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From technical to flexible

Technical flexible

Interflow explores how a values-led approach to hiring is opening the door for women in water. 

Gender equity is widely recognised as a meaningful way to foster better outcomes for workers, customers, and the community. While targets and quotas play an important role in keeping diversity on the agenda, many organisations are left wondering what they can do to attract and retain more women.

Leading pipeline infrastructure company, Interflow, may have a solution. By building a team based not solely on technical prowess but on shared values and behaviours, they have been able to welcome a diversity of perspectives into the business.

Inclusion begins with the hiring process

Key to attracting a diverse workforce to any industry is breaking down the barriers to entry. One such barrier in the water sector is the idea that an engineering degree is indispensable for project management roles.

Interflow is challenging this by shifting the conversation from ‘who is most qualified for the job?’ to ‘who is best for the team, who will add to the culture and bring new ideas?’

Chris Godsil, operations manager at Interflow, said that the company previously had success bringing people from the field into traditional engineering and project management roles.

“We took that idea and cast the net wider, outside of the engineering industry,” he said. 

“We were looking for people from any industry with strong value and behaviour alignment with Interflow, people who could communicate and build trust.

“Technical skills can be developed through training and on-the-job experience. What’s really important to us is that behaviour alignment and transferable skills.”

These skills and behaviours were evident in Sam Woods, who made the move from retail to become a project coordinator at Interflow.

“In my previous role I was a project manager in a very different sector,” Woods said. 

“I have key skills like communication, stakeholder engagement and managing timelines and budgets. These have really helped me in my new role.” 

Technical flexible
Interflow’s project coordinator Sam Woods (left). Image: Interflow

Before taking the leap and switching industries, Woods was given the opportunity to visit a site and get a firsthand feel for what she was signing on to.

“It was actually Chris that recommended I go out on site and see what we do,” she said. 

“Usually when you change role you make that decision based on what you think you know about it. So, seeing a construction site and seeing, realistically, what I’d be managing, meeting the people I’d be working with – that sealed the deal for me.”

Interflow’s shift in focus from technical to transferable skills has been proven to encourage more women through the door. Just as important is providing clear career pathways that enable women to stay and thrive once they get there.

“One of the factors that made me interested in the role was that I could see the progression here,” Woods said. 

“That came from conversations I’d had and from looking at who was already at Interflow and where they had come from.

“It made the risk of changing industries so much easier, knowing there was so much room to grow.”

Supporting careers, supporting lives

Interflow contracts administrator Teia Comelli said it was about 10 years ago she was a chef. 

“I had no work-life balance. I wanted to change my career,” she said.

Comelli’s search for more balance led her to a new career in the water industry. 

“Eventually I found myself at Interflow and went straight into the field, straight into the ground and getting my hands dirty,” she said.

Technical flexible
Interflow’s contracts administrator Teia Comelli (right). Image: Interflow

Over time, Comelli’s changing life circumstances meant she needed a role that could adapt with her.

“My partner and I wanted to extend the family by one,” she said.

When Comelli fell pregnant, she stepped away from the field into an admin role. The transition set her up for an easy return to work after being on parental leave.

“I got a phone call asking if I’d like to jump into a similar role to what I was doing before I went on leave, which was organising training for the crews,” she said. 

Like Woods, Comelli had a core set of skills that could be applied to other roles. 

“She had a unique insight from working in the field,” Godsil said. 

“But perhaps more importantly, Teia was aligned to the behaviours and values we look for at Interflow. It was really important to us that we support her to stay in the business.”

Comelli was offered a position that leveraged her skills while providing the flexibility she needed at this stage of her life.

“It was perfect for me because I understood the training that was needed, the crew dynamics, and how to structure the training to reduce the impact of it on their work,” she said.

“The role had the flexibility of being able to work from home, the flexibility to take my little one to doctors’ appointments. Taking it was a no-brainer.”

Benefits beyond the talent pipeline

Interflow’s simple change of approach has solved two problems; it opened the talent pool in a competitive market, and it created a pathway for women to enter the water industry.

In practice, Godsil explained, the benefits extend even further. 

“Exposure to different leadership styles gained from other industries will unlock potential in our teams and enable them to be their best,” he said.

“At a time when our industry faces complex issues like water affordability, water security, climate change, the more diverse our thinking, the better position we’re in to tackle them.”

Also apparent is the impact that value and behaviour-led recruiting has had on the culture at Interflow. 

“We have seen a real uplift in culture and retention,” Godsil said. 

“You walk around the office and there’s this really nice buzz because people feel they are working towards something they truly believe in. That’s pretty special.”

For more information, visit Interflow’s website.

This article featured in the June edition of Trenchless Australasia. 

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