Meet Leona

Leona studied project management and was a graduate project officer at Health Infrastructure in St Leonards. We interviewed Leona when she commenced the graduate program.





What did you study and where?

I studied a Bachelor of Project Management majoring in Business Analytics at the University of Sydney.

What made you want to apply for the NSW Government Graduate program?

For me, it was the sheer variety of opportunities to explore what project management looks like in various government sector agencies. Project management is such a diverse skill, and you can apply it anywhere. It’s also a great opportunity to be involved in projects that directly influence the community that I live in. 

What were three key things you learned in the Graduate Program?

  • It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s how you react to that mistake and how you learn from it and move on that makes a difference. 

  • Take in different perspectives. In a project team, people bring so many different perspectives to the table, whether they are engineers, architects, consultants, or other government departments. Having those varied perspectives helps to cover all your blind spots to make sure we have a good robust solution.

  • Change doesn’t just happen instantly, it’s a journey. If you want change or want to make change you must advocate for it and really appreciate the whole process. I’ve found that the journey is just as important as the result. 

Can you tell us about your placements so far?

I’m in my first rotation, at Health Infrastructure in St Leonards. They deliver sustainable infrastructure solutions and asset management programs for hospitals. Generally, these are hospital redevelopments/constructions, initiatives, and various support functions to streamline how projects are done. I’m currently working on the Shoalhaven Hospital Redevelopment project where the existing hospital is being expanded with a new seven-storey acute services building.

I’m involved in making strategic decisions in terms of where the project is going, what we are doing next, liaising with other departments, and obtaining required approvals. My role has also included risk management, procurement activities, preparing presentations, maintaining strategic alignment with high-level aims, and communicating frequently across our stakeholder network.

There are a lot of little steps involved in developing a hospital which I’ve never known about, but it’s really exciting!

Did you see yourself in your current role when you applied?

Initially, I didn’t really have an expectation of where I would get placed. I was hoping for a diverse range of agencies to see what projects are like. I have no background in health or heavy engineering or building a hospital, but I’m really surprised by how much I’m liking it.

What’s your favourite part of your role?

I love working on diverse tasks with a variety of people and seeing how their expertise, knowledge, and cooperative discussions work together to build a product that the community is excited about.

It’s really rewarding to be part of something so impactful this early in my career and knowing that all these efforts will create something that will leave a mark on the community in the future by literally changing the landscape. I remember going to Nowra for the first time and having the lightbulb moment when I realised the gravity and scale of what I was working on, since it had all been working virtually up until that point.

How do your studies relate to your role?

The methodology and mindset of project management is applied across everything I do. Because project management is so diverse, the theoretical principles and knowledge I studied at university serves as the baseline for how I approach my work.

The best practices I learnt in my project management degree inform the way my team approaches our day-to-day work. I also get to apply this mindset when I speak to stakeholders about progress or consider possible solutions to address issues.

How does diversity and inclusion factor into your work?

Cultural awareness and diversity come up a lot during my work. I have found this culturally inclusive lens a very worthwhile experience as a graduate, and it’s shaped my perspectives on the work we do as the public sector.

The Shoalhaven region has a strong presence of First Nations people and we’ve had to consider how to create a hospital that is welcoming and inclusive without being tokenistic. Whether it’s in the architecture of the building, the landscaping around the hospital or designated spaces in the facility; there are so many opportunities to incorporate meaningful pieces that reflect the rich cultures and diversity in the community.

What advice would you give a student with an interest in project management or engineering who wants to apply for the Graduate Program?

There are so many opportunities for young engineers to see the behind the scenes of projects in NSW Government. Project management is essentially how the government implements new ideas, creates change in communities, and rolls out initiatives. It’s a chance to work with diverse communities and different departments, which is a huge selling point for someone who hasn’t decided what sector or industry they want to go into, or if they’re looking for a rich variety of different experiences.

It’s an awesome networking opportunity to hear from other project managers or engineers that have worked across so many different projects as they always have very interesting stories or lessons learned to share.

What would you tell someone thinking about applying for the Graduate Program?

You will learn everywhere you go, and there’s always new things happening. You bring a fresh new perspective onboard and may be part of uncovering some blind spots, so don’t downplay what you have to offer.