Women In Innovation
When I started my career as an electrical engineer, the traditional career trajectory was somewhat fixed. In recent years, though, I have observed changes in our industry that have created new roles and ways of working, while developing a more diverse and inclusive environment.
In the early part of my career, I worked mainly on industrial and mining sites — wearing high visibility clothing — designing and commissioning electrical and control systems for mining clients. Later in my career, I discovered new roles in the engineering industry; I managed projects, built teams, and innovated and collaborated with colleagues all over the world to solve engineering problems. Today, I rarely need my steel cap boots; I prefer to wear my favourite fashion flats.
In my current role, as AECOM’s chief digital innovation officer in the Asia Pacific region, I’m working with our teams to transform our core engineering design services and to create new digital experiences for our clients, and better outcomes for the communities we serve. The new data platforms we utilize allow us to work anywhere and at any time. This flexibility in the way we work is a welcome change in the industry.
When I first joined AECOM, a very wise engineer with more than 40 years of experience said something that has stuck with me: “As an organization, we have to accept that each new hire changes AECOM in some way, and that’s something we welcome and celebrate.” This comment demonstrated to me that we have permission to be our authentic selves, to challenge the status quo and to put forward our ideas for the future.
Working with our teams to progress AECOM’s digital transformation has provided me opportunities to develop, grow and also, in some small way, present a different view of a career trajectory for young women to pursue — or at least think about.
I always like to participate in International Women’s Day campaigns because I remember attending my first International Women’s Day event almost 15 years ago and hearing from the women leaders on the stage about their careers and the importance of networking. Before that first event, I had never considered the importance of networking and I had no knowledge of how to go about it. I am grateful for their insights.
Programs like our Advocate Sponsorship Program, which matches high-performing female leaders with members of our leadership Team, and our broader mCircles mentoring program, are helping cultivate leadership skills for the next generation of women leaders. I really enjoy mentoring and sponsoring women engineers at all levels by helping them to grow their confidence and work toward their goals.
My career path is an example of what’s possible and the different types of roles that women can aspire to — many of which might not even exist yet. For those interested in technology and in creating the solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges, such as our global response to climate change, engineering could be a career for you — steel caps are optional.
About the author
Colette is the chief digital innovation officer for AECOM Asia Pacific and is based in Brisbane, Australia. She is an executive leader and advisor in publicly listed companies with a background in Engineering with over 20 years’ experience in digital transformation across the mining, energy and infrastructure sectors in Australia and internationally (USA, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands)