Today we have a very special edition of our What’s UP? series: an interview with the inimitable Managing Director, Amanda Ring. The twist? It’s from 1995, one year into Amanda’s career with UPco, when she was a Senior Planner. Read on to compare her answers from then and now about life, career and the importance of preparation (and lipstick application!). You’ll soon discover that her style and wit hasn’t changed, but perhaps her outlook on her next great achievement has…?

The original interview was published by the Royal Australian Planning Institute (RAPI) Victorian Division in Planning News, September 1995.

Your current position?

1995: Senior Planner, SJB Planning.

2022: Wow, I remember those early years and how much I learned about consulting from Phillip Borelli, who quickly had me on a very steep learning curve. A lot happens in 27 years, and I am now the Managing Director of UPco, where I am supported by wonderful and clever partners, and lots of established and emerging planning talent.

Your involvement with RAPI?

1995: AAPC representative, member activities and promotions sub-committee and part time agitator.

2022: I passed that baton on many years ago. A young family soon had me redirecting priorities for my time. Extra-curricular activities for a young professional woman still seem as challenging as they were 27 years ago. Children deserve a lot of time, and time spent on them is an equal or better investment than time spent on building a career.

Your greatest achievement in planning?

1995: I’m hopeful that it’s just around the corner.

2022: These days, some might expect me to nominate a favourite project but, on that front, there are many too many to list. Instead, I hope that my greatest achievement in planning is related to the business I share with my partners. Having your own business is a great privilege. It is no small feat to take on the risks, responsibilities and complexities that come with it – but there is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with employing the team around you and watching members of the team build their skills, experience and professional profiles.

How do people respond in social situations when you tell them your profession?

1995: In genuinely social situations, I’ve had a long-standing policy of not revealing that I’m a town planner. In these circumstances, people generally respond quite positively.

2022: I have stood firm on my policy all these years later – well, at least to the extent that I don’t willingly reveal my profession. Sometimes, it’s difficult and I give in to the particularly curious. 27 years ago, a professional reveal prompted more questions, the usual being “What does a town planner do?”. Today, many more people know what a town planner does, although I still find that most think that town planners only work in government. Today, of course, there are all sorts of career opportunities for town planners – in all levels of government, the dispute resolution space and across the private sector.

How do you believe the public perceives planning?

1995: It doesn’t, and that’s probably a good thing.

2022: My, how things have changed! My observations are that the public now has a very good handle on planning. It has always been a highly politicised space but even more so these days. Greater participation has ensured more professional opportunities for town planners but it has driven the cost and complexity of development to new heights. Sometimes, I find it difficult to grasp the weight we place on ‘first world problems’ when debating the pros and cons of development proposals, as there are still many places in the world where a potable water supply, wastewater management and shelter are scarce. If thought about this way, it lends some perspective.

Your favourite TV show?

1995: Pie in the Sky, followed closely by Absolutely Fabulous. He’s sooo fat and she’s sooo thin. It’s hard to know what to admire most.

2022: These days, we’re spoilt for choice, aren’t we? Like so many, TV per se, in our family, has taken a back seat to ad-free streaming services. Those who know me well know that I am an avid consumer of news and current affair programs (of the serious kind) but that I have also enjoyed series like Bridgerton, The Crown, Ted Lasso and Loot. More and more, I listen to podcasts.

Role models, if any?

1995: Henry Crabbe and Patsie.

2022: Seriously, this time… my role models are those that have taught me to work hard, to always do your best, and to expect that any success you enjoy in life is a consequence of rallying and deploying your own resources, not the resources of others. In this regard, my late father led by example his whole life. A formative piece of advice he offered (more than once) was about praise. He would often say that if you rely on praise in life for motivation and success – you’ll be a long time waiting!

Why did you choose planning?

1995: By accident really. I went to enrol in architecture and turned right instead of left when I got out of the lift.

2022: Time hasn’t changed the answer to this question.

What one thing would you most like to see changed in planning?

1995: It’s difficult to isolate one thing – so I won’t.

2022: It’s still difficult to isolate one thing, 27 years on. As impossible as it seems, planning needs to be simplified. Professional and other participants are now all bogged down in the minutia of planning, its complex assessments and duplicated controls and policies. Focus on the minutia is seeing us lose sight of the bigger picture. The cost of applications, development taxes, processes and dispute resolution is now at lofty levels and, critically, is significantly adding to the availability and price of housing; affordability now regarded as being at crisis levels. Shelter, once readily obtainable by all, is now a challenge for many.

What is your favourite time of the year and why?

1995: The few days leading up to my birthday. My mum always gives great presents.

2022: Yes, my mum still nails birthday gifts. At my age, I’m very fortunate to still have her and so are her grandchildren. With pretty much an empty nest these days, and our families gradually living further apart, any time of the year that is host to a family celebration is a favourite.

Where will you have your next holiday?

1995: Hopefully, Vietnam. At this stage, though, I’m having trouble securing a travel companion.

2022: I’ve well and truly secured my travel companion and we’ve had some wonderful experiences together over the years. These days we can travel together and without having to plan for young travel companions! It’s very liberating. In the coming year, we may again visit our oldest son who is presently living in Europe and thereafter we have Antarctica on our radar.

Before an appeal, do you have any special rituals?

1995: Save for that traditional hope for a favourable draw, I do try and get the lipstick on straight.

2022: While I’m a habits lass, I’m not really a rituals kinda woman. I am still fussy about getting the lipstick on straight (though it’s been less critical in the online era), but the best ritual is preparation. Preparation is the key to good advocacy and, in my case, to being a knowledgeable and well-regarded witness. I take my role of assisting the Tribunal in hearings very seriously and have high expectations of myself; I work tirelessly to prepare a wide range of possible questions.

How relevant was what you learnt at uni in terms of your day-to-day working life?

1995: Not relevant at all.

2022: No changed answer to this one, I’m afraid. I never considered it relevant and I fear that today’s university education is becoming even less relevant. There’s simply no substitute for the education a job provides. You learn about your profession, teamwork, communication and, harking back to an earlier answer, that reward is a function of effort and experience is built over time; not at speed.

When was the last time you read a planning book for enjoyment?

1995: My integrity is firmly intact – never!

2022: Same, same. There are so many wonderful books to read, old and new, that there will never be enough time to read them all. When not reading novels, I love reading about history. I never cease to be amazed about how relevant it is, and how much it explains the present. More people should dive into it.