10 Questions: Rachel Turnbull

November 30, 2016

Rachel Turnbull joined the team developing the £360 million New Tyne Crossing in November 2007 and played a key role in the delivery of the project. As CEO of TT2, operator of the Tyne Tunnels, Rachel holds full responsibility for the project’s investment and company operations. She is a fellow chartered accountant, a fellow chartered director with the Institute of Directors and is the youngest chartered director in the northern counties. Rachel is also a non-executive director of Darlington Building Society

What was your first break in business? 

I would say my first break was actually my business and finance degree from Northumbria University. As part of the course, I completed an undergraduate placement with the Post Office head office in London, which subsequently turned into an offer of a place on their finance graduate programme. It was quite a prestigious placement for an undergraduate and a very intense graduate scheme where I was supported in studying my accountancy qualifications.

What did you want to be growing up? 

Believe it or not, I actually wanted to be an accountant. I always recall a careers advice exercise at school when I was 11 or 12 years old. People didn’t believe me when I say that I very clearly knew I either wanted to be an accountant or a doctor. I’m not sure what that says about my personality!

What attracted you to your current role?

I love a challenge, and with my current roles working for TT2, Darlington Building Society and a brand new project in the North East, I guess that shows that the attraction must be around the challenge. I also need to feel that I add value in every company or project I am involved in.

What is your company or organisation’s mission? 

As I work for a number of organisations in very diverse sectors; the missions are all very different in nature. TT2 is based around customer service levels and predefined investor returns, while Darlington Building Society is an independent and thriving society which is at the heart of the community, and as for the new project… watch this space!

How do you get the best out of your staff? 

Empowerment and finding the right people for the right roles. That said, it’s often difficult to achieve this in one go. Empowering managers to grow and develop and use you as a source of knowledge, leadership and support is how I perceive getting the best out of a team. Honesty and openness can also play an important role as it develops a culture of dealing with and resolving issues in a collaborative and trusting environment.

What has been your career highlight? 

In terms of my own development, I am extremely proud to have become a chartered accountant and a fellow with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a chartered director and a fellow of the Institute of Directors – all at a relatively young age. At TT2, completing the second crossing on time and on budget was also a career highlight. The second crossing was opened by HM the Queen, which was very special for us all.

What has been your biggest challenge? 

Getting ready for the royal visit in 2012 was a huge challenge. The whole process, from guests to royal security protocols, had to be managed, while the site had to be immaculate and everything had to be executed perfectly.

Who or what inspires you? 

Women that have broken the glass ceiling. Women such as Heidi Mottram of Northumbria Water Limited and Anne Richards of M&G Investments, both of whom can influence beyond boundaries and command a boardroom in a positive manner. They have inspired me, not only in my career, but to become a role model myself. I have two little girls of my own and I want Lily and Ava to know the sky is the limit.

What are your organisations’ short and long-term goals? 

At both TT2 and Darlington Building Society our goals are to be at the heart of the community, and to successfully manage our customer expectations. In times of economic uncertainty, people need services they can rely on.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance? 

I find this question difficult to answer as a good balance is different for everyone. The way I view the definition of a good work/life balance is when the whole family unit is happy. In my case, I achieve this with the help of a very understanding husband. When I moved into executive-level roles, my husband became the primary carer for our two daughters. This enabled me to concentrate on my career with the safe knowledge that my daughters are with the best dad in the world.

Tyne Tunnels

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