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City West Water provides water, sewerage, trade waste and recycled water services to more than one million residents and 40,000 businesses in Melbourne’s central business district, and inner and western suburbs. The utility is proud to have achieved over 50 per cent female representation on its executive leadership team, in a sector where women tend to be underrepresented or clustered in admin roles. Here, we meet the women in charge at the water corporation leading the way in gender diversity – four of which have been recognised in the Top 50 Women in Public Sector Awards.

Tell us about your career path, and what led you to your current role?

Maree Lang, Managing Director (Acting)

My seven years so far in the water sector have seen me leading strategy, operational and delivery teams, and I love developing teams and solving complex challenges with communities and customers.

Before shifting to the water sector, I had leadership roles working on sustainability, innovation and business strategy.

I have the privilege to be acting as Managing Director at City West Water, and in this role, I’m combining all my experiences to support our people to deliver great outcomes for customers and communities every day.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of working in the water industry?

The big challenges for the sector such as climate change, population growth, and customer and community expectations are now better understood than ever, but can also feel bigger than ever.

However, I think the most exciting aspect is how we will solve these challenges with entirely new ways of thinking and working, and how we will develop new relationships with communities and partners to do this together.

What keeps you motivated in your career?

I am motivated by the talented people across our business and the work we do every day. Our sector has a profound impact on peoples’ lives as well as the community, environment and economy.

To make the most of this, we need people who are accountable, highly engaged and reflective of our community, and more and more I see the water sector seeking out this new diversity of skills and experience.

What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on in your time at City West Water?

I’ve been able to work with my teams to deliver some great projects at City West Water – from the Spencer Street Sewer Project and Werribee Recycled Water Plant to Focus3 (our mobile asset management tool).

The most rewarding project however is our approach to safety and wellbeing at City West Water. This project is of course ongoing, and we are aiming to be a business where everyone lives and breathes safety and wellbeing.

Which female leaders do you look to for inspiration?

I can look across City West Water for inspiration, from an amazing bunch of women on our executive, through to all the women in our business who are having a go at new opportunities like starting a new project to improve our business, going on a secondment or taking on a leadership role.

If you had advice for your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Your career won’t happen by itself so take some risks, look for purpose and don’t forget to have loads of fun along the way.

What would you like to achieve next?

We’re just getting started here at City West Water, and I’m excited to be part of a business that is working on the big challenges and opportunities for Melbourne and our rapidly growing western region.

Elisa Hunter, General Manager, Strategy & Planning (Acting)

Tell us about your career path, and what led you to your current role?

I’m an environmental engineer and have worked across all aspects of the project lifecycle in both the private and public sector.

The common denominator in all my roles has been the water industry and providing long-term water solutions.

I have also always been in leadership roles since relatively early in my career, and developing and leading high-performing teams is a real passion.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of working in the water industry?

The biggest challenge for the industry is the ability to adapt and change to the extremely volatile external environment whilst maintaining great service to our customers. Being able to innovate and shift as technology advances will be critical to success.

What keeps you motivated in your career?

I love working in an industry with the ability to learn and adapt. I am motivated by the changing nature of our external environment and how we set ourselves up to respond to this to ensure we can provide the best outcomes for our customers and community.

What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on in your time at City West Water?

I’ve worked on a number of great projects in my time at City West Water, but a standout was leading the Urban Water Strategy development across the metropolitan water industry. This involved collaboration across four businesses, as well as working closely with community and customers to set out a 50-year strategy for our water supply.

Which female leaders do you look to for inspiration?

I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by a number of amazing female leaders at City West Water, and I am inspired by them every day. There are also some incredible women across the water sector whom I find extremely inspiring across all levels.

If you had advice for your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Take whatever opportunity comes your way, have a go and don’t be too hard on yourself!

What would you like to achieve next?

For me, it is all about constant reflection to ensure I am continually growing both professionally and personally.

Within City West Water, the opportunity to evolve the way we work to enable us to harness the power of data to drive our decision-making and continually innovate to ensure we can provide the best outcomes for our customers.

Tell us about your career path, and what led you to your current role?

Amanda Smith, General Manager, Infrastructure & Delivery

My background is environmental engineering and I have always been drawn to roles and organisations where I can influence positive community outcomes.

I have worked my whole professional life so far in the public sector in lots of different roles and love working alongside people that are dedicated to community good.

I moved to City West Water 12 years ago to take on my first executive leadership role leading an operational team. It was in this role that I really discovered my passion for leadership and putting the customer at the heart of our work.

In my current role, I have the great privilege of leading the team that delivers and maintains our essential water, recycled water and sewerage services to over a million customers every day.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of working in the water industry?

The need to continue to improve our services to customers and the community in a drying climate whilst servicing our growing population. This presents us with challenges – it means we need to be continually seeking to understand what our customers want and expect from us, and matching our services to these expectations.

We also need to be innovative in how we service our customers. Many of the challenges we now face are not easily solved by technical solutions alone so innovation, collaboration and partnerships are key and this challenges the way we might have traditionally worked.

What keeps you motivated in your career?

Working alongside people who want to make a difference in the community and creating workplaces where people can do their best work.

What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on in your time at City West Water?

I am really interested in innovation in the way we service customers and understanding how new technology can help make the lives of our customers and our employees more satisfying. Playing a role in developing our data and analytics capabilities has been really exciting and has led to improvements in the way we service customers.

We started with a proof of concept for a data platform focused on identifying water pipes for renewal to improve reliability for customers. This led to significant efficiencies in our processes and ultimately led to the development of a business-wide uplift in data and analytics.

We are still on this journey, but we now have a number of dashboards and machine learning examples across the business that are helping us to service our customers better every day.

Which female leaders do you look to for inspiration?

I am really inspired by female leaders that are courageous, speak their minds and demonstrate authenticity. I don’t have to look much further than the many great female leaders at City West Water and across the water sector for inspiration.

If you had advice for your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to fail. You learn so much about yourself when you persevere through the tough times. I think it’s really important to create space for failure and reflection – if you’re not failing you’re probably not taking enough risks.

What would you like to achieve next?

I want to continue to drive innovation as a way of doing business both in terms of how we work with and partner with others, and in the adoption of new technologies that help us do things more safely, more efficiently and more aligned to customer needs.

Tell us about your career path, and what led you to your current role?

Louise Meadows, General Manager, People & Capability

My journey into human resources began when I was offered a consultant position in Scotland’s electricity sector.

This gave me invaluable experience, and within three years I was offered a managerial role with a telco/internet company before landing a job in banking where I worked across three United Kingdom offices.

This led to a two-year assignment working for the National Australia Bank in Melbourne.

Leaving the banking industry, I started with Melbourne Water before being appointed to my current role – and my dream job!

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of working in the water industry?

The move into the digital age does present challenges. Finding the right people to work in an ever-changing environment is difficult, but it’s also an exciting challenge.

We continuously look at how we design work, and attract and retain talent, but we need a paradigm shift in thinking from across the whole sector to make this happen.

Ultimately, it’s our goal to build rewarding employee experiences as we move towards a multigenerational, multi-career workforce for roles which, as yet, might not even exist.

What keeps you motivated in your career?

I love working in a dynamic, changing environment, and the water sector constantly provides me with different experiences and new learning opportunities. What motivates me even more is my desire to become a role model for my children and women who have leadership aspirations.

What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on in your time at City West Water?

In collaboration with my colleagues, I led a cultural transformational program aimed at changing the mindset of our employees. At the heart of it was a simple message – everyone can be a leader and we all can be masters of our own destiny.

This mantra has been embraced and the feedback received shows it has benefitted our employees not only in the workplace, but in everyday life.

Which female leaders do you look to for inspiration?

I’m fortunate enough to work in a leadership team with amazing women who inspire, motivate and support me every day. I also value the wisdom passed on and lifelong friendships I have made from the incredible mentors and coaches who have worked with me and for me throughout my career.

If you had advice for your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

There was a time when I felt intimidated by anyone senior to me or in authority. As a result, I held back. I lost my voice and, despite desperately wanting to, didn’t ask questions or put forward my point of view. I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t worthy or capable of making a contribution.

My advice to my 18-year-old self would be to believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to speak up because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Remember no one has all the answers.

Today, when I’m in a meeting or even in the same room as junior staffers, I think back to my early days and the struggles I had and do my best to encourage their voices.

What would you like to achieve next?

I am enjoying my time at City West Water as I am continuously learning and growing in my role here. I know as I enter my next decade I want a role where I get to do what I love, make a significant contribution to whatever organisation I am in and work with committed and passionate people. If these conditions are met, then I can go anywhere and do anything.

Tell us about your career path, and what led you to your current role?

Jennifer Rebeiro, Chief Information Officer

My career has been an interesting journey, taking me across a wide range of industries, including banking and finance, airlines, telecommunications and government.

This exposure has given me invaluable experience in technology, business operations and human resources with an emphasis on creating value through processes and systems.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of working in the water industry?

I only joined the water industry one and a half years ago, so gaining a good understanding of interrelated functions in areas such as trade waste, as well as the intricacies of how Melbourne’s water is supplied through the network, has taken me some time.

We are becoming more and more reliant on technology in everything we do, and the water industry is no different. With the use of technology, we have access to more data and we are able to use this data to gain insight and make evidence-based decisions.

For example, when to replace an asset or what our customers are thinking about us based on social media sentiment.

What keeps you motivated in your career?

I love to learn, particularly about new industries. The knowledge and experience I’ve gained throughout my career has enabled me to utilise and take advantage of best practices from my previous roles. I get a real buzz when I introduce new and improved technologies or find simple IT solutions – they’re equally rewarding.

What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on in your time at City West Water?

All our initiatives are gratifying, but one that stands out was a project transition where I introduced a new approach to the way we work within the organisation. I was thrilled when the recommended changes were not only embraced but implemented.

We embarked on an agile journey in October 2018 with the development of our outage map. Fast forward 12 months to October 2019, it is fully embraced as a way of working across IT and other parts of City West Water.

Which female leaders do you look to for inspiration?

I’m blessed to work here at City West Water and need look no further than my female executive colleagues for inspiration. I have been lucky enough to work with a number of remarkable female leaders throughout my career, many of whom I’m still in touch with.

Each has contributed to my success in some way and more importantly has shown me that I can have it all – a good education, a successful career, a family and a social life.

I have always admired Julie Bishop, she is an articulate, passionate and committed woman. I especially admire that she hasn’t had to compromise her femininity to operate in industries that were traditionally male dominated.

If you had advice for your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Study hard, ease back on your social life and don’t worry too much about the future. If you have the right attitude, success will come your way.

What would you like to achieve next?

I would like City West Water to be known for delivering customer-centric digital services in a seamless way. To achieve this, we need to utilise data and analytics, and digitised and automated processes to enhance our services for the community. I’m excited to be part of leading this change.

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