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 Jackie Tuck!
Jackie is an innovator of operational design. Coming essential from an engineering background, she has some fascinating insights into men and women working together to challenge the bias and encouraging other women to step forward into the engineering space and be part of the conversation.
Jackie is one of those people that can take a complex problem and explain it to you in simple terms. She is warm, engaging and ridiculously intelligent but at the same time down to earth. Over coffee, Jackie took the time to answer 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?
That it can be anything you want it to be.
What I took from my engineering course at university is that all those years studying helped to mould your brain into a logical problem solving machine. Unfortunately, the course does not paint the best picture of what an engineering career could become. If you choose to become a practicing engineer, you have the opportunity in trying out anything from project management, working in highly skilled teams or managing them, building major capital infrastructure, working on financing and resourcing, scheduling, risk management, data science…it’s pretty endless. The other point is even though it is a career where men are higher in numbers, if you have your degree and you practice your skills, you can compete with anyone at any level. You’ve trained your brain to be there, you have every right to be in the conversation.
Engineering has not been seen to have the excitement of ER, Bondi Rescue or Suits. It’s that career of the quiet achiever where you have the chance to contribute to impacting on a large portion of society, so essentially my personality traits relate to that type of work.
How did you get to where you are today?
I, nor my careers counsellor, imagined that I would have a career full of problem solving, innovative design and project management. My younger self had a natural disposition towards the arts and appreciation of beautiful design, but my good ol’ parents ‘suggested’ I should push through with the maths/science subjects which honestly were not my strengths at the time. However, life throws you curve balls and after a year’s stint in Science I moved into Engineering and had a tough time working my brain through all the theory. With a change of university and getting over a case of glandular, my left brain evolved into a problem solving machine and I started appreciating the design of all sorts of complicated systems. After all this trouble of finishing uni, I made a pact to myself to give the engineering profession 5yrs, it has lasted so much longer.
My career has spanned through mining, pharmaceuticals, and the oil and gas industries. I have worked with highly sophisticated systems with multidisciplinary specialist teams. I’ve worked in projects where the teams do not all speak English, where the laws are significantly different from country to country. Learnt in depth business culture change after a catastrophic event and introducing innovative design and ways of working. It’s been big, and it’s been fun.
What would you suggest to other women who want to follow in your footsteps?
It might seem that to qualify entrance into the engineering profession that you’d need to be super interested in pulling apart a car engine and then fully recondition it or have a love of Lego. Evidentially the answer is no, you don’t need to have done any of that…but you’d be surprised that it might be fun.
The other misconception is this type of career is full of boy nerds, Elon Musk/ Bill Gates-esq type person…actually the engineering profession really could do with more women who are naturally better at communication, and who get ‘people’ and all their real and difficult complications of who they are.
Essentially those who are interested and excited to learn about innovation and where it will go, those who like to work in teams and work through problems and do that in a highly effective way, then please enter the engineering field.
If we have more of these types of women, then it would certainly be a lot more appealing to the masses. I say, if there was a role model who was Michelle Obama/Beyonce who liked engineering, it’d certainly become the best profession in the world.
What, if any, diversity challenges have you encountered in your career?
The diversity challenges I have faced has been as early as University where the majority of my cohort was male. As I moved into work I became increasing aware that I would be the only woman in my team. The organisations I predominantly was employed at were multinational, so there were many people of various races and colour and religion. Some of the industries I have worked in were mostly long standing, so the many specialists, higher level engineers, and managers were one or amazingly two generations older than me, and are predominantly white male and of a well-established biased culture.
So as you can tell, it would be easy for me to talk to you about diversity challenges in sex, colour, religion, ageism, single/married, with or without family, etc… But from all the times I have encountered unfavourable and unwanted incidents towards me, and I’d count only on one hand, is that my personal values and beliefs, my worthiness and self-esteem, are the foundations of what gets me through these events. Mostly are annoying incidents but you need to speak up for yourself and those who can’t speak for themselves. As Brene Brown says ‘vulnerability is the best measure of courage’. What I take from Brown is that we must have a real conversation about what is going on in the organisation or the community, especially when it impacts unfairly to someone personally and impacts how they perform at work. I continue to work towards this philosophy every time there is a challenging event.
Women and men of today are the ones who need to challenge the bias and we need to support each other more than ever to change the tide.
What’s next for you?
My career has truly been fun to date. After a hiatus of a couple of years nurturing my family, I have recently been reflecting on what is essential for me to grow and strengthen for the many years of my future career. In the meantime, I’ll be commencing my scholarship in the Advanced Leadership Program with Women in Leadership Australia. For me it’s important to build a network full of highly accomplished women who are striving in their career. Being part of a cohort from diverse backgrounds, will help me engage different views and experiences and essentially become my support team to help define me in the next step of my career.
I’m now looking to the next thing, which may be anything. I’m looking to leveraging my logical problem solving mindset and perhaps enhancing an organisation’s view on innovation, design strategy, culture change in acceptance and subsequently making it a permanent mindset. It’s not easy to not know where my career will go. My leap of faith is in me and taking the risk into the unknown, but I’m learning to get comfortable with that.
Jackie is certainly the kind of woman that an innovative organisation would be lucky to have! You can connect with Jackie on LinkedIn here and continue to follow her journey.
Thanks Jackie xx