Women Inspiring Rail: A Q&A with Lidija Dumbaloska, Professional Head of Electrical Engineering, Sydney Trains
For our next Women Inspiring Rail instalment, Lidija Dumbaloska, Professional Head of Electrical Engineering at Sydney Trains, discusses how her role involves managing complex technical problems that have high technical risk, and how encouraging those in the workplace is the best road to development.
How did your career in rail begin and what does your current job involve?
After I completed my Electrical Engineering degree, I gained a position in the New South Wales (NSW) Government Railways Graduate Programme. Throughout my career, I developed a strong interest in construction. As a Project Engineer and a Project Manager, I delivered several complex, brownfield infrastructure projects. In 2013, I was appointed into a senior leadership role where I was accountable for delivering the electrical portfolio of works and, just over 12 months ago, I succeeded in applying for my current role as Professional Head of Electrical Engineering for Sydney Trains. My current role involves leading and mentoring a team of 80 senior managers and engineers. It is about focusing on engineering management, which involves directly supporting the people in my team and managing complex technical problems that have high technical risk and require novel solutions.
What aspects of your job do you find the most challenging/rewarding, and why?
Stepping back from the technical and project delivery aspects to a role with much broader organisational context was a challenge.
One of the most challenging aspects of my career was moving from being an engineer to a manager. Stepping back from the technical and project delivery aspects to a role with much broader organisational context was a challenge. But the compromise of stepping back from technical is that you get to gather broader organisational context and execute more strategic organisational decisions.
What is it about the rail industry that you are most passionate about?
I love how dynamic and complex the work is, and there’s a huge variety of rail projects. There are also lots of opportunities for growth and progression.
What has been your biggest achievement/proudest moment so far in your rail career?
Throughout my career, I have met lots of people who have helped and encouraged me. I have always made time to ‘pay it forward’ by helping young men and women to achieve their full potential. It’s a great source of pride for me, that several of the people I was able to help have been able to step up to more senior roles.
How has the rail industry evolved since you joined?
We’re definitely seeing a lot more women in the business choosing a trade or engineering as a career.
In the early days of engineering and maintenance, most employees were male. However, Sydney Trains has been putting a lot of effort into programmes designed to attract and retain more women – and we’re definitely seeing a lot more women in the business choosing a trade or engineering as a career.
What have been the biggest changes?
The rail industry is constantly being developed, resulting in a network that is one of the safest and most reliable in the world. It is a system that is used by millions of people every day. With the industry expanding, Sydney Trains has become an organisation that is acknowledged as one delivering a world-class service. With new, more enthusiastic leaders who have encouraged teamwork and collaboration, we have developed new ways to encourage teams to work together and learn from each other. Furthermore, the organisation has invested considerable time and effort in aligning its leadership with the business vision.
Who within the rail community has been an inspiration to you, and why?
Throughout my career I have been fortunate enough to work with some great mentors, but there is one who is particularly memorable. My manager in 2013 was an exceptional leader and she showed genuine interest in my development. She had an exceptional ability to keep the team focused on our goals in the midst of significant organisational change, and was constantly encouraging me to take on bigger challenges to expand my skills. She’s now a Deputy Executive Director, which is a testament to her leadership qualities.
What can be done to diversify the workforce in the rail sector?
We have an opportunity to get more women into the railway by raising an awareness of the career paths that exist in rail.
The industry needs a variety of skills, and we have an opportunity to get more women into the railway by raising an awareness of the career paths that exist in rail. I want to see more women willing to try, instead of waiting to have 100 per cent of the skills and qualifications before they apply for a role. We can do this by empowering and inspiring women to join the railway industry.
Some of the men I worked alongside had valuable perspectives on leadership and how to advance in the industry. Mentoring is crucial and men should not be afraid to mentor women and vice versa. It helps both parties to better understand one another’s challenges.
What advice would you give to those thinking about pursuing a career in rail?
The rail industry is evolving and providing opportunities for diverse and dynamic career opportunities. There are many projects currently underway, and there is an enormous demand for passionate and skilled people.
There are many fantastic women in rail, and it is imperative for the success of these projects to bring more women into the industry. It will definitely benefit the rail industry by gaining the different dimensions that women bring to the team, and new projects can be planned in different ways.
Sydney Trains is a great place to work, with many supportive and inspiring leaders. Throughout my career in Sydney Trains, I have had access to training and development programmes that helped me build on my leadership and technical capabilities.
If you would like to take part in the Women Inspiring Rail series, or would like to nominate a colleague to take part, please email: Leah Hockley, Junior Editor, Global Railway Review.