“I want a world for my daughters where they are seen as equal, where their diversity is welcomed, and they feel they belong.”
Teeshal Bal moved to Australia from Malaysia more than 20 years ago and has since established an awe-inspiring career. With a background in engineering, she has worked in ports, mining, and now in rail as a Program Manager for Metro Trains Melbourne. Alongside her busy work and family life, Teeshal also makes time to support young women as they start out on their own professional journeys. Through the not-for-profit group Grit Leadership, she directly challenges assumptions and biases around diversity and inclusion from the very top of her industry: at the leadership level.
What drives her ambition and fuels her fire is a desire to show her own daughters that women – and in particular, mothers – can thrive in the workplace, and that any differences we have should be celebrated as assets. They say that change starts from within, so we spoke to Teeshal to find out how we can all be the change we want to see in our own lives too.
1. Challenge the status quo
Teeshal has never been afraid of doing things differently. In fact, she believes that to see lasting change, we actively need to look for alternative ways to work and live.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. To create a legacy and make a difference, we need to think differently and be prepared to take a non-conventional approach. I’m constantly challenging the status quo.”
Even in her career, Teeshal is proud to admit she’s “not taken a linear pathway.” She has been involved in multiple start-ups along the way, and during her time at Metro has taken on five different roles in the five years she’s been with the company.
Although Teeshal says she “knows 100%” that Metro is a great place for women – and especially for working parents – unfortunately, this realization is partly based on a comparison to a far from a positive experience with a former employer.
On returning to work after six weeks of parental leave, her boss at the time immediately quizzed her on her commitment to the role – which required flying cross-country a couple of times each month. He even went so far as to ask her about her plans to have any more children. Although Teeshal concedes he was “under a lot of pressure to deliver the project,” after that conversation she says she felt compelled to return to work full-time in order to keep her role, and consequently described her struggle to “juggle breastfeeding/flying to site/being a new mom all while also doing my best to perform as a project engineer”.
In stark contrast, Teeshal says she has seen her colleagues at Metro Trains Melbourne feel fully supported during their parental leave and says they’ve all been able to return to their roles when they felt they were ready.
“At Metro, there is no pressure or intent to make new parents feel guilty. I believe that to bring your ‘A’ game to work you need to feel fulfilled and supported in your personal life too. I’m proud that Metro is walking the talk and doing all it can to raise the standard of women in the workplace!”
2. Start with yourself and the people around you
For Teeshal, success is measured by the positive effect she has on those around her, and it’s something she strives for in all areas of her life.
“I love this definition of success: ‘Success is knowing how many people are better off because I lived.’ I’m inspired by my personal mentors who have done exactly that, who have impacted lives and created a legacy.”
When it comes to creating her own personal legacy, Teeshal’s aims are simple but far-reaching: to “leave a company/life in a better place than when I found it.” She hopes to do this through impacting change from the top down and leading by example.
“I hope to inspire and create more purpose-driven, diverse, equal, and inclusive leaders. We can’t be what we can’t see. So, it starts with me being that role model!”
Through professional growth and continued personal development, Teeshal says she looks to “constantly push myself out of my comfort zone” and “to learn, grow, and become a better version of myself. And help others do the same.”
Did you know that Metro Trains Melbourne supports many local community groups through fundraising and grants?
Find out about this and other employee benefits and incentives.
3. Support the next generation
As well as leading by example, Teeshal has teamed up with Grit Leadership, a women-led, not-for-profit, certified social enterprise group, aimed at “tackling diversity and inclusion at its core” by addressing gender inequality in senior leadership.
Grit Leadership runs training and workshops for leaders of the future, and takes advantage of ground-breaking technology to give people insight into the experiences of others:
“We expose and challenge leaders to see from other people’s perspectives using technology like virtual reality (VR) and gamification. Supporting Grit Leadership is the way I see we can make a difference to current and future women leaders.”
Any of the ‘profits’ from Grit Leadership, are used to “support the next generation of female leaders” through Flourish Girl, “a charity that builds resilient teenage girls.”
From her professional goals to her work with Grit Leadership, Teeshal demonstrates a 360˚ commitment to change – and did we also mention that she’s completing a Masters’s in Life Coaching?!
Through being the change she wants to see, and guiding others around her, Teeshal is helping create the kinds of role models she wishes she had when she was younger. Helping to break down biases and barriers means that hopefully the young women she works with – and, in time, her own daughters – will have the same kind of support she’s seen at Metro Trains Melbourne, rather than being subjected to the kind of intrusive conversation she had when she returned from parental leave.
Through the work of leaders like Teeshal, we can look forward to a future where all women can thrive and excel in their chosen careers.
Bonus tip: Be committed to you
Reflecting on her experiences so far and when asked what advice she’d share with other women just starting out in their careers, Teeshal reminds us to always be proud of who we are and to use our life to make a difference:
“We have one life and we’ve got to make it count. Don’t fret the small things – and just be you!”