Special feature: International Women's Day
A love for the environment and living life outside her comfort zone is what Narelle D’Amico says propelled her to follow a career in engineering.
The Water Services branch manager came to Bundaberg Regional Council from Western Australia and said, looking back, she never thought she would become a manager in a male-dominated industry.
“I completed a Bachelor Engineering (Environmental) Honours so I could be a practical, field-based worker,” Narelle said.
“At university I was horrified at the fact that all engineers became managers, so I challenged myself to go sideways, from being a contractor in the water industry, to a capital works engineer and planning engineer at Hunter Water (NSW).”
Narelle said while her career began progressing, she decided to take a well-earned break to travel with her family.
“I travelled around Australia with my husband and three young children,” she said.
“My youngest was two weeks old when we left.”
Narelle said at the end of their trip she was offered a role with the WA Water Corporation as a Major Works Project Manager, beginning the next phase of her career.
“My role (at Bundaberg Regional Council) is to promote innovation within Water Services through a clear strategic vision and also to raise its profile within Council and the broader community,” she said.
Asked about being a woman in a male-dominated workforce, Narelle said she brings a different perspective.
“It’s not that all males think 2D, but I do think women tend to look at the bigger picture with a more holistic view,” she said.
“Our place of work is heavily centered on people and as a woman I think differently about people— how to motivate and inspire people. I’d like to think that it provides a point of difference.”
Narelle said times are changing, and the Water Services team now has women working as an engineer, an apprentice metal mechanical fitter, three in technical roles, two female lab scientists and others in administration.
“There is absolutely no reason why women can’t do the job at hand, and as the use of technology gets more prevalent we’ll be able to bridge that gap more and more,” she said.
Asked to look into her crystal ball, Narelle said the future water services employee will be someone who knows their community, who is connected with the community and values their contribution.
“Future employees will be continually developing and growing because of all the opportunities out there,” she said.
“Water employees are largely asset managers. As technology becomes more prevalent it will further drive that need for each employee to be an asset manager in their own rights.
“At Bundaberg Regional Council we are currently working on a continuous improvement plan that will see us restructuring an alignment of skills sets.
“We are focusing our efforts on an electronic works system; it’s all about working smarter and empowering the operators.
“We are changing the way we do things, and it’s great to be a part of it.”
Passion for the environment
Having a passion for the environment, Narelle said it was nature enthusiasts like David Attenborough and Tim Flannery she looked up to the most.
“If I wasn't in the career I am now, I would still be working to help the environment,” she said.
“I would be doing sustainability consulting, providing insight into how people can reduce our impact on the planet.”
Narelle said she was continually learning new things during her engineering career and said the best piece of advice she had for others was to always ask for help.
“You don't need to know everything!” she said.
“Also, don't be afraid of doing what you want to; dreams don’t live in your comfort zone.”