In profile with Elizabeth de Jong, CEO UKPIA

Our special monthly feature which gives you the opportunity to ‘meet’ an industry figure and, hopefully, to discover another side to them beyond the well-known facts. In September’s edition we chat with Elizabeth de Jong, CEO UKPIA.

In profile with Elizabeth de Jong of UKPIA – an industry voice who has no fear of public speaking but isn’t quite as brave on the ski slopes


Give your career history in 25 words or fewer

Decision making and delivery: from cost benefit analysis to complex political and stakeholder decision making. Private sector, public sector and at the interface.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Determined, focussed, resilient

What were your childhood / early ambitions?

I wanted to be a paediatrician during my junior school years

Describe your dream job (if you weren’t doing this?)

Interim work – making a difference in a short time

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

I am a huge fan of Good to Great by Jim Collins, and everything in it. I keep a copy next to my desk.

Share your top tips for business success

Be very clear what your organisation exists to do and make sure everything your organisation does has purpose. Keep simplifying until this is achieved.

What’s your most recent business achievement of note?

My ultimate trade association achievement was when the DfT Future of Freight Plan published this year mirrored the objectives for the future of the industry that my organisation had set out. We had evidence that our work had been directly influential.

Tell us your greatest fear

I am a bit of a coward on the ski slopes.

Which is most important – ambition or talent?

Ambition, then employing the right talent.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working out how to facilitate a strong future for a valuable industry and working with interesting people.

Which is the quality that you most admire?


What are you most likely to say?

What’s the plan?

What are you least likely to say?

Swear words.

Describe your perfect day

A good cup of coffee and then a day of skiing with the family. I love skiing holidays as mastering the physical activity is so absorbing that I have no room in my brain for my usual constant analysis.

Do you have a favourite sports team?

I have a Sheffield Wednesday mug from my childhood, but now I tend to cheer on whatever polo team my daughter is playing for.

What’s the biggest challenge of our time?

Our response to climate change will affect all our economic and social activity. But restrictions on free speech and real debate are also very concerning.

Cheese or chocolate?

Chocolate – dark please.

Share your greatest personal achievement

Will do so in forty years.

What’s your pet hate or biggest irritant?

Table manners.

If you were on ‘Mastermind’ what would your specialist subject be?

Table manners (see question above!)

If you were elected to government what would be the first law you’d press for?

I’d been keen to sort out the future of fuel duty pretty quickly. This country and others face a looming budgetary black hole which needs to be addressed in the right way.

If your 20-year-old self saw you now what would they think?

Life is going quite well.

What is number 1 on your bucket list?

Keeping up with my immediate family. They live in India, Indonesia, The Netherlands, France and Australia.

What 3 things would you take to a desert island?

A comfy bed, a hot shower and a bible.

Tell us something about you that people would be very surprised by

I am one of the few people who enjoy public speaking enough to do it as a hobby.

Who would you most like to ask these questions of?

Andrew Haines, CEO Network Rail. I’ve worked with him on and off during my career and have always valued his perspective.