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Changing attitudes to safety

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February 2010



I have a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours). I am admitted as a solicitor in QLD and NSW and I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2003. I was also named Brisbane Young Manager of the Year by the Australian Institute of Management in 2005.

First Job ?

As soon as I left SCEGGS I joined the Air Force and did my first degree in History at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). I spent four years at ADFA before being posted to my first job which was at RAAF Base Amberley outside of Brisbane. So at 21 I was the Administration Officer for an F-111 Squadron which was a wonderful experience. I also met my now husband of 12 years on my third day at work as he was an F-111 Navigator at the Squadron so it was a successful first job!

Current Job ? Please describe

I am the global CEO of Sentis, a cognitive based safety consultancy. This means that we focus on changing people’s attitudes to safety as opposed to teaching what to do to stay safe. We are all about helping people make safe choices at work and home which we help to do through explaining how the brain works and its inherent limitations – especially in complex working environments. We also give people intrinsic reasons for staying safe – which includes things most important to you like your family, health, holiday plans – rather than staying safe just because someone tells you too. Our organisation is primarily made up of psychologists and we help mining, resources and utility companies like BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Energex, Ergon, Aker Solutions etc. My role as CEO means I am responsible for our wonderful team of about 70 people who are based in offices in Brisbane, Perth, Santiago and Denver and who service our clients all over the world.

Most satisfying thing about your work ?

The vision of Sentis is for us to improve the lives of others for the better. We do that all over the world and it is very satisfying to see the impact making safe choices can have in people’s lives. We work in countries as diverse as Mozambique, Norway, Fiji, USA, Canada, Chile, Singapore, Namibia, New Zealand and all over Australia. And regardless of nationality or socio-economic background, being able to return home safe after a day’s work is a universal goal.

Most frustrating thing about your work ?   

This may sound trite however I really do love my job and so any frustration I could name would be trivial and mundane. The internal culture we have developed at Sentis is unlike anything I have ever experienced before and so being part of that, and in fact being responsible for ensuring it continues to thrive, ensures that any frustrations that may happen in a day are not something that I dwell on.

What positive aspects have you seen from your work?

We get calls into our offices on a regular basis from participants in our programs letting us know how we have changed their lives. Our programs are not just focused on safety but help people to take control of the choices they make and also to take personal responsibility for those decisions. Gaining those insights at such a personal level can have an incredibly powerful impact on that individual and also those around them, particularly their spouses and children.

Any funny anecdotes?

I have so many that one day I should put them all into a book. Sometimes you end up in the most surreal situations and you really need a sense of humour to get through them. It helps that the people I travel with for work are also wonderful friends so we certainly make sure we turn every ‘work trip’ into as big an adventure as possible. On my most recent trip just last week, we visited our client’s offices in Yellowknife, Canada. This town is just 500km from the Arctic Circle and the temperature was -29 degrees celsius the day we were there. At this time of year, the sun doesn’t rise until 10am and then it gets dark around 3pm. Getting to the client’s office for a 9am meeting while driving in a foot of snow which was falling very heavily, extremely low temperatures and in the dark was something you don’t get to do every day!

Most challenging aspects of your work ?

As well as my work at Sentis, I am also on the board of a Queensland Government Owned Corporation, SunWater Ltd, which manages about $8 billion of infrastructure assets (namely dams and pipelines) in regional Queensland so I certainly always seem to have plenty to do. I do my best to balance all that I do with being the mother of two girls (aged 10 and 7). Maintaining a work life balance is not always easy but I work hard to ensure I am at their sporting events on a weekend (in fact I once flew home from the US to watch their soccer and then flew out again on the Monday to South Africa) and I am also there for their school events. It is not always perfect but I have two daughters who have travelled to many countries in the world and have a real appreciation for different cultures and I see this as an essential part of their education and a real contribution I can make as one of their key role models.

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