me…

Jennifer Tocknell, Head of Engineering & Operational Safety for National Express LTD

This little girl is me…

Jenny Tocknell

From a very early age I was interested in Transport, my interest was sparked when I studied a GNVQ Advanced in Leisure & Tourism at College.

I began my career as a bus driver at Lea Hall Depot in the West Midlands in 2003, passing my PCV test 3 months after my car test. My career was then launched and I began to climb the career ladder in Operations.

I studied a Master’s Degree in Business Admin in 2017 with 3 children all under the age of 5. I graduated in 2019 with a distinction.

I am currently the UK Head of Engineering & Operational Safety for National Express studying a Masters Degree in Psychology. Learning has always been a huge part of a career and it is important to keep on learning.

This little girl is me…

Lorna Murphy, Operations & HR Director at Abellio London

This little girl is me…

Lorna Murphy

What a powerful day, sending messages and advice to our younger selves, our daughters, our sisters, our friends, the younger generation. It feels even more meaningful now that I have a 2-year-old daughter too.

My advice to my younger self, and my daughter, would be:

  • There is no limit on what you can achieve, set your sights as high as you like and go for it
  • Make mistakes and fail fast, learn from it and be/do better the next time
  • Challenge things that aren’t right and fight for what you believe in
  • Work hard while finding the right balance for you
  • Find your joy
  • Make time for something you love doing
  • Always keep an open mind and try new things
  • Look forwards, try not to dwell on the past

This little girl is me.

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