As the Queensland Business Leader for Cardno – a global engineering company – Warren Steiner is actively focusing on the gender ratio within his business. He’s giving his team an edge by bringing in the best, including adding diversity of thought and perspectives to the team.
Warren knows how valuable flexible work options are, as he was heading off to pick up his four-year-old son from Kindy when we finished our chat. And for his two-year-old daughter, he wants her to have every opportunity that Warren had throughout his career.
A rising star
Warren started as a Junior Engineer in Cardno’s Springfield Branch. He rapidly progressed to the senior team, managing small design teams, then went to London for three years. Returning to Brisbane, he picked up where he left off at Cardno; returning staff is always a good reflection on an organization.
Since his return he’s had a stratospheric rise, moving from Senior Engineer to Springfield Branch Manager to Southern Regional Manager and now his Queensland Business Leader role.
“I reflect back, and it feels like a whirlwind. I’ve been fortunate to have received the opportunity to change roles every few years. I had a lot of time to be an engineer, working with our clients on some of the country’s leading master planned communities. This gave me a great grounding and understanding of the business, and ultimately allowed me to progress quickly through the levels of management. The Queensland Transport and Urban Development teams consist of about 140 people across the state.”
Warren was identified for Cardno’s Global High Potential Development Program, which is designed to guide the next generation of senior leaders. The program provides direct access to the CEO each month, an executive coach and broad leadership training. As part of the program the cohort of 15 are tasked with a live business project, working closely with the executive team. The ultimate aim is to implement findings which directly impact the business globally.
Now, Warren is excited about growing his part of the business. Attracting and retaining the best people and bringing in a diverse mix is a key part of that.
So, you want to be a senior manager?
Warren has had a rapid rise to management within Cardno. But there are plenty of opportunities. Cardno has a range of high potential programs, developing people from early management to the future GM’s.
“People are our most valuable asset. It’s so important that we are nurturing, valuing and retaining those that have shown potential to be our technical and business leaders of the future. We provide additional training and monitor their career with regular check-ins. They have a mentor to help guide them. It’s about retaining key people in key positions, and those who will be in the next few years.”
We asked Warren his tips for forging a management path, and he shared:
- It’s important to have strong grounding in your core competency. “Spend time ‘on the tools’ and actively involved in projects. As a junior engineer you generally have the ability to spend more time on individual tasks and really understand the how and why. I always encourage our junior staff to make the most of their forming years. These skills often provide the base you need to be an effective engineer and manager later in your career.
- Work hard, enjoy the task at hand and you’ll be rewarded. “Whilst some tasks maybe frustrating or challenging at the time, almost everything you do will positively impact your technical or personal development in some way. It’s amazing how often I go back to tasks I completed years prior to guide some of my current decision making. I’ve also found that with hard work and a drive to deliver your best, opportunity for career progression will naturally arrive without too much seeking.”
- Accept change and don’t be afraid to learn on the fly. “Throw yourself into it; I find most of the time it works itself out. I’ve had to learn on the fly a lot. You quite often worry about how something may play out, but when it’s all over and you reflect back, your worries were so minute when compared to what has been achieved.”
- Invest in key relationships. “Figure out who is in your network that you can trust and who you naturally align with. Invest time to make those relationships stronger and better, these people become critical as your career progresses, particularly when times get tough.”
Being an ally for women
Warren is actively trying to improve the gender ratio across his business and wants to encourage more women to be involved in his business.
“Diversity across the board is important. A major part of our job is designing communities and the associated infrastructure – roads, parks, active networks, community facilities, etc with end users being families and people of all different backgrounds. It’s therefore critical to have a range of opinions and views from men, women and people of all different backgrounds to ensure you can achieve a successful overall outcome.”
But the technical benefit isn’t the only reason Warren cares about gender balance at work.
“I believe when we consider the views and opinions from a balanced workforce we will genuinely get a better outcome – from the technical ones down to what social events we should do in the office.”
In fact, bringing women into the business is so important to Warren that he interviewed a junior female applicant a few days before we spoke. He wouldn’t normally be involved with that level of hiring, but he wanted to make sure Cardno recruited her if she was the right candidate.
“We want to try to improve that gender split, and she has a great CV. So, I wanted to meet with her personally to see what she wants to get out of a job. Gender aside, she had all the skills we were looking for so we did everything we could to ensure she joined us.”
The challenge for Warren right now is the low number of applicants. He estimates 90% of the resumes he sees are for men. But he’s committed to bringing the best on board, and while they’re trying to push a certain outcome, it needs dedicated focus.
“I’m never going to promote or recruit someone beyond their ability, regardless of gender. We want diversity in our teams, we want to support women because we want to improve our balance and can see the value it can bring to our organization and our clients. To achieve this outcome, we provide ongoing support to our hiring managers and a dedicated focus.”
Women in engineering
Warren wants to see more women looking at engineering as an option from a young age.
“I would strongly encourage all women to consider engineering as a career path. The profession offers a variety of project types and roles with the ability to work anywhere across the globe. As time goes on, it really is great to see more women joining our business helping forge this career option for many young women considering their options.”
At Cardno, they support flexible work. Warren often takes some time off in the afternoon to collect his son and see his children, before working again in the evening when they’re asleep. He’s open with his team about taking that flexibility, and when they receive an email from him late some evenings they know they’re not expected to reply then or work nights.
Warren wants to bring in new ideas and new ways of thinking, and a focus on women is one way to move that forward.
“Engineering is quite progressive on a lot of fronts. Engineers have a bit of a reputation of being black and white. I always encourage any new ideas and innovation, the mantra of ‘we’ve always done it that way’ never sits well with me. Cardno is always supportive of this, and we generally get the support of the business to try new ideas. We don’t just do the same old thing, we look at ways of doing it better.”
And when we asked him why women should join Cardno, he immediately replied, the opportunities.
“We’re a big business. There are always moving pieces and opportunities. If you’re ever not happy in a role we’ll try to move you around to satisfy you. There is great career development here.”