David Waboso is the managing director of Group Digital Railway at Network Rail. David joined Network Rail in June 2016 as MD of Group Digital Railway after eleven years at London Underground Limited leading the upgrade of both trains and infrastructure to digital technology.
He has worked on infrastructure projects for over thirty years and has previously held senior positions at the Strategic Rail Authority, The Nichols Group and Bechtel Corporation.
David also spoke about why he chose a career in engineering and the challenge of railway engineering in a short video series at the Academy, Designed to Inspire.
“Delivering fundamental improvements to the way hundreds of thousands of people commute each day has been a hugely rewarding challenge. ”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
I am leading a rail industry transformation programme to deliver digital technology and associated skills and process change to increase capacity and performance for passengers and freight customers.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I was not initially clear that I wanted to pursue engineering as a career, as I come from a family where medicine was an obvious first choice. After seeing the huge and positive impact engineering can have on society I was sold on it! For a short time in the early 80s, I also taught maths in London, which I hugely enjoyed. I have spent many years in transport, which is a huge passion for me because being able to travel to and between places efficiently is so important for most people. Delivering fundamental improvements to the way hundreds of thousands of people commute each day has been a hugely rewarding challenge.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Being able to bring about positive change for passengers. For example, in my early career I worked on transport and water supply improvements in West Africa, then on the M25, which has had a massive impact on travel, then on the DLR and Jubilee line extension both of which were essential to docklands. More recently, I led the tube upgrades that have helped keep London as a leading work city.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
I am hugely proud of my family and children and I take great pride from their achievements. From a work perspective, I look back at all the infrastructure investments that as part of great teams, have been successfully delivered.
How do you think racial parity in engineering can be achieved?
Through education, providing fair opportunities and role modelling engineering as a great career. We all need leaders as role-models to influence the talent that undoubtedly exists and show that building a great career is possible for the engineers of today, like me. We need to continually reach out and engage with schools and students to provide insights to careers in engineering and the opportunities that exist.
Has being a BAME engineer had an impact on your career either positive or negative?
I firmly believe you should strive to be the best you can be, no matter what your background is. No matter what you are asked to do, do it brilliantly. As a leader, encourage all members of your team to contribute and provide opportunities for growth. Use informal networks to promote internships and secondments to give valuable experience to those who might otherwise be excluded. Above all, treat everyone with courtesy and respect.
It would be fair to say that I have worked very hard in my career and have overcome many challenges, but no different to anybody else who is driven to develop their career and provide and deliver excellent quality work. I have pushed myself because I have wanted to achieve personal career satisfaction through delivering great engineering solutions. I was also very fortunate in having some great role models in my early career who both supported me and challenged me in equal measure. They are the lasting legacy of positivity and commitment for me.
How has the ethnic diversity of the profession changed since you started working in engineering?
It has certainly changed from when I started out on my career as an undergraduate and MSc student in the late 1970s. However, the same truths still apply - work hard, be resilient, do well in whatever you are asked to do and treat everyone you meet, from cleaners to CEOs, with the same human courtesy. Also, as a leader, recognise the positive impact you can have through provisioning fair opportunities for all.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Without doubt it’s a great career choice if you want to innovate, change and create. You can apply your knowledge and insights in so many industries, regardless of the discipline of engineering you choose. You can work across many sectors and countries. You will never be short of work anywhere in the world. As we look to grow our economy and exports, there has never been a better time to enter the engineering profession as British engineering is highly respected around the world.