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An underground trailblazer

trailblazer Greater Western Water

Trenchless Australasia sat down with Greater Western Water senior project manager – major projects Allison Newland to discuss her career and her insights from working within the industry.

Allison Newland knows she works in a male-dominated industry, but she doesn’t feel it’s affected her career.  

She often finds herself as the only woman in the room as she navigates her work as a senior project manager at Greater Western Water (GWW).  

Newland manages projects to deliver new sewer and water infrastructure, which often involve trenchless construction, and her confidence has grown through her 16-year tenure at the water corporation.  

“I’ve never felt less equal to anyone, and I haven’t experienced any challenges like that,” she said. 

“I usually don’t even notice that I might be the only woman in a team, which is good.”

Newland is in good company; at Greater Western Water, 80 per cent of the executive leadership team and 50 per cent of their board identify as women. 

In Newland’s sphere, her section manager, general manager and Greater Western Water’s managing director are all women. 

Newland considers them all as informal role models. 

Newland has never sought out a formal role model, she’s never needed to.

 Instead, she connects with other women she works with, and when asked if she’s got any advice for female STEM graduates, she suggests they do the same. 

“The reality is, it is a male dominated industry, so try to reach out to other females and make those connections, to support each other,” she said. 

When Newland was a civil engineering student, her cohort reflected the gender imbalance that continues through STEM courses today – less than 20 per cent of the students were female. 

The relationships she built with her fellow female engineering graduates remain some of her most important, both personally and professionally.

trailblazer Greater Western Water
Newland manages projects to deliver new sewer and water infrastructure. Image: Greater Western Water

“Although we’re all in different roles, we often bounce stuff off each other to get a different perspective,” Newland said.

“We’re in completely different industries but face similar problems.” 

She also values the relationships she has with her colleagues and feels a deep appreciation for the supportive working environment that they’ve fostered, despite the challenges and stresses that come with the role. 

“In our team we always say we just want to support each other and if something goes wrong, we work on fixing it,” she said. 

“To me, the rewarding thing is when you do have challenges, but you get to work together to solve them – it might sound cliche, but I think that is what keeps us going.”

During Newland’s time at GWW, she’s worked across many parts of the business, from planning to design, to the environmental compliance team, and now the project  delivery team. These experiences molded her career’s natural evolution from Civil Engineer to Project Manager. 

“Every day’s quite different, but I do a lot of talking with team members, delivery partners and stakeholders, which is not what you’d expect for an engineer, but is definitely normal and required for a project manager,” Newland said.

“I like the more interactive elements of project management, seeing things happen on site. I like working with people to help solve their problems.” 

Working in the water industry also brings her a lot of job satisfaction.

“Itt feels good to think that you’re helping to provide something that the community needs,” she said.

“It has its challenges like everything but ultimately, I feel good about what we deliver.”

This article featured in the June edition of Trenchless Australasia. 

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