Roisin Kim joined Suez on 23 March – just as the country went into lockdown for COVID-19. She had done her research though, and they’ve been managing their people through lockdown as well as she could have hoped.
With a career in water followed by some time in toll road management, Roisin returned to the water industry with Suez. She knew what kind of company she was looking for, and in her time there so far, Suez is delivering!
Choosing the right employer
Roisin was attracted to Suez because they’re a large multinational with a good reputation, and because they are loud and proud about their policies and benefits.
“A lot of companies talk about flexible working and often at the end of a job ad you see, ‘flex working available on request’. But, if you go to their website you end up having to do a lot of digging, if you can even find a policy at all! If you can easily find the policies, that shows it’s important to them.”
Her plan was to work full time with one day per week at home, which has turned into full time from home during Covid. Flexible working is important to Roisin because,
“I have two little boys. One is 5 and just started kindergarten this year and the other is three. No matter what anyone says, the mother guilt gets to you. I like to be able to go to school or daycare if they have an event. It’s important for me that I can have some contact with my children’s life! Some workplaces you get frowned upon a little bit if you want to attend these things.”
The pandemic meant she has been working from home, and facing different demands.
“A lot of people during Covid had huge pressures of home schooling and the stress that put on all the parents trying to deal with their own workload at the same time. On top of that I had this new job! Suez have been very helpful and understanding.”
Joining during a pandemic
Roisin’s first day was in the office, and it was the day Suez decided to shut down and have everyone working from home. She confides,
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging starting a new job in a new company when you don’t know anyone, during a pandemic. But everyone was really good! My boss has been great checking up on me. IT were really good sending me hardware and answering all my questions. They really prioritized my needs.”
As Victoria goes into Stage 4 lockdown, many people getting new jobs in the coming months will find themselves in a similar position. Roisin’s advice is:
- Pick up the phone – Without the casual face to face interactions of an office, it can be hard to cold call people to ask questions and introduce yourself. “If you’re going to be starting a job remotely you have to get over that hurdle. Pick up the phone and call people.”
- Use video – “I found it better to set up an online meeting with the cameras on, it’s not as awkward.”
- Ask for help – “It can be challenging to pick up the phone and ask a question when you’ve just started a job and sold yourself as being an amazing PM who’s going to solve all their problems, but ask the question anyway. The worst thing you can do is pretend. Then you can end up in a world of problems.”
- Schedule regular meetings – “You don’t have the ability to just walk past people’s offices, and people are busy.” Schedule meetings in so you don’t feel forgotten.
Suez were proactive getting everyone set up remotely, not just Roisin as a new starter. They ramped up their IT systems, rolled out Teams communication tool, created a new IT support messenger service, send out regular CEO updates, host online Town Halls to keep people informed, and hold regular lunch and learn sessions, which are “other good ways to keep updated with what’s going on around the organization.”
Roisin says, “It’s a really good company to work for so far. Everybody’s very willing to help. It’s a company that is constantly adapting. If you look at Covid, the company is adapting and making changes to ensure they’re not lost in any of the markets they work in. They’re constantly looking at how everything is being managed to support their staff. I’m very happy.”
Women in water
Suez are a water and waste management company, with ‘shaping a sustainable environment’ at the heart of what they do. Many people who work there are engineers and technical specialists. Roisin says,
I do often find myself as the only female in meetings. But I try not to dwell on it. I see it as my job to encourage women to do engineering and get into construction, and try to get the numbers of women up.
Roisin used to work with a group called The Power of Engineering, organising school tours for years 11 and 12 girls who would visit workplaces where there were a lot of engineers.
“We used to say to them, ‘the old view of an engineer isn’t how it is. Engineering is a really good starting point in your life. You can travel the world with it. Most investment bankers have an engineering background because they know how they break things down and solve problems.”
For any woman looking to move into water and waste management – or any form of engineering – Roisin shares:
- Be yourself – “You can be yourself in engineering! You don’t have to be like a typical male.”
- Build resilience – “Remember that it’s a job and while it might seem personal at the end of the day you need to leave it in the ‘work’ box.”
- Find a mentor – “Mentors are very important. I always found the site supervisors and site superintendents were the best mentors. They’ve seen it all and if you’re willing to ask questions and learn they will help you all the way.”
Roisin is looking forward to continuing to progress in her new role and building relationships remotely until it’s safe to return to the office. Things are going well so far, and she’s ready to make a difference!