What does your role entail?
A General Counsel advises the company’s management team on legal risk associated with their BAU operations like projects, contracts, safety, environment, employment and other legal aspects of the business, as well as incident and crisis management, and movements in the general regulatory environment. Part of the role is maintenance and setting up tailored reliable systems, and part of it is the more unpredictable and exciting advice on “whatever is happening today”. I also manage all of the company secretarial elements and the ethics and compliance aspects of the company and its affiliates operating in Australia.
From another angle, the role entails many, many meetings and conversations working with people to understand the broader context as well as possible before exploring it for answers, a lot of critical thinking and problem solving.
How did you navigate your career?
My career has developed through accepting a chain of opportunities. I find developing a 5 year plan more difficult than others might, but having an open mind to challenges and roles presented, has given me loads of diversity. I’ve enjoyed work in a law firm and also within businesses. I’ve chosen roles out of intellectual curiosity or sometimes knowing my skillset is needed and can thank mentors warmly for their encouragement and direction when sometimes taking that leap needs talking through.
That enthusiasm to solve problems has kept my role diverse and busy, from the early days in court to the general risk, governance and legal advice I now provide business wide.
What has been your career highlight?
My current role is the culmination of my experience over the years and offers me diverse and challenging work every single day. I have a fantastic, collegiate legal team and an expert executive to work with to address operational issues as they arise and to drive forward the company’s projects and innovation and improvement projects. Also, I recall my time in Singapore some 13 years ago as acting General Counsel for the Lendlease Asia business. The opportunity came up only a few months after I’d begun a role at Lendlease (my first legal role in a company), and it was exciting and terrifying too. The travel and the range of jurisdictions covered were eye opening at a time I was still trying to wrap my head around the company’s appetite for risk.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Effective communication is an ongoing challenge. Bouygues is headquartered in Paris and the language and distance present obviously challenges. Even here in Australia, the key to being effective in my role is creating that understanding in people of a risk, the options available, the nuances. I encourage my team to workshop advice with their stakeholders so that not only is the message conveyed, but it’s also tested and tailored so it’s as useful as possible. Sometimes legal issues can be very complex and layered, but I well know that using advice to make a decision requires clarity and conviction.
And I have to add – the constant challenge of doing more with less.
What do you think is the most important change happening in the construction industry?
Right now expectations on contractors is changes from clients and from within. Being clever and efficient engineers, building attractive, practical spaces is no longer enough. There’s a positive and inexorable shift to work in ways that are more productive, more technologically enlightened, more diverse and mentally healthy. That change is critically important to the long term sustainability of the construction industry so that the best and brightest want to work with us. Long hours of aggressive culture and unreasonable deadlines is not the way of the future.
What would be your one piece of advice for other women aspiring to progress in the construction industry?
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Put yourself forward knowing you’re at least as good (and probably better) than the next candidate. If you need a change, you owe it to yourself to speak up respectfully and thoughtfully, but firmly. If you feel isolated and alone (and you will from time to time) reach out to your colleagues – to the women but also to the men. Bouygues men and women are all very motivated to encourage women to stay in the industry and any opportunity to make this easier is welcome.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I want to raise 3 normal, well–adjusted kids to adulthood and still manage to do a job I love each day. I want the construction industry to increasingly become the most exciting, most rewarding and most satisfying industry to be involved with, fuelled by clients who partner with their contractors to develop inspiring projects in an environment that’s most conducive to managed risk taking and innovation.
What does being a director of the Australian Constructors Association mean to you?
Having a voice at the table and the chance to be heard on aspects of the industry that need focus – harnessing the accumulated knowledge and clout of the great quality of respected contractors who are members of the ACA and collectively making a difference to the industry in a really positive way. As a collective we are so much more effective in areas like mental health, diversity, safety and environment than the work each member company does in its own right.