Angie Zahra has been working for Stanwell Corporation for almost 30 years, and jokes, “I say I grew up at Stanwell. I was a graduate and not quite 22 when I joined. The biggest thing I saw when I came to Stanwell was that it was a really different workplace.”
She is now the Stanwell Power Station Site Manager, making her, “The CEO’s delegated person on site to ensure we deliver safe, reliable power to Queensland.” Located just outside Rockhampton, Stanwell Power Station is one of the most technologically advanced coal-fired power stations in Australia.
She loves the flat structure and the self-managed, multidisciplinary teams.
“I chose Stanwell because of the different way they were approaching work. I’m proud to say throughout all these years, the things that made Stanwell a great place to work still exist today.”
Stanwell’s values are another reason Angie finds it a great place to work.
Stanwell recently refreshed their values and they are:
- We care: About the whole person including mental health. Stanwell supports people through flexible work arrangements, the part they play in communities and environment, and take a holistic approach to people.
- We adapt: Industry dynamics are changing. Stanwell ask, “How do we continually change how we do things to remain relevant? How do we challenge what we do and our skill sets to remain relevant? How do we ensure we don’t stagnate?”
- We deliver: Stanwell show commitment. “The way to build trust is to do what you say you’re going to do.”
Angie was trusted even in junior positions to make decisions and ask the right people to help her, and says,
“Stanwell is a values-based organisation, focused on accountability and ownership.. Throughout my career at Stanwell, the ability to take ownership and make the calls has been great. It sets you up to take leadership roles later by building up management skills along the way.”
The cutting edge of engineering
Stanwell is also working differently from a technical perspective as the energy industry changes. Big power-producing units like Stanwell have traditionally been run at a constant load. Now they are managing flexible operations, pushing the unit as high and low as it can go and optimising ramp up rates “when the sun isn’t shining.”
Angie says, “I like the challenge of doing something differently. Stanwell has always provided that opportunity.”
This recent change to the engineering approach is the latest challenge, and Angie is excited about flexible operations.
“I’ve seen the rapid change of our industry over time with the introduction of renewables, and how that has impacted the management of large bits of kit, like Stanwell Power Station. We’re pushing the limits of what the plant can do to remain relevant while allowing renewables to grow and enter the energy market.”
“If you’re a Graduate in engineering, the skills you gain to push the equipment to the limit and still be there when it’s needed – this is the best challenge you can get as an engineer! The past 20 years has been pretty stable, moving forward this is where you get to be really tested as an engineer. It’s a fantastic challenge, and something people haven’t done yet. We get to lead the way.”
What it’s like as a woman
Angie has worked her way through various roles at Stanwell and picked up different skills along the way outside her original area of expertise. We asked what it’s like working on a power station as a woman.
Angie shares, “I’ve had the luxury of having worked predominantly with men, but they’ve been all inclusive. I’ve never had an issue where I felt like I’ve been excluded because I’m a female. People treat you how you treat them, and I’ve always felt listened to and included in discussions.”
Of 130 employees normally onsite, there are about 30 women at Stanwell Power Station, across all areas of the business. There are a range of female facilities, including breastfeeding facilities and parental leave benefits.
Throughout her time with Stanwell, Angie has taken parental leave twice and worked with a flexible arrangement in a permanent part-time position. We can sometimes assume that part-time and flexible positions mean your career stalls, but Angie is Site Manager – the most senior position onsite, and is responsible for ensuring the availability of electricity supply is carried out in a reliable, compliant manner, while ensuring the safety of employees and the community. Angie leads the site leadership team ensuring they work collaboratively together, continue learning and overcome challenges. Her career has flourished through having children and working part-time and flexibly. Stanwell really walk their talk of caring for people and adapting to the requirements of a modern workforce.
Career tips for graduates
With three decades of experience behind her, and now working in a senior role, Angie shares,
“An environment like we have here is perfect for a female to enter the workforce and feel like they can participate and make a difference. There are always opportunities within the business and my own career is testament to that. There are a number of women who’ve moved into both leadership and technical specialist roles, and plenty of opportunities beyond the power station, in our corporate arena.”
Her advice to career starters is:
- Be open: “Don’t get fixed on thinking your career path is only one way. Your career path can take many diversions, always take the opportunity to build your skills.”
- Have a growth mindset: Take opportunities even if they don’t initially look like opportunities.
- Trust in yourself: “If someone offers you a position, they believe you have the capability of making it work. Sometimes you may not see what the opportunity you’re being provided actually is but they’ve given it to you for a reason.”
Angie thinks graduates can make the mistake of having a linear view of what will happen, but “sometimes that straight pathway may not get you where you want to go”.
“At Stanwell, it’s not about just coming to join an energy generation business.. There are a lot of very knowledgeable and experienced people who can help you build skills you can take somewhere else later. Capitalise on that while you can.”