In this latest installment in our regular ‘Women in Utilities’ feature series, we look at the work three women are doing at Sydney Water, breaking down the barriers that still exist about the role women play in the utilities sector.
Yvonne Sinanovic, Plant Manager at Rouse Hill Water Recycling Plant, is breaking down barriers within the water utilities industry. Ms Sinanovic proudly manages a team that is 50 per cent female, but said she has seen “too few females in the water industry.”
“One of the big myths I’d like to bust about the water industry is – it’s not a man’s world,” said Ms Sinanovic.
Ms Sinanovic’s journey with Sydney Water began 20 years ago. When Ms Sinanovic graduated from a Bachelor of Science, she gained experience in the labs of different wastewater treatment plants where she worked alongside operators. She really enjoyed the operational side of this work and was inspired to apply for a Production Officer role at Sydney Water.
After some time working as a Production Officer, Ms Sinanovic’s role progressed to her current role, a Plant Manager.
“My area of expertise has changed over time,” said Ms Sinanovic. “It started with wastewater process control and has now grown to people management. I love being a Plant Manager as I deal with process issues and I manage people.”
Each day in her role is different. It involves catching up with her team on any potential issues, walking around the plant to look for any potential safety issues, undertaking safety audits and attending meetings. Ms Sinanovic loves being an influencer of the business; and said the best part of her role is “ensuring that my team understands the direction that the business is going, and helping them align to it.”
Ms Sinanovic shows her enthusiasm for female representation in the water industry through her involvement in the Western Sydney University’s Women in Science & Engineering program. Being a mentor in this program gives her the opportunity to influence the future generation of water professionals.
The advice Ms Sinanovic would give to someone aspiring to manage people one day is to listen. “Listening is a skill that’s important in my role. It does not just mean listening to what people are saying, but to try and understand their message.”
Sally Rewell is a Production Officer at Sydney Water’s Rouse Hill and Castle Hill Water Recycling Plants. She graduated from the University of Sydney with a Chemical Engineering degree, and in 2010, she earned a graduate position at Sydney Water.
Ms Rewell loves that every day she is breaking down the barriers and preconceived ideas that women can’t work out on the field. She was inspired to apply for a position at Sydney Water as she saw a reflection of her values in the job description, helping the community and environment.
Ms Rewell’s first placement in the graduate program was in Strategic Asset Management located at the head office. In this role she gained valuable experience working in a corporate environment, but felt the field was where she truly belonged, describing her working style as practical and hands on.
Ms Rewell’s day-to-day role involves monitoring the plant processes to ensure operating licences and recycled water guidelines are met, helping colleagues out in their roles, coaching and training new staff, and working on new projects.
“This line of work is challenging at times, but that’s what makes it fun. There are always problems to solve in a very short time frame, so I’m always kept busy,” said Ms Rewell.
Looking ahead, Ms Rewell hopes to continue her career at Sydney Water. “I love working with and mentoring people, so I look forward to the opportunity to manage people one day.”
While Ms Rewell does note that the smell of screenings at the treatment plants can linger in your clothes and shoes, she advises other women considering a career in the water industry not to listen to people who believe it’s too dirty for women in a treatment plant. “It’s quite a technical role,” she added.
Ms Rewell is now furthering her knowledge by studying a Masters of Engineering Management at UTS.
Fiona Copeman is a Chemical Engineer kicking goals for women in engineering.
Ms Copeman, who works as a Production Officer at the Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant, believes that historically, treatment plants were a ‘blokey’ place to work, so therefore the proportion of men to women is higher. However, recently she has seen a shift in this trend. Recruitment of women is balancing this out and boosting the numbers of women in treatment.
“My job is great because it is different every day. I get to make changes and see the result of those changes. There is a lot of job satisfaction in that,” said Ms Copeman.
When she graduated from her university degree, Ms Copeman knew she wanted to work somewhere where she could make a difference for people and the environment. Ms Copeman could see that diversity, character and high achievement are all valued concepts to Sydney Water. This highly appealed to her and she was inspired to apply for a position.
Working as a Production Officer has turned Ms Copeman into an ‘all-rounder’ as her job presents different aspects to her every day. Her day-to-day role may involve checking that equipment on the plant is working to acceptable standards, organising projects, engaging contractors, reviewing safety procedures and checking the laboratory processes.
There is no denying that sometimes it can be a dirty job. At times Ms Copeman is required to shovel screenings and sludge when the wastewater system chokes up, however, she loves the variability of her work. Her work can depend on the weather or what customers put down the sewer. “Different things are happening in this process every day and you can see the results and the benefits of your work.”
Ms Copeman says being a Production Officer at a treatment plant is a fantastic role. “This job is rewarding. It has a great work-life balance and you get to meet and work with really interesting people.”