We caught up with Michele Huey, Group Executive for NSW at Transurban. It was such a pleasure to chat with her because she is the type of leader everyone needs in their organization. Michele is incredibly empathetic, generous with her time and successful in everything she puts her mind to.
Michele has had the opportunity to work with many incredible leaders and colleagues over the years. Her continued connection with them brought opportunities with previous organizations, including Transurban. It’s a powerful lesson to invest in long-term relationships — because you never know when a lifetime opportunity will come knocking on your door. In our chat, Michele shares her inspiring career journey and invaluable tips for success.
Moving people into the future
Michele played a role in the success of the WestConnex infrastructure project as one of their Board Directors. WestConnex is Australia’s largest road infrastructure project and is a critical part of NSW’s plan to ease congestion, connect communities and create tens of thousands of job opportunities.
WestConnex is due for completion in 2023 and will provide motorists with a continuous, 33km traffic-light free motorway network, with connections for future projects linking the north shore and northern beaches, Sydney Airport and the southern suburbs.
In addition to her Board Director role, Michele is the leader of Transurban’s NSW business. She has responsibility for the safe and effective operations of six motorways, along with oversight of another five assets or projects through equity investment or board participation.
Michele’s remit is a 24/7 job because she and the team are responsible for the safety, noise control, maintenance and building of NSW’s motorways. Her team also plays a key role in maintaining Transurban’s standing as a global leader in sustainability amongst its peers.
Michele and the team collaborate with other transportation providers such as Sydney Metro, Light Rail and Transport for NSW to ensure all infrastructures are working in sync. There is a lot of negotiation and influencing involved when working with high profile projects such as WestConnex.
You can be what you can see
It’s empowering to see a woman at the top of her game in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Michele is all too familiar with how you can be what you see, so she is always cognizant to balance the gender ratio and bring about intersections of diversity to her team.
Her upbringing taught Michele the value of hard work and tenacity. “I’m Hong Kong born, Chinese. My family moved to Australia for a better education and opportunities. I married an Englishman and we now have a blend of cultures in our family which is wonderful.”
We asked about what it is like to work at Transurban. Michele says,
“Transurban is a place that values and fosters ingenuity, excellence and collaboration. There is leadership and diversity in the workforce and thinking. You get a lot of support and sponsorship from managers and peers here. Transurban is a place where there is respect for everyone and new ideas.”
Michele enjoys working in infrastructure because of the importance the sector plays in our economy. She says she feels privileged to be part of making a difference.
“I love how at Transurban, everyone can play a part in contributing to our community. I’m glad I can be a role model in an industry that is stereotypically male and Anglo-Saxon. You don’t have to be an engineer here and challenging the status quo is definitely encouraged.”
A strong strategic grounding
Michele’s career started out in management consulting. Being exposed to different industries and influencing outcomes was a great experience. Michele consulted across oil and gas, mining and financial services. Her roles have taken her around the world, including places like Borneo and Scandinavia.
“I loved consulting. There were so many interesting problems we had to solve for clients. It was collaborative and I worked in a good team. We had long hours though and lots of travelling.
Lend Lease was my last client and I was immersed in the culture. This was where I worked with Scott Charlton who is now the CEO of Transurban. He brought me across to Transurban. I’ve been fortunate with the support here. Transurban took a leap of faith in me to [bring me in to] lead the strategy team without any infrastructure experience.”
Leaders are made from great teams
Michele shared a quote on leadership which we think should be plastered in every leader’s office. She says,
“A leader’s role is not to get the work done themselves.”
Michele spoke a lot about hiring the right people, trusting your team to do their work, letting go and prioritizing what matters most to you.
“I prioritize things that will make the most impact and difference. I have built a strong and solid team and I trust them wholeheartedly. You cannot do everything on your own — that’s why you build a team around you.”
We loved our conversation with Michele and we ended it on a personal note. Family is important to Michele.
“I have a three-year-old boy and I made a choice to take one year off to care for him. You can choose how connected you want to be with the organization. When it was time to return to work, I had the flexibility to work two to three days a week before increasing my days. People here are tremendously supportive. It has been nothing but amazing throughout my parental leave.”
Michele is truly inspirational and a great example of someone who doesn’t try to fit the mold.