‘I try to get home to see my kids at 6.30’ – travel tech boss on balancing corporate leadership with family

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‘I try to get home to see my kids at 6.30’ – travel tech boss on balancing corporate leadership with family

Clare Gilmartin CEO, Trainline – With a busy job and three children, the travel tech boss is determined to show women can balance corporate leadership with a happy family life


On the right track: Clare Gilmartin says Trainline is relatively 'immune' to any fallout from Brexit. Photo: Kieran Harnett
On the right track: Clare Gilmartin says Trainline is relatively ‘immune’ to any fallout from Brexit. Photo: Kieran Harnett

Juggling three children and a full-time job is not easy for anyone, male or female.

But Clare Gilmartin, the Dubliner running Trainline – a Europe-wide train and bus ticket booking app – is “determined” to demonstrate that it is possible to have a fulfilled work and family life.

“Over the last five to 10 years I have become very determined to role-model having a successful career with a balanced family life,” Ms Gilmartin says.

“We can thank previous generations of women for fighting for maternity policies and other things like that. It’s our generation’s job to show that you can have a successful and exciting career and you can get to leadership positions, while at the same time having a happy and balanced family life,” she says.

“It’s our job to prove that that’s possible.”

Balancing family and work life is something the Dubliner says she looks to instil at Trainline, the UK-based company that she took charge of in 2014.

“In general, I try to create a culture at Trainline where we are focused on getting results but not how many hours we spend doing it, and we do get results and we have exceeded all the expectations.

“At the same time I try to get home to see my kids every evening at 6.30pm and my weekends are precious family time, and so far so good with that approach.

“I sometimes think at the back of my mind ‘Will I get found out, is this really going to work for me?'”

The UCD graduate, who gained a degree in Commerce and German, credits the Irish education system in helping her get to where she is today.

“The very fact that I’d had such a broad education in Ireland at school and university level I think set me up to be just a great problem-solver. In technology, when the internet has only been around for 20-plus years I love roles which are part operations and being responsible for results, but also deriving strategy as you go. I find the whole sector hugely stimulating,” she says.

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She’s in Dublin where she’s being honoured by her alma mater at the UCD Business Alumni of the Year 2019 awards.

The UCD Quinn and Smurfit Alumni Awards recognise past graduates who have demonstrated proven leadership skills and notable achievements in business, whether in Ireland or abroad.

“I started out at eBay firstly in the UK but ultimately then was responsible for most of Europe and I just loved it, solving problems that had never been solved before and I found it hugely exciting.”

Ms Gilmartin made the move from eBay to Trainline in 2014. At the time there was talk of Trainline being floated on the stock exchange. It was subsequently bought by global investment from KKR.

For now there is “no immediate plans” to sell the group.

“We have been able to transform the business hugely since then [the KKR acquisition],” Ms Gilmartin says.

“We were historically just a UK and just a rail platform, but we have now expanded out to 45 different countries across Europe and we sell tickets on behalf of 220 rail and coach partners, as we have scaled the business hugely.

“Business is doing well and we have no immediate plans to sell.”

The group has yet to expand into Ireland, however early discussions have been held with Irish Rail. Ms Gilmartin remains “optimistic” on the prospects of entering the Irish market.

“For consumers in general we bring together the whole of the European bus and rail network into one app, meaning a customer can always get the cheapest ticket and they can do so in a very simple way.

“Most rail and bus [tickets] – 60-70pc – across the world are bought offline and we all know that we have to make more sustainable transport choices going forward and increasing use of both train and bus is critical to that. So we are using smart tech to improve the overall access to the rail and bus network.”

Ms Gilmartin sees “only opportunities” for the sector, given, in particular, the environmental benefits of travelling by train.

“It’s a great way to travel and today the overall sector across Europe is held back by virtue of the fact that 60-70pc is bought offline, which means a stressful ticket queue when you think the train is going to leave the station.

“I love that we are bringing technology to that to encourage people to make greater use of the network overall, by just giving them one simple app.”

Despite being based in London, with offices in Edinburgh and Paris, Ms Gilmartin says Trainline is “relatively Brexit immune”.

“We don’t see any impact on the business – people still need to travel.”

However, Ms Gilmartin adds that whatever Brexit eventually means for the UK she believes it’s “in everyone’s interest” to make sure the UK continues to attract the best talent in the tech sector and continue to grow world-class companies.

Understandably, she’s a lover of rail travel in particular. Her favourite train journey then?

“I take the train a lot from London to Cornwall, it’s a route that goes down the south coast of England. It’s absolutely stunning and, to me, there is nothing better than sitting on a train and looking out at rolling countryside or coast. It’s just beautiful.”

Indo Business

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