Sharon is an environmental professional with over 20 years work experience. She has loved the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the highs and lows, the changes, the people, the experiences, the learnings and the opportunities of working within the Queensland energy sector as a chemical technician, within the environmental field and for a short time playing in the health and safety field. It has been one hell of a ride. Sharon still continues to learn and be challenged on a daily basis. Now though Sharon feels a pull towards helping women, inspiring women, educating women, empowering women to really LIVE LIFE, to LOVE LIFE, to live a holistically healthy and active life so is in the process of working out how she move in this direction.
“In the mean-time though I am grateful for a job that I enjoy, where I continue to do the best I can in every situation, where I continue to learn and am able to seize opportunities as they present themselves.”
Sharon Ockenfels Thorogood, Environmental Systems and Planning Specialist, Stanwell Corporation
So… what do you actually do?
As a corporate resource servicing sites across the state, my days and weeks vary. An average day may look like this. 515am alarm goes off and I up and off to the gym. 630 am home from the gym. 630am – 745am breakfast, getting kids sorted for school, getting myself sorted for work. 8am school drop off. 830am at work. Checking my e-mails and my calendar for commitments planned for the day. Commitments could include meetings with key stakeholders from across the business maybe looking at auditing requirements, audit outcomes, audit planning, incident management system, risk management systems, environmental requirements within safe work systems, business planning, strategic environmental planning, budgeting, technical environmental advice, drafting business cases and training programs. With 20 years work experience, anything that may be required! 3pm finish work and dash off to for school pick up.
How did you get to your position of being an Environmental Systems and Planning?
I originally started work as a chemical technician in 1994 at a Queensland Power Station, having studied chemistry after leaving school. I didn’t hate my job but I did not enjoy the line of work. I knew I wanted to be doing something else into the future. This was about the same time environmental regulations really came into play and businesses needed to comply with environmental rules. Scary really when you think about that. The Queensland Environmental Protection Act only came into play in 1994. The business I was working in moved very quickly with the times, employing environmental officers and taking a lead role in proactive environmental protection. I have always cared about the environment and decided this was where I wanted to go so back to uni went to complete a post graduate diploma in environmental management. I was then employed as an Environmental Officer, moving more into the environmental management systems world and taking on an Environmental Management Systems Coordinator role. Over time I extended my interest to include Health and Safety and completed a post graduate diploma in occupational health and safety. With the business then going through a major restructure I was then appointed as a Health, Safety and Environmental Management Systems Specialist. This was for me the perfect combination of where I wanted to be, using all my skills and knowledge. Unfortunately this role didn’t last long with the business going through another restructure and I moved back into main stream environment as an Environmental Systems and Planning Specialist. I have been so blessed to have maintain employment within the same business but have experiences so much, continually to this day being challenged and learning new things.
Have you always wanted to work in this industry?
When I finished uni, I just wanted a job and I was lucky to get one that set me on the journey and allowed me to arrive at the point I am now. It really just happened. It’s funny though that I started in the energy industry as new grad, having moved all over Queensland as a child with my parents as a result of my father’s job in construction, building new power stations!!
What do you love about your role?
I love the people I work with and the learning opportunities I have had. Over the years I have met some amazing people, have enjoyed many achievements, worked for some truly inspirational managers and some others I could only describe as down-right terrible. I have made life time friends from all over Queensland.
I love the flexibility that my job allows. I am so blessed to have been able to work part-time (currently 20 hours/week) since the birth of my first child over 14 years ago.
In your current role, what has been your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement in my current role would have to be the means I have supported and championed the people in my team as we have successfully moved through a huge period of change.
Over your career, what has been your ‘love this’ moment?
I think the biggest ‘love this’ moment would have been the appointment of a beautiful environmental professional in our Brisbane Office, when I was on one of my maternity leave periods, returning to work to get to know her better, having her then go on maternity leave and come back and decide she wanted to work part time, us selling to the business the benefits of sharing a role and both of us being appointed EMS Coordinators. Amazing what you can manifest when you really want something!!
What would be the least favourite aspect of your role?
I think the least favourite aspect of my role is the business and regulator red-tape which can be very frustrating. It is changing though!!!
Any advice for anyone aspiring to work in the Environmental Systems and Planning area?
From a technical perspective, I believe a science, chemistry back ground is fundamental to working in the environmental management field. I would suggest some sort of study of chemistry within your environmental management degree. In general systems and planning is required as a part of any environmental management role but for bigger business there may be a systems focused role. If moving into the systems and planning field, I would suggest investing in ISO 14001 auditing courses, seeking out strategic planning opportunities and understanding people and their motivators and their behaviours as the biggest challenge in the role is stakeholder management. Once in the role I strongly suggest the use of the KISS principle in all situations.
Thank you for sharing and letting us explore your fabulous career journey. Please join the conversation below if you have any comments or questions for Sharon.