Picture the scene if you will, there I am standing in the wings about to enter the stage to announce the winner of the 2019 Young Coach Industry Professional. The tension is mounting, and Carol Kirkwood, the BBC weather girl is introducing me, and bang, On I stroll into the spotlight and a drizzle of light applause. The next thing that I know is that I am then giving my advertorial about why all not just young people should join CILT, and then with added dramatic flourish I am opening my gold envelope and announcing the winner.

Happy days indeed, and I have to say that it is a nice job presenting awards to people who deserve them. And this years winner was very worthy, indeed when I announced her name the noise that emanated from the National Express Coach table was palpable. This lady certainly was a popular winner, and it was great to see her peers and senior managers being so pleased for her.

Paula Russell joined NX as Customer Services Advisor in 2015. Since then her rise has been quite staggering. Today she manages two of the larger coach stations at Bristol and Cardiff. She also has a team of 14 customer services operatives across both locations. She demonstrates a very positive can do attitude that has endeared her to customers and employees alike. Interestingly when I look back on the Young professional awards that I have give out I am delighted to say that overall I have given out a few to ladies. And when one considers the significant gender imbalance in our great industry. It just goes to show how competent these young winners are, and against a background traditionally of very strong candidates. How do I know because I have been a judge and I know just how thorough the judging process actually is. Invariably in the case of the Bus awards the shortlisted candidates have to physically turn up and present to an expert panel of complete strangers and under go a grilling on the back of it. And let me tell you standard is very high, so selecting a winner is tough challenge but a worthy and inspiring one.

So, very well done Paula, as with every other winner over the last few years I also presented her afterwards with the golden envelope and the paper with her name written on it. And as I always say to them, keep this as a keepsake of winning the award, you should be proud of it and one day tell your children and maybe even your grandchildren. You never know one day it might inspire them to follow in your footsteps. Nothing wrong with that.

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