The world seemed a very different place way back in 2000. Then, smartphones didn’t exist, and social media was just a dream, and yes, COVID hadn’t changed everything yet. That year also saw the staging of the ‘best ever’ Olympics in Sydney and it was there, as a junior consultant at Tracey, Brunstrom and Hammond (TBH) on the Games project, that Meiske Sompie made her mark. She didn’t win any medals. In fact, she didn’t even compete. But this was the start of something big for Meiske.
Fast forward to 2023, and she is now a Singapore-based Director at TBH – an international specialist planning and management consultancy – which was established in Australia in 1965.
How this all came about is a story that not only captures the culture of staff development at TBH, but also exemplifies Meiske’s own commitment, tenacity, and skill.
Her career journey
“I joined TBH as a junior consultant during the Sydney 2000 Olympics and gained experience working on a range of different services and sectors, before becoming a partner in 2011. Since then, I’ve forged a career as a specialist in Information & Communications Technology (ICT), Defence and Data Centres (DC) sectors.”
“I love that no matter if it is working on Australia’s major ICT projects for Telstra, Optus, or Hewlett Packard Enterprises– all these projects help transform communities. Be that either through solving real-world problems by building or connecting critical infrastructure or developing technologies to enhance our future.
After Meiske’s success in ICT, in 2016, she was tasked with leading TBH’s re-entry into the Defence sector. Since then, Meiske and TBH have successfully delivered projects for the Australian Defence Force supporting the delivery of Australia’s Defence capability.
Given Meiske’s success in the ICT sector, she was a logical fit to take over as TBH’s DC sector lead for Asia in 2020.
“In this role, I expanded our services and clients across Asia. When I relocated to Singapore, I continued this focus, and I’m incredibly proud that our services are now provided to multiple global data centre providers across southeast Asia.”
Working flexibly to face personal challenges
It sounds like a fairly neat and tidy trajectory. But, for Meiske, this glittering path to success has been beset by personal tragedy.
“For some time, I was looking after a very ill family member whilst working full-time and starting a new role as a TBH partner,” she tells us.
“It was a challenging time to balance my personal and professional commitments, especially because I was having to frequently travel interstate and overseas for my job.
Meiske says the company was able to tap into what she needed at a difficult time for her.
“Like me, TBH values a healthy work and life balance, and they really embody it in their company culture.
“TBH supports me both emotionally and professionally, to make sure that I have the flexibility to be able to juggle both personal and professional duties. This support is amazing on a normal day, but at a really challenging time, personally — it was invaluable.”
The value of company culture
Meiske isn’t really surprised about how well TBH’s work-life commitment meshed with her own life experience though. It was clear to her from the beginning that the company was right for her at all levels.
“I was satisfied early on that I had made the right decision to join TBH. I very quickly realized that the company’s values aligned with my personal values. Every day I’m confident I can be myself and don’t feel I have to pretend to be someone else at work.”
Central to the values that Meiske has aligned with at TBH is diversity. As a woman in what is still a traditionally male workspace, Meiske is keen to clear a pathway for other women to follow. And, she says, TBH is on board all the way.
“It is great to see that as a company we are focusing on doing our part in finding solutions to such a worthy aim as increasing the number of women in leadership roles.
“I’m really proud we are also working hard to improve the standard of employment for women.”
Keen to promote diversity
While things are improving, says Meiske, there are still fewer women in the project management sector than there could be.
But she credits companies, like TBH, that are prepared to make space for women employees and to encourage women to develop a career in the industry as an important step to redressing that imbalance.
“Fortunately, I have not come across any significant gender-based challenges at work. Personally, I never tried to blend in to fit into the mold, however, at the same time I will do my best to relate to and respect the point of view of the other genders, and sometimes agree to disagree.
“TBH has always embraced the culture of inclusivity and diversity and we have been working on an action plan to improve the diversity within our leadership group.”
In fact, TBH recently made it one of their key business strategies to significantly increase their diversity leadership numbers by 2030, and also featured in WORK180’s top 101 workplaces for women overall.
The positives of such an inclusive culture are not only for the women newly entering the industry, but for the company itself, says Meiske.
“It is important to have a leadership team which comes from a diverse background, to make sure that we can lead our team effectively and continue to evolve in our way of thinking.
“These are the keys to having a sustainable and growing business.”
Ensuring work-life balance
Having a sustainable balance between home and office is crucial to success, says Meiske. And while work relationships are obviously important, a successful career needs a healthy home life too.
“I have a very good support system, starting from my husband who is my biggest supporter, my work colleagues, and of course my family and friends.
“However, for me it is important to be realistic and to accept that sometimes you cannot have it all happen at the same time. But when you stay with your goals there will be different ways and times to achieve them.”
Getting the mix right is about understanding the difference between control and management. When you can’t do the former, you have to rely on the latter, she believes.
“My professional job is to plan everything to get the exact, expected outcomes. However, in my personal life, I don’t always plan, sometimes I let nature do its job and just enjoy the process. I found this has kept me in balance and made things less stressful.”
Meiske sees it as a calibration of material and physical factors.
“You have to make the toughest decisions in your life with your mind and your heart. The mind will show you the way, but the heart will give you the courage and the strength.”
With this philosophy, Meiske is charging ahead, supporting her family, and laying a path for women in the workplace. Ensuring work and life are all part of a vast landscape that is taking shape and yielding results every day means that for her, project management takes on a whole new meaning.