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Senior Strategic Planner

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What is your role with Renewal SA?

I am a qualified planner working as a Senior Strategic Planner with Renewal SA. I’m currently working on the Lot Fourteen project and I’m responsible for all of the strategic and statutory planning from setting the vision to creating the policy framework as well as managing the design of both the refurbished old buildings and the new buildings soon to be built, including the Entrepreneur and Innovation Centre and the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre.

How did you get started in your field?

I studied Geography at University which I absolutely loved, but unfortunately there weren’t really many career paths in this area so one of my lecturers encouraged me to look into town planning. I went on to complete the Graduate Diploma before getting my first job with a local council as one of their town planners.

Have you found your industry to be very male dominated?

Definitely, when I first started I was the first female planner ever to work for the council. There were over 130 people who applied for the role, with very few females and I think it probably worked in my favour in getting an interview that I was a female applicant, because at that time there was increasing pressure to show gender diversity. Fast forward to today and I’m excited to see more and more women in development and construction, and across the full range of roles from graduates to senior project managers. I am occasionally the only woman in a meeting of 10 but there’s definitely a shift.

Were there any particular challenges you faced when you first started your career?

The challenge for me back then, wasn’t so much fellow council staff – my team was excellent, it was more the residents or the builders and architects I dealt with who just weren’t used to dealing with a young girl in her 20s telling them what they could and couldn’t build. But how I dealt with these situations was I started to build and develop relationships with these groups to the point where they would come and see me to ask for advice. This has really played out in the rest of my career to be able to be successful – it’s really been about developing relationships and trust and this has become a fundamental part of enabling me to do my job well.

What’s helped you to be successful in your industry?

Building relationships and being respectful. And it’s the little things, like thanking a team at the end of a project delivery, that really go a long way.

What have you learnt about yourself over the course of your career?

That my passion is in setting the vision for projects. I do a lot of work that is process based but the foundational aspects of planning and strategy is what motivates me.

I’ve also learnt to recognise the things that I’m not good at and will get help if required. But I love challenges and I love learning new things.

What advice would you give to other women who work or would like to work in your industry?

It’s definitely not so male dominated now so it’s more of a level playing field but I would still say, you need to be aware that it’s a demanding industry and it’s not always easy to have the career breaks many women may need or to come back into a project at a part-time capacity. It’s a lot about availability unfortunately which might mean your career won’t escalate as quickly as you want or that you might not get the opportunity to manage entire projects. That’s not to put anyone off though, it’s just the nature and intensity of these projects make it hard sometimes to balance everything.

What advice would you give to men in your industry to be more supportive of their female colleagues?

Women want meaningful work and they want to be challenged; they want to be in the interesting and challenging parts of the project. And whilst some women may choose to have a career break, it would be great to see more roles and projects structured around that part-time capacity. But this is also no longer limited to females either, I’m seeing more and more males doing modified work weeks for family reasons and this has escalated even more with Covid-19.

So, would you say covid-19 has had some positive effects on the workplace?

Yes, and I see this everyday - how good is that as an outcome of all this is that people can work from home and have that greater flexibility for their families? It took Covid to kind of break that mould that you had to be seen in the office every day and it was only the women doing the school runs. It’s forced a level of flexibility and trust that wasn’t there before, not to mention the productivity benefits that we now all know are genuine despite women having claimed it for so many years!

When you decided to pursue your career, did you give much thought to gender?

I wasn’t thinking about gender and I think most people weren’t either. I didn’t really recognise the lack of females in the industry until I was actually in the workforce.

Being a mum of young children, including a daughter, what advice would you give her in pursuing her career dreams?

I honestly feel the girls we’re raising are gutsy and fierce, these girls are strong and brave. I feel like with whatever this next generation of girls decide to do, they’ve got nothing to worry about. Add to that their personalities and drive, our girls will be fine. It’s a positive sign of where we’re moving. I tell my daughter you can do whatever you want, you really can.

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