Danielle James is the joint director of Pipe Pro Directional Drilling alongside her husband Jason and has been an integral part of building the company from the ground up since it was founded in 2013.
In charge of a multitude of crucial responsibilities, Danielle spends much of her time in the office overseeing human resources (HR) and safety preparations for all and upcoming projects. Likewise, one of Danielle’s key roles is inducting and onboarding new employees to the company and familiarising them with clients.
Danielle explains to The Australian Pipeliner that building Pipe Pro Drilling was difficult in the beginning. At the time, Danielle was still a teacher and gave birth to her daughter, Remi, within the first year of starting the business.
Understandably, it was daunting for both Danielle and her husband to navigate how to get a business off the ground whilst also being first-time parents.
“As there was little cash flow and we started with older machinery, getting substantial large contracts was a challenge,” she says. “We mainly started doing small road crossings of subcontracting to larger drilling companies for much lower rates.”
“We spent a lot of time meeting with people and presenting our capabilities and Jason’s expertise. Quality of work was something that impressed those early clients and through word-of-mouth we slowly grew our client base, but it was a really hard time and we worked long hours.”
In the beginning, Danielle was on maternity leave with the intention to return to teaching part-time while helping build Pipe Pro alongside her husband.
Impressively, after the first 12 months Pipe Pro began acquiring several larger scale contracts and hiring enough new employees that doing both was not possible.
By that time, Danielle had been in teaching for 10 years and had been looking forward to taking on an administrative role once the business took off.
To her surprise, success came a lot quicker than she had anticipated. She soon moved into managing Pipe Pro full-time and hasn’t looked back since.
Now with two kids at school, Danielle can be much more present in the company. Previously she spent half her time working from home so she could be near her children, but not only can she be present in the office every day, she also has an administrative assistant and site managers to soften the workload. This has given her significantly more time to focus on innovating the business and developing a strategic plan for the future of the company.
Danielle has invested a great deal of time implementing several programs to enable Pipe Pro Drilling to operate entirely online.
This includes ensuring all crew members have iPads on which they complete and check-off daily safety checks, progress logs and timesheets. All of this is automatically uploaded to the company’s system which Danielle can monitor and access from her office.
This online innovation has brought Pipe Pro Drilling firmly into the modern business era and helps keep it running smoothly.
Being a woman and mother in a male dominated industry is certainly a challenge, but she has taken the obstacles to success in her stride. By having men and women working alongside each other, whether it’s on job sites or in board rooms, brings a level of diversity and depth to any company.
This, says Danielle, is something everyone in leadership should strive to achieve in their businesses. Likewise, she believes one of the best ways women can break into the industry is by having the confidence to apply for the jobs they want, to ask for the promotion they’re chasing or the pay-rise they deserve.
“Too often I see women take a back seat and settle for what they have but if you really want something you must work hard and chase after it,” she says. “Don’t be intimidated of scared to but forward your ideas or start something new.”
Danielle has noticed a change in the industry dynamics over the last decade.
“Groups like NAWIC and Tradeswomen Australia are doing amazing things to support women and I think there are more opportunities now for younger women to enter the civil
construction industry,” she says. “I see through speaking with women in NAWIC that there are growing numbers of women in leadership roles across Australia which is great to see.
“I love seeing women support women anytime but, in our industry, this is so important. The confidence and camaraderie between women really grow when we have each other’s back. I am such a big supporter of companies that I see hiring women across all areas of their businesses.”
In fact, in 2019 Danielle was recognised for her hard work as Victorian Business Woman of the year by NAWIC.
“This was most definitely the highlight of my career so far. I felt so incredibly honoured to be recognised by NAWIC,” she says. “I have met some incredible women in civil construction over the years so to stand up and receive that award was just amazing. After all the challenges we have faced along the way to be recognised and rewarded for this made it all worthwhile.
“Although we are still a long way off, I do see a shift and women in the industry should be proud of what we are achieving.”
This article featured in the July edition of The Australian Pipeliner.