In mid-2021, Fiona Taukulis was called into her manager’s office. She was aware things at Stantec were changing, and that the industry she worked in was rapidly changing and accelerating. New acquisitions and expansion were also underway at Stantec. Her boss told her he was leaving and in the next breath, she found out she was the one to replace him.
“It was both terrifying and exciting all at once!” she recalls.
“I have a great deal of respect and admiration for my previous boss and for other leaders within Stantec. I was scared of taking on a role where I was responsible for so many staff and that covered so many different disciplines. Ultimately, I decided to accept the role to challenge myself and take my career in a different direction.”
As a Business Leader (Environment) at Stantec, Fiona has been able to progress in a career sector that hasn’t always encouraged women to thrive.
The first seeds of a leadership career in environment sustainability
At school, she struggled to find her way. But, at uni her passion for aquatic ecology grew and she realized this was where she wanted to be.
That she could make those choices had a lot to do with her upbringing in Perth. She credits her mother as “a constant in my life” helping her to tap into the courage and strength she needed to enter the professional world of mining that has typically been dominated by male culture. It was a challenge that, initially, she found daunting, but that she adapted to quickly.
“The Stantec value I most align with is that ‘we put people first’. This is a value I try to embody as a leader.
Our people are individuals with their own strengths, personalities, and backgrounds that all have a unique perspective and contributions. I feel that if we put people first, they will be engaged, creating a positive work culture and be ‘driven to achieve’ (another of our core values), producing high-quality work and servicing our clients as best we can – in short, we aim to be a place where people want to come to work!”
A workplace culture to thrive in
Fiona can attest to the value of putting people at the core of the company. She and her partner parent four children between them and it’s always a fine balance between career and family.
She admits she doesn’t always get it right. But the company’s supportive environment has helped her keep both her career aspirations and a happy, healthy family life on track.
“For me, working flexibly in terms of both hours and location (working from home) as needed, is extremely important.
As a mother and as the primary carer of two young children, stuff happens. While I work full-time, there are also times that I need to work around personal commitments or work at random hours. I really appreciate that Stantec has confidence in me as a leader and allows me this flexibility within my role.”
A pathway to grow into leadership
But it’s not just the family-friendly workplace culture that gives Fiona such a sense of fulfillment and the confidence to continue her upwards career trajectory. There’s a well-defined career advancement path too that allows the company’s brightest and best, regardless of their background or gender, to advance both within the company and in their careers more broadly.
“Stantec has ensured that I have received adequate mentoring and training through specific leadership courses. This has been invaluable and has helped me to transition from a technical manager to a business leader, shifting my mindset to understand my role and the requirements to lead a successful team.”
The combination of a people-oriented culture, in-built with the potential for serious and sustainable professional advancement is, says Fiona, something of a perfect scenario for her.
Mentorship and support at Stantec
While it is her professional interests that drew Fiona to her current role, it is the connections at Stantec and the networks she has been, and still is, a part of that motivate her. Important among them are the leadership figures she has been able to learn from whom she has been able to derive lessons that inform her own leadership style.
“In my current role, I feel very fortunate to work with people that I know and trust, with many of my Team Leads for example having been in the industry or within our business (in its various legacy forms) for more than 10 years. They know the business; they manage high performing teams; and they select and develop amazing new talent.
I have amazing mentors that provide me with the support, flexibility, and guidance I need to grow in my role. It is our culture and our support network that inspires me to continually improve as a leader and to find solutions so that our people can flourish.”
That’s especially so as she develops in her leadership role at the company and builds on the solid foundations Stantec has provided.
“We also have a camaraderie and culture whereby we continuously strive for improvement. I have confidence and really believe in our teams and our staff.
“This is a small industry and people often move around. However, many of our clients remain loyal to Stantec due to the quality of environmental services we provide. My current role excites and challenges me personally and professionally. I feel honored and privileged to have a key leadership role within the environment team here.”
Paying it forward to the next generation
Now settled into her leadership space, Fiona is looking ahead to how she can help others on the same path that she has found so fulfilling.
She is keen to draw on the work already done, and learn from the issues already identified to help empower women already in her industry, and to inspire those still considering their future,
“My career in consultancy has been predominantly with mining clients, the issues of which have been most recently highlighted in the “Enough is Enough” report into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO, which has shone a spotlight on this industry. We can and must do better – we need to speak up and act to effect change!
This is an issue of critical importance to me as a leader and for my current and future staff, as well as for our next generation of women in the workplace and in mining. We need to continue to improve, to create an equitable, diverse, and inclusive work environment. I also want to empower my staff to raise issues as they arise and to feel safe and supported, so that together we can be a part of positive change.”
Fiona’s journey is on-going, and she isn’t prepared to stop yet.
“Hopefully by sharing some of my experiences it will inspire other women in their chosen profession to take a leap of faith, believe in themselves and become great leaders or to be the best they can be by following their passion!”