Director, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel, SRY
Emily Mak is nostalgic when it comes to railways.
Emily recalls travelling across China as a “poor student sitting on the cheapest hard seats” on a long-distance passenger train whilst on a university exchange program and reflecting on the role that railways have in nation building, including Canada.
She and her husband have also talked about taking their children on a cross-country train trip.
So, when Emily was working as a barrister and had the opportunity to work with a rail company as client, she relished it.
“Railroaders are earnest, down-to-earth people. We spent days together and got to know each other in the crucible of high-pressure, high-stakes legal affairs,” she recalls.
Clearly, her client – Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) – was impressed with Emily as well.
The company created the role of Director, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel, and welcomed her to come in-house in late 2017.
Because it was a new role for SRY, Emily has been able to make it her own – to a degree.
On top of the usual agreement drafting and contract negotiations, she also handles public relations, regulatory affairs, environmental, and she is part of the company’s strategic direction.
“I enjoy a lot of latitude and the ability to shape the job into what I want it to be,” Emily says, while acknowledging that not everyone gets such an opportunity and not every woman in rail’s experience is as positive.
“As a woman who entered the railway in a leadership position, I recognize the privilege that I didn’t have to overcome adversity to get here. But like every job on the railway, I have to work hard to stay. I want my performance and competency to speak for itself,” she says.
While Emily’s responsibilities for a diverse portfolio are demanding, she makes it a point for her family to sit down for dinner together every single night. And she hopes her drive and work ethic will set a positive example for her kids.
She also hopes her uncommon path to the C-suite of southern BC’s only short line freight rail company can positively influence leadership culture for the next generation of female railroaders – an idealistic notion perhaps, but one she is working to make reality from within the industry.
Get to know all of our panelist for the Women In Rail event here.