Technical excellence makes for great performance
Jill Boag is the Project Director on the Monash Freeway Stage 2 Upgrade, a major road project in Melbourne, Victoria. Jill took some time out to talk to us about her career and her work with CPB Contractors.
My start in construction
I was one of five girls raised on a 4,000-acre dairy farm in Stony Creek, Victoria. We all pitched in to do whatever needed to be done, so I grew up knowing that girls can do anything. I’m grateful for that as now I never close my mind to any possibility.
I’ve been in the construction industry for about 25 years. I’m a civil structural engineer by training, which I got into by chance. I’d grown up wanting to be a vet, but a friend wanted to be an electrical engineer and I tagged along to a couple of university open days.
For the first 15 years of my career, I concentrated on acquiring technical knowledge. I learnt how to be a crane assessor, how to be a scaffold inspector, how to place concrete in all weather conditions and to understand the material properties of concrete.
It is technical excellence that makes for great performance, and this foundation of technical knowledge allows me to challenge things so that we arrive at the best result for the project.
We build cities and our infrastructure connects regional areas
Our industry makes for a unique career. One of the best things about working on major projects for a company like CPB Contractors is that the end result is tangible. Every time we go somewhere, everyone in the family starts up, “Yes, we know you worked on this….we know you helped build that.” It is part of enjoying what you do and being proud of what you do.
We are good problem solvers
Our job is to solve problems, and you do that by being positive and listening to any crazy idea. It is often one millimetre of somebody’s ‘out there’ idea that gets you exceptional change. That applies across all aspects of the job – engineering, design, environment, community and safety.
I always tell people about a job I did in the UK where I built a mobile phone tower on the side of a mountain. I was waist-deep in snow on the side of a mountain that I’d hiked up because there was no road and I was thinking, how am I going to do this job? The answer ended up being a motorbike with a crane on it, so there is always an answer!
Collaboration supports a high-performance culture
Keeping an open mind, encouraging and engaging people, are what builds the right culture. I’m an information seeker. I want to ask questions and constructively challenge what is being done. This builds the collaborative culture that promotes good values, integrity and excellence.
As a Project Director on a big job like this, it’s important to make space for people so they can make their contribution in their own way. It is super important to be open with your team that you don’t know everything and that the entire group is giving value, in many different ways.
It can often be a very junior engineer that, by asking a question, brings about an improvement in what we are doing. You need to have open communication and a supportive environment where people feel like they can contribute their ideas. Collaboration is what it is all about. What I want is a work environment where people are positive and happy about what they are doing. And when you get happy people, you get good outcomes.
Outside of work
In my spare time, I run ultra-marathons. I had never run more than 5 kilometres, but I saw this advertisement for The Big Red Run, which runs 150 kms in stages through the Simpson Desert to raise money for juvenile diabetes. It ends at the Birdsville pub, and I thought that would be amazing. So, I trained for six months, and running up and down dunes in Central Australia was a phenomenal experience.