Broadspectrum’s leaders: Kamini Choudhry

Celebrating our people

This is an occasional series about Broadspectrum’s leaders. By sharing their stories, it’s an opportunity to celebrate our people, their successes and their diversity. In the words of inaugural interviewee, Karen O’Driscoll, “Our leaders have real lives too, and have had learned through challenges, successes and mistakes that they can share with a wider audience.”

Kamini Choudhry, Executive General Manager of our Roads business, attended the Roads Australia industry roundtable exploring gender diversity this month. This is just one of many events Broadspectrum supported for International Women’s Day 2020.

“As an advocate for diversity, it’s great to be part of an event bringing together our industries senior leaders,” she said. “With representation from both government and business, we came together to share the latest thinking in how we can lead gender diversity at a board level and what we can do to better promote female leaders across the industry. It was fascinating to hear the personal experiences of many men and women in the room, stories of role models, supporters, struggles and successes.”

In sharing her own story, Kamini comments on the similarities she regularly sees with other aspiring women. “My mum is my hero,” she said. “Training initially as a scientist, she was never afraid to reinvent herself in her pursuit of fulfilment. Ultimately, she had three distinct careers, succeeding in everything she attempted through a mix of vision, hard work, determination and an uncanny ability to attract loyal supporters.”

In her third reincarnation, Kamini’s mother created an award-winning catering business that ultimately thrived by addressing a gap in the fine food market. “I’ve been really fortunate to watch and support Mum build that business from scratch. In the early years, my sisters and I would come home from our jobs to work each weekend, helping her prepare, pack for and staff farmers markets across the country. In later years, my assistance became a role of reviewing business strategies, and culminated in advising her through the sale of her business, enabling her to finally retire and put her feet up.”

For those who know Kamini, she’s passionate about a vision of the roads industry that is not business as usual. Similarly, she is not afraid of the hard work to get there. “My philosophy appears slightly at odds with the industry at times. I’m an economist, not an engineer, so I don’t come at the work we do from a traditional point of view. Instead, I always ask, 'What are we trying to achieve? Where does the customer want to be? How do we help them?'

“People have learnt that with me, telling me about how it’s always been done is like a red rag to a bull. Instead I expect my teams to take an evidence-based approach to why a model or position is best, for our client and our company.

“I have been very lucky to have worked alongside, and for, many great leaders. I’ve been nurtured in in my roles, but also pushed into roles I never felt ready for. Clearly though, they knew what they were doing, because each time, to my surprise, I thrived in the opportunities they created. I now realise this is a skill great leaders master, and an area I continue to improve on. Ultimately, I knew if I ever needed them, I had their complete support. They awarded roles and managed development on merit; it didn’t matter about technical background, age, gender or race. It’s fair to say I wasn’t even aware diversity as an issue companies needed to address.”

When a mentor asked her to move to Australia to establish a business, this experience changed her perspective on diversity. “I struggled when I came to Australia seven years ago. I became aware of a hesitance toward me which hadn’t existed in the past. As I looked across the industry, a lack of diversity became clearly apparent in senior roles. In those early days, I wondered if my race, relatively young age, gender or not being an engineer resulted in me being treated differently. I quickly realised it wasn’t me who needed to change.”

This experience inspired Kamini to become a diversity advocate. “I’m excited about the real momentum building around women and their professional careers, especially in traditionally male-orientated industries such as ours. I’m finally seeing real action being taken to attract and employ diverse talent.

“The focus on women in the workplace is clearly having an impact. In my 15 years in transport, I’ve gone from being the only female in the room, to being one in four. While an improvement, there is still work to be done, especially in ensuring women can achieve leadership roles.

“On the ground, I have female civil maintenance apprentices who are doing phenomenally well, and paving the way to addressing the imbalance in our delivery teams for the future. They are also excellent role models for young women considering the roads industry.

"Another change within the roads industry is new contract models, developed by our clients, focusing on how to enable communities and prioritise shared, public and active transport.

“Where we used to see predominantly delivery and output based models, instead we are now being measured purely on outcomes and our wider social impact. I’m excited by this approach, and feel we are now empowered to find smart ways to deliver community outcomes, which is turning the traditional industry on its head.”

Finally, Kamini shares advice for young women. “First, don’t think you need to be an engineer to belong in these worlds. I’ve seen first-hand the value created when different skills are applied to any industry, how we can all contribute different perspectives, and how this diversity ultimately allows us to come up with better solutions.

“Don’t underestimate the uniqueness and value you can bring to all industries and organisations. If you can, take your talent to organisations that have already recognised the value in diversity.