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There's nothing holding you back, apart from you! - Kate Evans

As part of pledging MADI to #100daysforchange by promoting women in non-traditional work roles, we’ll be championing women who are breaking down stereotypical barriers, leading the workforce and being agents for change.

Meet Kate Evans!

Kate currently works for John Laing in a dual role as Finance Manager; she delivers the SPC Project finance for Perth’s recently constructed Optus Stadium, in addition to the John Laing’s regional, Australia and New Zealand, Entities. Kate’s experience across finance roles and working in the construction space, mean that she’s working in two male dominated areas – there’s been lots of meetings where she was the only female sitting at the table!

Kate is driven & intelligent whilst being warm and an advocate of diversity across her organisation. I was lucky enough to talk to Kate over a coffee, where she answered some questions around her career and diversity so that the next generation can “be what they can see”.

What do you love about your chosen career?

In terms of industry, I ended up in the construction space following a move to Brisbane, as there was massive growth in this sector at the time. I love being involved in infrastructure projects, for the simple fact that you can see an asset raised from the ground and in most cases adding value to the community. For a period of my career I worked for a mechanical services business, although I made a conscious choice to get back into the construction industry. I was; and still am, very grateful to be involved in the New Perth Stadium project which is a critical piece of infrastructure for Perth. I love finance and accounting as a role choice, particularly now as my career is maturing and I move away from an accountant into a more complex accounting and finance role. I enjoy the predictable nature of accounting, and get satisfaction from seeing something reconcile. Whilst these days I love the strategic thinking piece within my current role.

How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve been in the construction industry delivering accounting/finance and commercial roles for the past 10 years. My career commenced when I left NZ and moved to Brisbane I secured a role with a bulk haulage contractor in a general contracts administrator and accounting role, on the Airport Link joint venture. I then moved on to work for a mechanical services company and started with this business in their accounts team based in Brisbane. Eventually I relocated to Perth with the business, where my remit was to “clean up” the services team and administrative function. I took on the role as Service Support Manger for WA/NT and, with my team, enjoyed success setting up the Service Support function across their Australian businesses. Part of the journey included developing and mapping out new processes and procedures for the function and training staff across Australia. I was truly invested in the success of this function and motivated by the accomplishment which I/we had enjoyed therefore when I fell pregnant I was quick to get back to work. As the role was very broad it provided me a fantastic opportunity to truly reflect on what I enjoyed within the position and business more generally. Something I will always be grateful for! Additionally I had fantastic leaders and mentors around me shaping my path.

However I made the decision to take a step back; as my hours and travel was huge, and left this role. When I took time out I asked myself – what motivated me within my role? What did I enjoy, or not enjoy...? It was at that point, I made the conscious decision to focus on accounting and get back into the industry I loved; construction!

By identifying my drivers, I was very selective when looking for my next role as I wanted to ensure that I and the business were a “great fit”. I found a fantastic role with John Laing and started as an Assistant Accountant on the New Perth Stadium project at the beginning of construction. I also made the decision to go back to university and study as a mature age student. I’m not someone who sits idle, I’m very driven and enjoy challenges, and therefore within the space of a year I was progressed further within my role and took on the finance deliverables of the regional LIMS entities to broaden my scope of work. I was extremely fortunate that again I was surrounded by brilliant leaders who really advocated me, recognising my talent and expertise. My move to Finance Manager is a recent development, with which came a relocation for my family to Melbourne. JL provided me with the opportunity following the departure of my mentor and manager back to the Netherlands. My role here sees me continue in the delivery of the SPC Project Finance and an elevated central function for the Group.

What would you suggest to other women who want to follow in your footsteps?

Not to be afraid of change, not to question your ability and embrace hard work. Some of my experiences is a real testament to the fact that it’s quite achievable and that if you want something enough you can achieve it. There’s nothing holding you back apart from you.

What does your organisation do to promote diversity?

Diversity and inclusion are key values of John Laing! We recently launched a massive piece around diversity & inclusion and I’m part of the committee focusing on the APAC region. Part of this is identifying what we do well, what we do poorly, and how can we improve and retain talent in the business. Several initiatives have been launched internally, which is fantastic! John Laing have developed in house and external mentoring platforms, women’s networking groups and a whole range of initiatives to promote and attract staff. We have an exceptional culture which enables free speech around diversity enabling us to truly promote some critical agenda items.

What, if any, diversity challenges have you encountered in your career?

I have had rhetoric which has been challenging in my career, especially when I fell pregnant, “Well, your career is over”. I’m an ambitious person and it made me feel like I needed to prove to myself that I could juggle both family and a career. I turned this comment around and made it more motivational then derogatory.

Working in two typically male dominated industries (construction and finance) does expose you to diversity challenges in the workplace. There have been several occasions when I have been the only women at the table. I have noticed over time that I’ve changed my language and developed a style which is more direct when dealing with male peers.

What’s next for you?

In the near term, I see myself becoming more involved in other areas of the JL business. I see my career moving more in a finance direction, and navigating away from a traditional accounting role.

I enjoy delivering my current role, given that this is still new to me, but I’m also looking ahead to what’s next. I don’t see a glass ceiling! As I’ve matured I’m realising that I can go anywhere with my skill set and move my career in any direction I see fit. I think ultimately given my skill set, my end goal would be to hold a board position.

Kate is standing out as a leader across the Finance and Construction space and embodies the mantra that nothing can hold you back apart from you! You can connect with Kate on LinkedIn here and continue to follow her journey.

Thanks Kate xx

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