Charmaine Noack is passionate about supporting people and the environment. She appreciates the positive impact she can make on the environment as a Principal Environment and Sustainability Consultant at Mott MacDonald, and feels fortunate to have found a company that’s aligned with her values. Mott’s values – progress, respect, integrity, drive and excellence (PRIDE) – are focused on supporting positive social outcomes for the communities where we live and work.
Sustainability in infrastructure
Most of Charmaine’s work at Mott MacDonald has been on transport infrastructure projects, undertaking environmental impact assessments and sustainability assessments. She looks at the project and its footprint, and how they might impact the environment. Her role is to make suggestions for reducing the impacts on vegetation, Aboriginal heritage, water quality, and other environmental aspects. Additionally, she implements sustainability initiatives to reduce a project’s carbon footprint.
Growing up on a cropping grain and sheep farm in regional South Australia, Charmaine cultivated an affinity with the land.
“I always had an appreciation for the environment growing up. We grew a lot of our own veggies and raised animals. Now I get involved in numerous metropolitan projects, ensuring the impacts of our infrastructure are minimized as much as possible.”
Now, Charmaine enjoys that her desire to help people and support the environment comes to life at work.
“I like helping people – that’s where it stems from. Being involved in these infrastructure projects, if I wasn’t there then the impact to the environment or sustainability would be much greater. That’s where the connection and fulfilment comes from.”
Charmaine shared an example of a level crossing project in Adelaide where there were heritage trees that community members highly valued. She and the environment team continually pressed the crossing designers and engineers to consider solutions that preserve the trees. Things like moving a bus stop can be enough to save vegetation, and Charmaine was pleased to translate her passion for the environment to the real world.
Mott MacDonald have some impressive sustainability credentials. They were the first engineering company in the world to be certified as carbon neutral at the end of 2020, they have reduced their own carbon footprint by 45% per employee over the last five years, and they have a targeted approach globally to achieve net zero by 2040. Pretty amazing feats in an industry where the environment doesn’t always get the focus it deserves. Supported by this true focus on sustainability, Charmaine gets to do work she is truly passionate about.
From land to people – working on the Reconciliation Action Plan
Not only is Charmaine passionate about driving positive outcomes for the environment, she is also passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion of people in the workplace. As a member of Mott MacDonald’s Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group she organized Kaurna language (the local Aboriginal language) training for the Adelaide office and an online cultural awareness session during National Reconciliation Week with a young Kaurna man named Jack Buckskin.
“I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion and giving a voice to under-represented groups. That’s the helper in me again.”
Bringing Aboriginal language into the office didn’t stop there. There is soon to be a Kaurna word of the week on screens around the office, and Charmaine organized Mott MacDonald’s acknowledgement of country in Adelaide be translated into Kaurna – that audio file has been used recently in project bids.
Mott MacDonald’s Reconciliation Action Plan is evolving. When Charmaine first joined in 2019, their first RAP had been approved, and now the national team is working on the Innovate RAP – the second in a four-stage framework.
How to help your mentor help you
Charmaine shows how much she enjoys helping people by spending time as a mentor for other staff members. Having gone through a mentoring program in a previous company, she understands the value of it.
“It was the first time in my career I had a mentor, and it really helped with confidence and things like that. I thought, I’m coming into a new company and if someone would like a mentor I could do it.”
At Mott MacDonald, employees can request a mentor, and Charmaine had the opportunity to support a junior colleague in Tokyo. It’s not a one-way relationship of advice giving, but rather has been a learning opportunity for Charmaine too. She has been learning about the cultural differences, understanding disciplines in other offices and connecting with people across the world.
As an experienced mentor, we asked Charmaine to share her advice to people to get the most out of a mentoring arrangement. She shared:
- Try to remain open minded. “When you first meet someone, people often think you click or you don’t, but be open to the experience that in your first few sessions you might not immediately click.”
- Give yourself some time. “It’s not a quick fix to move you where you want to be. You’ve both got to be willing to work at it to get the most out of the relationship.”
- Spend time understanding yourself. “When you know yourself and what you are aiming to get out of the relationship, it is much easier for the mentor to assist you.”
Working part time with children
Charmaine has two daughters aged 9 and 11, and has worked part time for the last ten years to be able to spend time with them. When she joined Mott MacDonald she wanted to be upfront with her desire to work four days a week, and it was very well received.
“I live in the Barossa and commute for over an hour. I use [after school care] when I’m working, and on my Fridays, I am there for them at drop off and pick up. That was important to me, to do that at least one day a week.”
It’s a risk in non-traditional industries that women’s voices don’t get heard, and previously in her career Charmaine has had that experience. Charmaine’s experience at Mott MacDonald has been very different, where all voices are heard.
“In the projects I’ve worked on, it’s been a good experience. I’ve felt like I’ve been valued for my skills and rewarded for my hard work. When I started, I was a senior and at the end of last year I was made a Principal Consultant.”
When trying to be valued as part of the conversation, for Charmaine it’s important to remain genuine, authentic, and to trust her own voice.
“The best thing at Mott MacDonald is that you can be involved in things outside of your everyday work. Like the RAP working group – it’s a passion and because I’m interested, they invited me to join the group.”
“We all get along, we work well as a team. The people are honest, trustworthy, and because we’re a global company, we’re culturally diverse.”