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The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Dyan Crowther

Dyan Crowther CEO HS1 Ltd
Dyan Crowther, CEO, HS1 Ltd

Dyan has over 30 years’ experience in the rail industry. Prior to joining HS1 Ltd, she was the Chief Operating Officer at Govia Thameslink Railway. She is currently NED for East West Railway, a Member of the Advisory Panel to Crossrail and a Trustee for Women in Rail.

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

This week we are starting to look at what returning to the office will look like. This includes developing “back to work” policies and processes. We are currently doing the maths to establish how many people we can have back at any time out of our team of 55.

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month? 

Economic recovery and corresponding forecasting. HS1 Ltd’s income originates from two main sources: regulated and non-regulated. On the non-regulated side, a number of our retailers are starting to open, including Fortnum & Masons outlet. However, they need customers, so we need to predict what the bouceback is going to be in terms of future passenger demand for train services.

On the regulated side we work with two main operators: Southeastern and Eurostar. Southeastern is currently running a full timetable, but Eurostar’s service has been significantly reduced. Correspondingly, we need to understand how international traffic is going to come back given the revised arrangements around quarantine and what we can do as a high-speed system to encourage demand for the future.

Best thing about working from home/remotely?

One gets a chance to do things they would not normally do. I now have a morning personal trainer session four times a week and get on my bicycle more often. (Im doing a charity challenge to Vietnam hopefully later this year) My office these days is my walk-in wardrobe, since working from an open plan dining room with 4 other people at home did not prove to be feasible. My children bought me a cardboard cut-out of George Clooney, in case I get lonely! He stands to the side of my desk and makes the occasional appearance on Zoom calls!

Worst thing about working from home/remotely? 

I miss socialising and office banter. It is more difficult to look after people’s wellbeing remotely. People are social beings and like to socialise. In order to offset this, we have created a “lunch hub”, allowing interested colleagues to eat lunch together. We also do quiz nights and drinks online.

What is the most significant change to the way you work as a consequence of the lockdown?

We had flexible working in part at HS1 Ltd before the pandemic and our systems, including IT, were supportive of remote working. So, transition to working remotely was quite smooth, including conference calls and board meetings. Having said that, I do find chairing virtual board meetings quite tough.

What change are you most likely to keep and what will you definitely not continue, post lockdown

We will keep the principle of remote and agile working and will try to increase the percentage of remote working for the team. Hopefully it will allow us to tap into a bigger resource pool to make sure we continue to attract the best people to work for the business.

Longer working days will need to go. In normal life a working day has a structure since you need to travel to and from work. In a lockdown, you get up earlier and are still working past 7pm!

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

My children, they have been brilliant and inspiring. We currently operate a cleaning and the gardening roster and its very democratic! Uncertainty and difficult circumstances could be quite difficult for young adults, but they just get on with their jobs and even have time to learn new skills. Overall, this had been a positive time for our family unit. We hardly even watch TV as a family, we spend quality time going for walks, playing board games and learning poker.

Best programme/film you watched on TV/streaming this week?

I watched all 7 seasons of Homeland on Netflix.

Are you doing more or less exercise than a typical week when you commute and if more, what?

More, including gardening, cycling and personal trainer sessions.

What are you consuming more of (that you should not be) now you are not in an office environment?

Takeaway curries.

Any words of wisdom?

Trust in your own ability and don’t forget to keep having lots of conversations. You have not lost any of your skills and experience just because there is a lockdown!