Interview: Kirsten Dellis @ Trainline

This week I caught up with Kirsten Dellis, who heads up L&D at The Trainline. It was a great peek under the hood at how L&D looks in a high growth tech company.


One of the reasons I was so interested to speak to Kirsten was that she had worked not only at The Trainline, but also Badoo and She says each had their own distinct identity and challenges. was a small company which rapidly expanded from 50 to 120 employees over the 3 years that she was there. In contrast, Badoo is the world’s largest dating site, with a lean HR team (just 2 people for an office of 250), and a complex product where it’s not always clear what people want(!)


Kirsten’s now at The Trainline, and the company continues to go from strength to strength. The company was acquired by private equity firm KKR two and a half years ago, and Kirsten clearly enjoys the professionalism and focus on the bottom line that this brings. Two years ago the service only covered the UK, but they now operate in 28 countries and just launched in China. With 570 employees across three main offices (London, Edinburgh and Paris), there’s never a dull moment!


As you might expect at a company the size of the Trainline, there are a number of learning initiatives ongoing. Some training is offered on an optional basis, such as their “Manage Your Career” course for junior and mid-level employees. The team has also used external vendors to build specific capabilities such as negotiation on an ad hoc basis. However, the main emphasis is on customising training specifically to The Trainline, and delivering it internally.

Their programme for new team leads is typical of this, itself a comprehensive course of 6 days spread over 6 months. This is delivered internally by the HR team working in pairs to maximise energy and engagement in each session. The course is compulsory across all functions for new managers and external hires, and covers everything from employment law and agile working, to managing teams and dealing with performance issues.


As in many companies at the moment, the Apprenticeship Levy is a hot topic at The Trainline, and something that they are starting to experiment with. As well as trialling one apprentice this year, they are also sending existing employees on approved courses to upskill them. With a minimum commitment of 12 months, it’s not as fast moving as many other projects, but one Kirsten is keen to see develop.

Another new initiative that Kirsten is running is their mentoring programme. Launched just 3 weeks ago, more than 90 people have signed up and roughly split between prospective mentors and mentees. Kirsten is now matching the two together, using information from an onboarding survey about what each is interested in, and her own understanding of the individuals. It’s early days, but with such a strong start she’s understandably enthusiastic about the potential!

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