Count her in

The theme of 2024 International Women’s Day (IWD) is ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress’ – in other words, giving women opportunities to build their capabilities, and strengthening their capacity to learn, earn and lead.

At UPco, we’re celebrating IWD well beyond the day itself, as we explore what the theme means to us. We started by chatting to our newest recruit, Brigette McKay, who initially joined our team as a student planner. Here are a few of her insights about balancing studies with on-the-job learning, and how both can help an aspiring leader get a head start.

Thanks for being our first IWD feature, Brigette! Can we start with a bit of background? How did you come to be at UPco as a student planner?

I grew up seeing both my parents working as professionals in private companies, so I always envisaged that path for myself – but it wasn’t until I was in about Year 10 at high school that Planning occurred to me as a future career. When I graduated, I started my bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at RMIT. As part of that, I had to get some kind of placement to get hands-on experience, and when I came across UPco, I knew this was where I wanted to be. My values very clearly aligned with the business – so much so that I put all my eggs in one basket, and didn’t go to a single other placement interview! Fortunately, I got the gig, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

What did you hope to get out of the experience?

As well as gaining real-world experience and improving my skills and knowledge, I hoped to really learn by osmosis. UPco is full of intelligent, successful individuals. I knew I could soak up a lot of wisdom and knowledge by immersing myself in that environment, and grow as a person as well as a professional.

How did you juggle study and work commitments? What were the challenges of doing both simultaneously – and what were the benefits?

To be honest, it was hard! l was used to multi-tasking, having had several jobs on the go throughout Uni at any given time, including basketball refereeing (my passion). My biggest challenges were time management and saying ‘no’: two things I only figured out in my final year of study. By the end of my studies, I learnt how important it was to make space for doing things I love – whether it’s sport or spending time with family and friends. It’s so much easier to do the hard yards when you have something to look forward to.

The benefits that arose from the years of juggling study and work commitments far outweighed the challenges. These years were by far the hardest, yet most fulfilling, years of my life. I tested my resilience and capabilities, and pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible. I discovered so many things about myself and, looking back, I can honestly say that I am so proud of what I’ve achieved.

In your opinion, what’s the best way for employers to encourage more women into senior planning roles?

Treating all individuals as equals. Having a supportive work environment is so incredibly important to me, and it’s definitely something that UPco nurtures.

Where would you like to be (professionally) in five years’ time?

I hope to still be working at UPco (hopefully in a Senior Planner role by then!) – all while continuing to make positive change for our clients across Victoria. I want to become just like the other women at UPco: women who work hard, are incredibly knowledgeable and can of course still have fun.

Stay tuned for more articles in our Count Her In series, which takes on topics from the value of side projects and managing burnout, to raising the next generation to foster equality.