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Inspiring women: Julie Russell

Trailer Magazine recently spoke with Julie Russell, a woman of note who is relentless in working to make the transport industry a better place.

What first drew you to the commercial road transport industry?
My family business is in road transport. We have a long history in the industry so I always had an awareness and understanding of it. However, I was drawn to the industry from my connection with my grandmother – matriarch of the family business. She encouraged my involvement from an early age.

What role do you hold now?
I am a director of the family business. Day to day I work on alignment of the business strategy to business process. A big focus right now is advancing our systems and processes to take advantage of the technology opportunities available both within the office and also within the cab of the vehicle.

What does a standard day for you look like?
There is not often a ‘standard day’. But to sum it up, it’s either getting up early and out on site, talking to the drivers or going in to the office to work on whatever project, work event or issue needs actioning. Some days I don’t get away from the office. Other days I am travelling all over the place.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?
There are a number of career events that have meant a lot to me. I highly valued the time I was able to spend working alongside my mentor – my grandmother – in my formative years within the industry. She taught me about family duty, commitment to a cause greater than myself, and resilience. I also carry with pride the recognition of my industry peers both within Queensland and Nationally when I received the Transport Woman of the Year award at both levels in 2014/2015. My connection with the Queensland Trucking Association has also given me exposure to other companies, associations, government bodies and regulators alike – which continues to offer new challenges and experience in my career development.

What is the best thing about the transport industry?
The array of opportunities available. The industry is relatively flat hierarchically. There is so much access to people across the industry, so you can access mentors more easily. The industry associations are excellent ways to meet and connect. Also, the transport industry offers opportunity in the breadth of role functions that need to be performed. Many businesses are small to medium sized – which means you can learn a lot of different skills within a role remit. In larger businesses you can sometimes get pigeonholed into a single, task-specific, role. If you are looking to grow your experience across a range of tasks or functions the transport industry certainly offers that.

What do you think could be improved?
How we sell ourselves as an industry. In very simple terms, transporters have often been judged on how good they are at the task, by being invisible. For example you get there and get the job done on time and without fuss. I think we carry this inherent ideology on as an industry attitude and behaviour and don’t necessarily sell ourselves to the market. This has flow on effects, as we are not being recognised as an industry of choice, opportunity.

What do initiatives like the Women in Industry Award/Conference mean to you?
They provide a forum or a voice for women to share, challenge and measure themselves. Having a community that understands you, where you have come from and the challenges you have faced – because they have also experienced similar – helps give you strength and the drive to continue on your own journey.

How can people and companies in the transport industry better promote it as a career of choice for women?
By providing a long-term vision of when a business is looking for facilities or looking to change their facilities – they need to cater for women in the same way they do for men such as showers and change room facilities. It might sound very specific, but some businesses are not setup for female drivers even from a facilities perspective. These are the ‘hidden in plain sight’ roadblocks that will restrict some businesses from attracting and retaining women to their business.

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