Inspirational Woman: Amy Morley | Programme Controls Director, HS2

Meet Amy Morley

Programme Controls Director, HS2

Amy Morley is the Programme Controls Director at High Speed 2 (HS2) Ltd, and a Trustee on the Board of the Association for Project Management (APM).

HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. When built, it will be Britain’s new zero-carbon high speed rail line from London to the North-West, with HS2 trains linking the biggest cities in Scotland with Manchester, Birmingham and London.

Amy talks about her career journey, and offers advice to others considering a career in project controls and project management.

What education and previous jobs led you to your role at HS2?

I started my career as a personal assistant, and have worked in progressively more senior roles, gaining experience and qualifications in project controls and project management by working on large and complex projects across the BBC, the Cabinet Office and HS2 Ltd. 

While I was working at the BBC, I discovered a real passion for project management, realising that it gave me the ability to deploy both my organisational skills and drive for delivery, providing the challenge and career that I was looking for.

After five years at the BBC, I joined the Cabinet Office as an Office Manager, where I trained and built up my knowledge and experience to become a project manager, completing the APMP [now the APM Project Management Qualification], Prince 2 and MSP (programme management) qualifications.  As a result, I went on to lead the project management of a multi-billion-pound programme in the Cabinet Office – delivering a major policy of devolving powers from central government to local authorities.

I knew at this point that I had found the right career for me. I immediately enjoyed the challenges it presented. While at the Cabinet Office, I started a distance learning degree in Business Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

During this time, HS2 was ramping up and I was keen to contribute to such an enormous and important programme. I joined as Head of Project Controls, supporting the delivery of the Phase One Hybrid Bill, which gave HS2 the powers to build Phase One of the railway. I worked in this role until the Bill achieved Royal Assent in 2017.

After this part of the programme was delivered, I took up a role working for the CEO as Chief of Staff. This wasn’t the obvious next step in a project controls career path, but it was the best decision I could have made in terms of experience and learning. It provided me with an opportunity to work alongside the CEO, supporting the Executive team to deliver key programme and organisational priorities. I learnt so much in this role and this experience became the catapult for the next steps in my career journey.

It was at this point – eight years after I started studying – that I graduated with a BSc in Business Management and became a Chartered Project Professional through APM.

I felt it was time to move back into project controls and was offered the opportunity to be the Project Management Office (PMO) Director at HS2, with responsibility for setting enterprise-wide standards for project controls and project management. I was elected as a Trustee on the Board of APM in November 2019 and will be standing again for re-election this year. I have really enjoyed working with colleagues across different sectors and contributing to the overall progress of the profession.

Earlier this year, HS2 combined the project controls functions for Phase One and Phase Two with the PMO to create a Programme Controls directorate for all phases of HS2. I was appointed as the Programme Controls Director and now lead the provision of cost management and estimating, risk management, schedule management, performance reporting, programme integration, change, systems and tools, and project management capability to support the delivery of HS2.

What have been the biggest challenges you have encountered on your career path?

Finding the time to continue personal development while juggling work commitments. It took me eight years to complete my university studies while working full time. Finishing a long week, it was a challenge to find motivation and energy to continue to study in the evenings and at weekends. However, I really believe that investment into your own continuous learning and development is key to staying relevant and continuing to be successful.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I have always been motivated by where I work. I love knowing that my work is contributing to the delivery of a new high speed railway which will benefit the UK for future generations.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I don’t think it’s possible to pinpoint just one thing – it has been a combination of hard work, pursuing and embracing opportunities, selecting organisations that I really care about, working with a great team of people, focussing on personal development and being open to learn from every experience.

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What advice would you give to someone considering a career in project management, including someone looking to change career?

Go for it! Project controls and project management are fantastic disciplines which provide a wide range of career paths and opportunities in a number of sectors.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Everyone’s journey is different – you don’t have to walk the same path.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for gender equality within the project profession, what would it be?

I am extremely fortunate to work for an organisation like HS2 which is genuinely focussed on Gender Equality. Our organisation is 37% women and we have parity on the Executive team.

I have a two-year-old daughter and I am expecting a second child in December. I have been fully supported by HS2 to continue to pursue my career ambitions with a young family.

However, I know from friends and colleagues in other organisations, that this is not commonplace. If I could change one thing to accelerate change for Gender Equality, it would be to encourage companies to provide support to working mothers in the workplace who want to continue to pursue their career.

Our industry is facing a significant skills gap, so for me it’s essential that we normalise partners taking a bigger role in childcare, and support employers to create and enable career paths to attract and retain the best women in the industry.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Right now, I am focussed on driving innovation and best practice in project controls at HS2. We have made significant progress and are leading in a number of areas, but there is always more to do and to learn from other programmes.

Following maternity leave at the end of this year, I will return to work next summer, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to both HS2 and the project controls profession.

Amy Morley will be speaking at APM’s Women in Project Management conference on 22nd September, where she will be part of a panel discussion ‘Managing your career journey: Stories from women in leadership’. For details and how to book, visit apm.org.uk

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