Lynnet Shackles Project Engineer UEA Group  / 

story / Sydney Series / March 21, 2016

I’ve worked in the services engineering sector for five years. I completed my thesis on sustainability of the Australian Paper Mill. I spent a year assessing their processes and developing ways to make it more energy efficient. I started my working career on a joint venture project between South East Water and Theiss. This is where I started my construction work. When I got to NSW, there was an opportunity, with my partner getting a promotion up here, to come along and take a role in the commercial team rolling out the NBN. I’m now a project engineer working for UEA in their Trenchless division.

My first job as Site Engineer was on a reasonably sized capital works project in Hastings, upgrading the sewer and water assets. It taught me that I really enjoy the delivery aspect of engineering. It paved the way for me to move around a little bit with the company. I got an opportunity to work up in Queensland with a FIFO crew. The job was ridiculously disorganised and under resourced. However, it was a valuable experience. It taught me that I can’t micro-manage. There was too much going on. It taught me to let go. I learnt my lesson; I found a better way to manage. Figure out what is fundamentally important to managing people and the job. All the rest is just noise.

I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of managing projects. Getting hands on and having the responsibility is what gets me up in the morning. I really enjoy managing people. It sounds really strange but I like my people to come into work, do their job and have a good day. I feel project management is as much about supporting as it is about coordinating. I really enjoy when it’s been a good day, you tick all your boxes and there’s pipe in the ground. I think that’s what you work towards every day.

If I had my way, I would have quit school very early. I hated school. I would have gone and worked with my Dad. My Dad’s a tiler by trade and a bathroom renovator. My Dad said to stay in school and see how I go. He never pushed it; just let it run its course. Dad’s method seems to have paid off. I ended up studying engineering in Gippsland. I had the maths and science subjects to back me up and a love for materials (wood work) and I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty. Engineering seemed like the natural choice.

Moving away to attend University was challenging. The course was hard. Anyone that says that engineering isn’t hard, is full of it. I was doing chemistry when I hadn’t done chemistry in school since year 10. I had to learn two years of chemistry in six months. And I wasn’t really invested in being there. It was a bad combination. I wanted to be back in Melbourne, I wanted to be back on the beach. It was a struggle for the first year. During third year, I found my niche, found the people. I realised it’s not about letting go, it’s evolving. Everything began to make more sense. It was engaging. The lecturers were a bit more inclined to actively talk to you about subjects rather than just handing course work out. I started working as well.

My partner and I are talking about having kids in the next few years. I’m constantly stressed about where I am in my career; ‘I’ve got to be off site, I can’t have kids and be on site.’ I believe you cannot give one hundred percent elsewhere if you’re on site. Site is like your baby. You’re putting one hundred percent into it and you can’t go home and give one hundred percent as well. Many of the men that work on site have got a wife/partner at home supporting them. They have someone organising the house, buying the groceries, cleaning, making dinner and watching the kids. They can spend all day on site.

It comes back to hours and responsibility. How can women be expected to maintain this level of support whilst pursuing their own full time work commitments? My partner and I both work long hours and we work constantly at trying to maintain a work/life balance that supports each other. It’s about setting a precedent that neither partner’s time nor job is more important than the others.

It’s that innate thing we do. I tell myself off for it all the time. The: ‘I’ll do it’. My partner wipes down the benches; ‘You’re not doing it properly, I’ll do it’…It’s that expectation on males that we want a household to look a certain way because our mother or grandmothers taught us that it’s a women’s domain. But it’s about creating opportunity for the men in our lives to be comfortable and confident and learn how to do things. We expect the same in the workplace. Just because we’re female, doesn’t mean we don’t know how to do a traditionally male job. We have to learn it. We’ve got to give that respect back. The balance needs to shift.

I’ve been a project engineer for a year and a half now off site whilst living in Sydney. It’s a lot easier to balance my lifestyle not being project based. I can manage my own time in and outside of work. It ticks all my boxes socially and professionally. It’s a great workplace with, great people and good money but I need to be more challenged. I don’t know what the next step involves. I always want to be trying something new. I’m keeping my options really open for my future career. I’d like to come back to Melbourne within the next three or four years. Everything is an option at the moment.

My mum didn’t have a saying per se, it was always an attitude. I could do anything I put my mind to. Corny but true. My parents worked for themselves, so time was money. I think their stellar work ethic, a household full of females and a Dad who never once told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, really made me who I am. I had great role models in my family with strong female and male influences. As long as we were working, independent and happy that’s all that mattered.

Gazella spent had brunch with Lynnet at middle eastern cafe Shenkin in Enmore. I mean, who doesn’t love coffee and brunch!? Lynnet has been a long time friend of Danielle’s sister and so our interview had that fantastic informality that one gets among friends. Lynnet is not afraid to call a spade a spade. And in one so young, it’s delightfully refreshing and inspiring. Her confidence is backed by experience and hard yards. Last week we spoke with Suzette about tribes, but speaking with another young woman, who works on site, in that traditional male sphere, one definitely feels a part of a tribe. Or perhaps frontier (wo)men? Either way, we hope you very much enjoyed Lynnet’s authenticity, experiences and views. We sure did. And we wish her well in her future endeavours at UEA Group!


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