I studied Civil Engineering at The University of Technology of Sydney. I had my heart set on being an industrial designer or architect. I was absolutely devastated that I didn’t get the marks required for industrial design. I only missed out by a very small amount.
I had no idea what to do next and my mother suggested I look into engineering. When I turned up to my first lecture, there were one hundred and ten new students and only ten females. I thought ‘I’m onto something here. Maybe I should stick with this!’ I never transferred to industrial design as planned…
I’ve never designed a thing in my life and I’m quite proud of it. I started my career as a site engineer on an infrastructure project whilst completing my studies. I worked for a couple of major contractors before getting into project management consultancy when I was about twenty five. I have been managing projects ever since.
As a Project Director, my job is to oversee the delivery of a number of projects from early stages to completion and handover. I ensure the teams are performing beyond expectations, the projects are meeting their objectives and most importantly that the Client is happy. There is always a lot going on across the many projects I oversee. I need to be able to resolve a broad range of concurrent issues while remaining focused on delivery.
I work full time. I have two gorgeous boys and a very supportive husband. Juggling family and full time work can be quite challenging. I just do it! I try not to overthink it. I would fall apart if I did. I’m a family person. I love my home and spending time with the boys. I want to be involved in every aspect of their lives and I want to be part of the school community. At the same time I’m ambitious, I love my projects and I want to succeed in my career. I want to be there for the boys probably more often than I am, but at the same time I don’t want to drop the ball at work. It can be tough having such conflicting aspirations.
When the boys were little, I worked part-time for the first few years after they were born. When I increased my days, I worked from home a couple of days a week. I was very lucky to work for a progressive organisation who not only understood, but supported my need for flexibility at work. There was never a question asked about my commitment to my work. The industry has come some way towards flexible working hours and gender diversity, but not far enough. We have a long way to go.
I get such a thrill going back to projects I was a part of years before and experiencing how people have embraced the built product. I am particularly passionate about creating new communities that foster social interaction and a sense of belonging. Places where people can live, work and play with a shared sense of values, traditions and customs. Projects continue to evolve for many years after they are delivered.
I have always worked hard and I have always worked with passion. I knew where I wanted to go but for a long time I didn’t know how to get there. I never really pushed for promotions or pay rises. I have had a couple of champions in the past who believed in what I could do and supported me in my progression. I do look back now and think I could have achieved a lot more if I had pushed for opportunities. Now I really encourage staff, not just females, that you need to know what you want and you have to push for the right opportunities that will get you there.
Self-promotion is so important within any organisation and within the industry as a whole. I haven’t come across many females in this industry that are good at it. I have come across plenty of males who are fantastic at it! I think females feel the need to be extraordinarily brilliant all the time to feel comfortable with self-promotion. We need to acknowledge and celebrate our contributions a lot more often.
In consultancy at a senior level, converting business and bringing in new revenue are key performance indicators. Personally, I think it can be challenging for females to do. Male and female friendships are very different. Many of us don’t have broad networks, we don’t have time to have mates and we don’t have the old boys network. You need a broad and deep network to do business.
I think the perception about what the industry can offer women needs to change. Yes, it is pretty blokey but it is changing. We need more female role models. We need more women in senior management and in decision making positions. Women like myself and others need to raise our profile. We need to positively promote the industry as being a good place for females. Women at entry level need to know that there are other women that have made a success of this industry and who effectively juggle a fulfilling career and family.
‘How did you make the decision to have children, when you were working really hard in a male dominated industry?’ I didn’t even think about it. I would never have had my children it if I had thought too hard about it. I just did it! And trusted things would work out one way or another. And it is all working out just fine.
I tell my sons so much. Apart from ‘Clean up after yourselves and keep the house tidy!’ I tell them to be honest and happy, persistent, resilient and passionate, believe in themselves and work hard. Work really hard! AND live life to the fullest. I think that’s the key.
Justine and Danielle traveled to Sydney a few months ago. We won’t deny it was partially for a weekend away in the beautiful Sydney sun, however it also was a chance for us to meet with some inspiring women. Over the next five weeks, Gazella will bring you our Sydney Conversation Series reflecting on the movements of five extraordinary women (inclusive of Adriana) that are not afraid to have a frank discussion. These conversations will reveal their experiences, learnings and thoughts surrounding their work life. We hope you enjoy our wonderful guests, good conversation and great stories.
We met Adriana in Mosman at Fourth Village Providore, sharing coffee as the weekend market buzzed around us and her two boys sat quietly enjoying Rocky Road! Adriana was so warm and open. She talked of being genuine, something she exudes in bucket loads. She has such a realist view on life in balance. And her success is such a reflection of her smarts and her drive. The boys have an amazingly strong willed mother to learn from and look up to. We’re very excited to have met the Malin family and wish them all the best in their endeavours throughout 2016.