I started my career in the UK. I worked for the Probation service for a year after University, thinking that’s what I wanted to do. In the public sector, possibly in England more than here, there’s this culture of ‘them and us’ in terms of management and the rest of the staff. I very quickly found it wasn’t the environment for me.
I applied to a government services company on a graduate scheme within the shipbuilding industry in the UK. They had diversified into other Government services, such as education and construction with the defence industry. By the end of that graduate scheme I’d worked on a number of projects, mainly in education. I ended up on a Ministry of Defence project, working as a project manager, refurbishing a hangar and squadron building.
The reason I came to Australia was that Gregory (my partner) got his secondment. It was a good time to leave the UK for personal and professional reasons. To be honest, I wasn’t enjoying my role any more. I actually did a Prince2 course, over here. And I met a few people. One of the girls on that course recommended me to a guy she worked with and he happened to recruit for DCWC.
I met Alan Findlater (Managing Director at DCWC) in a cafe. He’s not your usual project management professional. He’s got this really calm, cool and controlled persona. When I met with him, I was quite nervous. We were outside and one of those monks came along selling beaded bracelets. We were mid conversation and he bought one and put it on! I decided I wanted the job then. I guessed his email address and emailed him and said ‘I really want to work with you’ and I got a second interview with the other DCWC Directors.
It’s a niche culture here at DCWC. It’s a self-sufficient culture. You sink or swim. For the first six months I was really stressed! It’s quite lean. Basically, you either get on with it and make a success or you don’t. That really suits me, because I dislike being micro managed. I think that’s what makes us good PMs; we are self-sufficient and like to be in control.
Straight out of school I did a History degree. I was academic at school. At school they just told us to do our best subjects at University, because they want the best league tables. I got a first class degree. But I didn’t know what to do with it, so that’s when I went into the Probation service. As I got into project management, I think I realised, (and I think I realise now even more), that I’m suited to it.
London is different from Melbourne in the sense that everyone seems to know each other here. Everyone’s got a story to tell about a certain architect, or how a construction company started, or whose family is linked to who. In the UK you are very much judged on where you went to school and how you speak. I do just feel generally over here people are much more egalitarian and it’s much freer. Generally Australians are much more straight talking. In England we skirt around awkward issues and you have to read into people’s behaviours and what they say.
I worked on the RMIT Consolidation projects recently. From my RMIT experience I have taken the ability or willingness to push things a little bit more and not accept people’s assumptions. In particular, assumptions about who to involve and when to involve people. Also, making sure if you don’t get ‘yes’ from people then you get a clear ‘no’. Push it until you annoy people. Even if people find you annoying, in six months time it will bite you in the arse, if you don’t get a clear directive at that point. That for me was the most important learning.
I think our biggest hurdle as women in industry is babies. Women are still the primary caregivers and until that changes or until that’s recognised and accommodated, then we will never succeed to our true potential. That’s what’s holding us back. If you want a family, even in this day and age you are going to have to sacrifice something. That can mean your salary or your development opportunities.
You actually can’t manage it all. I think people put a lot of pressure on women, including women themselves, to achieve in all spheres of life. But for me, if you’re focused on one thing, you can’t do the other thing in the same way that you were doing it before. You will need to change how you worked, doing fewer hours or working from home, or putting your child into childcare. We have to be realistic.
My mother always told me to keep your shoulders back. My mother was a single mum with three kids and she was doing a degree whilst being a nurse. She became a lecturer in health care. She started doing her phD in palliative care before she died. I learnt self-sufficiency. I look back and think how did she do it?
The first thing that Justine noticed about Jo was her winter jackets. Yes, really. For someone who works on site, dressing in a beautiful winter coat throughout the day, is a non existent luxury. So you notice these things! Justine worked with Jo at the RMIT Consolidation Projects. One of those rare construction projects where it feels like there’s almost a balance of women on the project. That aside, working with Jo was a pleasure. She’s organised and always under control. Her quiet demeanor belies an independence and a strength of character that makes her a very keen operator. She took a fair bit of convincing, when we asked her to take part. But we are super glad she did. And we wish her all the best at DCWC throughout her next exciting project!