Defining your personal values can be a helpful way to navigate life’s challenges, choose great workplaces, and live life on your terms.
Perhaps women in male-dominated industries understand this best.
We spoke with engineer Andrea “Andy” Dickinson, Future Network and Planning Manager at Jemena. Over the past twenty years, she’s witnessed a shift in the level of acceptance of women working in the industry – albeit, with a few challenges along the way.
“I understand what it’s like for women in the industry. I’ve felt the pressure that if I ever made a mistake, I’d be making it on behalf of every woman engineer to come! But there are advantages too. I feel like we’re not as stereotyped and have more of an opportunity to be ourselves.”
Here how Andy has developed her goals, values, and standards to succeed in life and work.
1. Allowed change and opportunities to shape her direction
Andy’s engineering career began after she completed a double degree in electrical engineering and science and achieved a Master’s degree in engineering science (biomedical engineering).
“Truthfully, I was reluctant to enter an engineering job in case I didn’t excel – but I decided to give it a try. I became a substation design engineer, working on design through to installation and commissioning on site. In this role, I also received a 12-month secondment in the UK to work in one of the Business’s Centres for Excellence and took some time to travel.”
She then accepted a role as a project engineer, overseeing the technical aspects of a program to upgrade five zone substations. This extended to her working on asset management of substations in the asset manager team; first as a technical leader, then as a manager, managing engineers responsible for asset replacement and maintenance strategies.
The next big change came when Andy relocated to the UK for a role managing a team of design engineers, who designed power systems for railway signalling.
“After a few years, my husband and I relocated again! We returned to Australia where I accepted a role as a principal engineer – working on asset management strategy. I then gained my current role as Future Network and Planning Manager with Jemena.”
At Jemena, she’s responsible for managing teams of engineers who plan for customer growth, manage the transition to networks (with a high penetration of solar, battery, and electric vehicle connections), and produce data analytics.
Her most memorable experience so far?
“During my second week, I spoke with another engineering manager about an issue I was having. He responded by saying: ‘Don’t worry, let’s go talk to our manager and work it out together.’ Coming into such a collaborative culture at Jemena made my heart sing.”
2. Not let others dictate how she saw herself
As you develop your values, you’ll inevitably experience challenges that crop up along the way. Andy, for one, hasn’t been immune to bias in her industry!
“I’ve been lucky to have had a great career with very supportive managers, for which I’m very grateful. But I was once told to work on my empathy when I had the audacity to point out technical errors to a peer in a meeting – they added I shouldn’t do that, because this person might be embarrassed to have a woman point out their mistakes in public.
“I also had an older engineer, calling me every day the week prior to my going onsite. He wanted reassurance that I knew what PPE (personal protective equipment) was and that I needed it to attend the site. I think he was worried I was going to turn up in high heels and a skirt!”
Andy’s personal values meant she didn’t let these challenges get her down. And it’s also been a way for her to choose workplaces that are the right fit.
3. Chose workplaces in line with her values
Andy believes that working for a company that understands ‘the standard you walk by is the standard that you set’ is important, whether it’s a safety or cultural issue.
“Particularly being a woman in a male-dominated environment, having men willing to speak up when someone else steps out of line makes a big difference. Because if they don’t, and you have to stand up for yourself, you can be accused of not having a sense of humor or not being able to take a joke.
4. Found new places for inspiration and motivation
At Jemena, Andy’s been able to find her personal motivations in work. She particularly values problem solving and making a difference – the perfect combination for her current role.
“It’s exciting, because we determine how to support a renewable energy future with a high penetration of solar in a low-voltage network.”
She’s also passionate about developing others and seeing others learn and grow so that they can continue solving the issues. As part of graduate development programs, Andy has enjoyed watching engineers grow and succeed. So she’s looking forward to getting involved in Jemena’s future graduate program.
“I’d like to leave behind a legacy of developing and mentoring others and spending time to share knowledge. I’d also like to play my part in helping the industry transition to distributed renewable energy. There’s a lot about the future we haven’t figured out yet, so I love that my team and I contribute towards a pathway for us to get there.”
5. Kept her boundaries for balance
Like many of us, Andy values finding the balance. Outside of work, she’s actually a swim coach! She swims with her squad every week, coaches adult group fitness swim sessions, and enjoys yoga and Pilates.
“My swimmers are always surprised to know that I’m an engineer, and my engineers are surprised to know that I’m a swim coach,” she laughs. “It’s important for me to have a role that interests me, allows me to learn and make a difference, and still have time to spend on other aspects of my life.”
According to Andy, finding balance is about understanding and prioritizing what’s important to you and what your personal definition of success is.
Did you know Jemena offers a range of flexible work options and is open to discussing them as early as the interview stage?
Find out more about this and other benefits.
“Often, we can fall into the trap of thinking that success is climbing the career ladder, without reflecting on what’s important to us personally. Once you work out what’s important to you, you need to prioritize and set boundaries. For example, swim coaching is important to me. So, everyone at work knows that the two days that I coach, I’m not available past a certain time!”
In closing, she shares one last piece of advice.
“Have faith in yourself! Trust that you have as much right to be here as anyone else.”