I began my professional career way back in 1983 with the CRB (Country Roads Board), which was later restructured into the Road Construction Authority and then VicRoads. During my 7 years there I worked in a range of areas including planning, design and construction. I also had two children over this period. In 1990 I joined the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) where I was a Senior Research Engineer specialising in the traffic engineering area (with a particular focus on speed zoning and road safety audits), and after 7 years at ARRB I joined my current firm.
What is your current role?
My current role is Managing Director of O’Brien Traffic, a Melbourne based traffic engineering consultancy that was established in 1986. I joined the firm in 1997 as a Senior Traffic Engineer, and then became an Associate, a Director, and then, in 2011, Managing Director.
What first attracted you to get involved in the transport industry?
My first engineering job at the end of my second year engineering studies was with the traffic engineering department of the City of Melbourne. I really enjoyed the work I did there and the people I was working with. The following summer, after the third year of my studies, I was lucky enough to be offered a holiday job with the County Roads Board. I again enjoyed this experience, and luckily for me, after working there for 12 weeks they offered me a graduate position to start after I completed my final year of studies. As I did not particularly enjoy my studies in soils, structures, concrete, water or anything else I was studying in final year civil engineering, I decided that joining the Country Roads Board was the way to go! As I enjoyed the wide range of work so much, I also selected traffic related companies for my subsequent roles.
Could you explain some key opportunities in your career and how they contributed to your development?
While at the Country Roads Board I spent 2 years in each of 4 positions, in the planning, access control, road design, and road construction areas. This included time at Head Office (Kew) and a metropolitan region. This extended period of time in each area gave me a large amount of experience in many aspects of road engineering that I have relied on throughout my career. While at the CRB I had two children, and in 1988/1989 I was instrumental in having the CRB introduce part time work for all employees. Prior to that time, you either worked full time or not at all. Being able to work part time while my children were young (and in fact I did not return to full time work until they were well into high school) was instrumental in me being able to continue and progress my career. When I moved to ARRB I worked with some very clever and supportive people at the forefront of road safety research. They welcomed me to their team and their support freed me to do things in research that I wouldn’t have thought I could do. And then finally, when I was employed by O’Brien Traffic despite not having worked in a consulting environment previously, this was obviously a key opportunity that I grabbed with both hands!
What has been/will be your involvement with AITPM?
I have been a regular attendee at AITPM events since the Victorian Branch became active in the mid 1990’s, and I have spoken at some events. I look forward to assisting with future events where I can provide beneficial input.
What has been a memorable moment in your career?
I have had a number of memorable moments, but probably they are more memorable to me than to anyone else! Perhaps some highlights were successfully negotiating for the introduction of part time work back in my CRB days, presenting conference papers at a range of international conferences (while with ARRB), and becoming Managing Director of O’Brien Traffic.
What are your personal and/or professional career plans for the future?
I am now in the latter stage of my career. Professionally, I hope to be able to keep O’Brien Traffic in a solid position for the future, and to assist our younger engineers as they commence their careers. On a personal level, I am enjoying being a grandmother!
Do you have any advice you would like to share to professionals in the transport/traffic industry?
Working in the transport/traffic industry provides a wide range of areas in which to become involved. Learning is something I have done throughout my career and which I recommend to everyone. Even at this stage of my career I am finding new areas to work in. I think this gives our profession a huge advantage over other professions where once you have become experienced there are limited opportunities for new challenges.
Do you have any advice or reflections a career in transport and traffic for women in the industry?
I found that my career was very compatible with working part time, and the reality for many women who have children is that they must have access to part time work for an extended period to maintain family functionality. I am pleased to say that I currently work with a number of men who have moved to part time work to be able to look after young children, and this is a major change that has occurred in recent years.