A day in the life of our Head of Projects & PMO

Last updated: Thursday, 5 August 2021

This month, we chatted to Kirsty Devlin, our Head of Projects & PMO, who joined ScotRail back in 2003. Here's what she had to tell us about her role...

As Head of Projects & PMO (Programme Management Office) I manage a team of Project Managers and Project Control Managers to ensure that we as a team deliver projects for ScotRail on time and on budget to the scope and quality our customers need. We work for internal customers delivering projects on behalf of ScotRail.

Kirsty Devlin onsite wearing protective gear

What sort of projects does the team work on?

There is a lot of variety to what we work on such as:

  • Station enhancements such as the projects at Motherwell and Aberdeen
  • Ticket gate installations to generate revenue
  • New trains introductions
  • Projects in depots like shore supply or enhancements to stabling facilities

And even building a complete station from scratch – something we did for the first time with Robroyston station.

Are all projects on a large scale?

Projects can be large or small and we also work for external customers like local authorities and Network Rail. On large Network Rail schemes like the Aberdeen to Inverness Improvement Project, Borders Railway or depot projects like Millerhill or Cadder, we have a project manager who provides the project delivery team with requirements and scope for what ScotRail needs to deliver for our customers. This includes information such as what facilities we need at stations and depots - from things like facilities and equipment for staff in buildings, to facilities at stations for our customers like ticket machines, shelters etc. and where they should go.

The Programme Management Office ensures we have the right project controls, reports, finance and governance in place for projects and that the Project Managers have support to do the job.

What’s your favourite thing about your role?

My favourite thing about my role is managing a great team and the variety of different projects we get involved in. There are a lot of challenges in delivering successful projects but that makes it more interesting. I like getting out and about and meeting lots of different people around the network.

Kirsty Devlin Projects group photo

What does a typical working day (if there is such a thing?!) look like for you?

A typical day for me at the moment would be a lot of Teams meetings! There are project team meetings with the PM’s and PCM’s, or meetings with external and internal stakeholders or design teams about project scope and finance plus meetings with Transport Scotland, our key stakeholder. I also try to get out and about on a site visit to one of our station or depot projects when I can.

This last year with the pandemic must’ve been tough for yourself and the team, did it impact how you were able to carry projects out?

Yes, it affected contracts for projects when we were about to sign for Motherwell and Aberdeen station redevelopments and our stakeholders and funders were understandably nervous about the future. We managed to do this and get on site with two major projects so this was a big achievement.

The team has managed remarkably well given the constraints on site with all the added safety and physical distancing measures. Not being able to bounce ideas off each other as easily due to working from home when not out on site has also been challenging. We’ve had some new starts in the team too which was difficult as they didn’t know the rest of the team and had to get to know them remotely, plus learn their new role.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be Head of Projects & PMO?

I’ve worked in Projects since 2007 and was lucky enough to work on every new station in Scotland during a period of great investment and infrastructure changes. I was appointed to the role of Head of Projects in June 2019 when it became available. We had further team changes at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and I was lucky enough to be appointed to the new post of Head of Projects & PMO, managing the Project Controls team as well as the Project Managers.

What’s been your proudest achievement working for ScotRail?

Probably two if I’m allowed! The first one was winning Rail UK Project Manager of the Year in 2018 for managing the project to introduce Class 365 trains temporarily on the ScotRail network, also fondly known as the “happy trains”.

And the second is meeting HM the Queen in 2015 at the opening of the Borders Railway. It had been a very intense few months preparing for the public opening of the railway as well as the royal opening. There was a lot of work involved in getting all the stations ready, managing the steam train for the royal opening and local community “golden ticket” trains. It was a long six days of events and “firsts” but worth it.

Kirsty Devlin winning award

If someone reading this fancied joining the Projects Team in the future, what advice would you give them?

Go for it! We have a great team and it’s a fantastic opportunity to get involved in lots of different things. No two days are the same and the work is varied and covers our whole network. It is satisfying when you see projects come to fruition, delivering real benefits to our staff and customers.

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