My professional background experience has been with local government. The Building Department has been the last 12 years of my life. I went into it straight out of High School after completing a course in Project Management and Business independently, whilst working full time. And naturally I’ve gradually learnt new things and developed my skills in the building industry throughout my years in local government.
Originally I was thinking “I don’t know what the hell I am going to do. I will take a year off, get a job and enjoyed earning.” But then things changed and the opportunity at the council arose. I started with the City of Stonnington, in the building administration team and then I moved into the Building Local Law team. I was lucky enough to become a technical officer in the Building team for my local area. I then moved out to the City of Melbourne. I have been with City of Melbourne for six years and have been able to develop into a senior role in the construction management group, through continued learning and by being exposed to new, creative and complex projects that the city is exposed to.
I am probably one of those people who you can say started in the lower area of council, in a basic administration team and has had opportunity for progression and development. I think that shows that some organisations are keen to invest in their people and invest in their growth as well.
I feel lucky that I’m a female in the industry. I know I don’t fit the typical profile for council of a male with a building or a trade background. However, I can see too over the last 10 years that the industry has really changed. My Branch Manager is a female and I would never 10 years ago thought we would have a female branch manager. She, for me, has been a mentor and someone to look up to and think ‘That might be me one day.’
I am really fortunate enough to work for an organisation that actually is acknowledging the imbalance between males and females in the workplace. It is not just about in positions, but also in income. City of Melbourne are actively promoting and recognising females in the organisation. I think we need to continue to inspire one another and give each other encouragement, feedback and support to continue to grow. If we continue to do that, then slowly, slowly things will start to change. People are starting to realise that we woman are kind of special and can be valuable contributors in the industry – we know our stuff too! Females I think, are nurturers and we are really good at being organised and can be exceptional at multi-tasking. I think that is valuable. Everybody wants something yesterday and we just seem to get it done.
Having said that, I feel like sometimes every day it does feel like a bit of a challenge. Like you really have to go out to prove yourself. I really feel like that to this day and even though you know everyone is saying, “Ah, we are going to promote our females,” that I still feel that we have to go that extra step. We really do.
My day is a long day. The day can be planned, where I have a set workload and then I can take one phone call and my planned day turns totally upside down. My primary responsibility in my current role is around giving advice on public safety, assessing Construction Management Plan submissions, issuing Local Law permits and trying to bring a balance between the builder’s needs in terms of utilizing public space to facilitate what they need to do and also having that balance for the community as well through the decisions I make. Sometimes it might be trying to be the voice of reason; understanding the two sides and two different perspectives.
I participate in an after-hours service. If there is a problem out of hours we are called. That can be a call at two a.m., or it can be a call first thing Sunday morning. It is full on. It may be a call from a resident to find out what is going on at a construction site. It might be a builder that has run into trouble and they need to work a little longer. Being able to support them is key, but sometimes people don’t realize that we are at home too. We are in bed when they call at two a.m. There are a lot of the times when people vent their frustrations on us and we are the punching bags. But also, you know you have to get up the next day and still go to work. It is testing.
For me the challenge at the moment is technology. I think of myself as one of these people where I am really keen and motivated to use new technology and implement really efficient ways of doing things and then there are some people that are just comfortable doing things the same way that they have been doing it for all many years. Some of the builders that we deal with people ring and say, “Do you have a fax number?”
10 years ago if somebody was brash towards me I probably would have curled up in a ball and cried, literally. I really would have. I would have taken it so personally. However I feel I have learnt to be a little bit more “You know what, let it be. They are not going to change. I can’t change somebody’s bad manners.” I realise I can just continue to be myself, help out with what I can and then they will come around and they will see that I’m only going to assist them… and I could probably be just as helpful as a male, if not more.
I love my calendar and my biggest time management tip is that it is actually okay to book out slices of your calendar to have some uninterrupted time just do get things done. I find that when people see a blank slot in my calendar they just think that I’m doing nothing with that time, so they go ahead and book in a meeting. So I now purposely have blocked out spaces in my calendar and I think that is a great time management tip.
I love home. I love being at home. My husband is really my best friend. I just love chilling with him. We’ve been together for ten years. It has gone really quickly! For me, that is winding down. I love getting the time to spend with my family. I have nieces and nephews. I adore them and I really enjoy that time. Family is so important and it’s what keeps me happy. We have also travelled a fair bit to many beautiful and different parts of the world. We love to explore and create many memories together in the hope to one day share those adventures and stories with our own children.
My parents always said to me, “Work hard and if you think school is tough wait till you get a boss.” and always to just be nice. You just never know what is around the corner.
Earlier this year, Justine had a antipasto platter and some chilled wine waiting for us as we arrived at her beautiful home, for our interview on a Saturday afternoon. It couldn’t have been more relaxed. We are so grateful that she took time out to share some of her work life experiences. She is a great example of those of us who have started at the bottom and gone on to achieve great heights. With practical advice to share, Justine’s down to earth, straight forward and cheerful. Thank you Justine for sharing your story and dreams with us. We wish you all the best for the rest of the year!