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  • #1 in Energy & utilities
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Katherine Cai

You are the only person stopping you from being great. If you want to become good at something, go do it and practice it.

What's your job about?

I am a Project Management graduate in my third, 6-month graduate rotation at Transgrid. Transgrid builds, operates and maintains the electricity transmission network for NSW and ACT. I work within the Major Projects department and support the substations team, transmission lines team and project control team for one of our Major Projects.

For this Major Project, I’m currently looking after the management of our contract with a large engineering consultancy, the development of Transmission Line geotechnical investigations, and creating staging diagrams for substation construction and commissioning. I also compile monthly reports for the Project Controls Group, monthly reports for Executives, and any other ad hoc reporting on our Major Project as requested by other groups. It’s a great mixed bag of activities and requires timely and consistent communication with stakeholders to get what you need. 

Despite not having an engineering background, you can definitely pick things up as you go. The people here are especially understanding and are happy to explain technical things to you. I think above all, the key thing that will keep you afloat is to have great project management skills, which involves both hard skills and soft skills.

What's your background?

During high school, I was classical music and a general all-around nerd. Everyone thought I was going to the Conservatorium of Music after high school, but I wasn’t exactly keen on practising the piano every day for a career.

After high school, I flipped upon the UAC book and one of the things that I saw and liked was project management. It was a fairly new degree and was different from commerce or business studies.

Though the course was pretty interesting, I think what helped me to stand out as a grad applicant were my extra-curricular/work experiences.

Throughout school and uni: I joined the school orchestra, USYD Piano Soc., the Sydney Uni Marching Band Assoc. (SUMBA), and undertook leadership positions in these societies too.

I also ventured to get work experience in all sorts of things, whether it be a 4-month comms/media internship at an Australian fine jewellery boutique or a contractor role as a procurement officer at Transport for NSW).

Throughout these ventures, I continued applying for numerous grad roles without the expectation of getting anything back. Lo and behold, I landed myself a role at Transgrid, despite having no background in the electricity industry at all. I think I nailed the project management questions during the interview, and they liked my open attitude towards learning.

It’s been almost one and a half years, and I’m really grateful that I’ve landed this role!

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes – anyone with the right mindset can do my job! Everyone here is understanding that we’re newbies in the industry, and are happy to teach us the more technical things (like substations and transmission lines). The things that people won’t spoon-feed to you are time management, risk management and quality management. It’s up to you to reach out to people for the information you need and to make well-informed decisions. You should also never assume anything, and always ask if you’re not sure. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love travelling to regional NSW for site visits and meeting field staff. The field staff are so wholesome and I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for Australian culture. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise at Goulburn Maccas to meet your team, seeing a herd of wild kangaroos pass you by in the field, or seeing the rolling fog shroud our towers in the valleys. I even got to see how we fly our drones for line inspections. Even though we need to wake up super early and travel long hours for site visits, the experience is definitely worth it!

What are the limitations of your job?

If you’re not open to travelling outside of Sydney, then you miss out on certain learning experiences. You can definitely be an office worker and only work from Sydney, but then you limit your growth in your role. If you want to be a project manager, I think it’s essential for you to see what’s going on so you have a better understanding of your project.

Please note that travel requirements depend on what team you’re in, and even when I did need to travel, I was only away for two to three days at a time.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student

  1. Doing something is better than doing nothing (because everything is a learning experience).
  2. Take advantage of all the resources you have.
  3. You are the only person stopping you from being great. If you want to become good at something, go do it and practice it.