Golden fields for women like Sammy

Samantha “Sammy” Jung was one of three speakers at the OzWater’23 Women in Water Panel. As the Engineering Manager of Goldenfields Water, working in a regional environment, she presents unique insights into the industry.

“I was fortunate to experience different cultures and their relationship with water. Nepal was an important eye-opener for me. People were swimming in waterways that had religious significance, but they were getting sick when doing so. They didn’t have access to a safe water supply.”

Samantha “Sammy” Jung, the Engineering Manager of Goldenfields Water, is based in the Riverina town of Temora, north of Wagga Wagga. After graduating from university, Jung started her career in local government. After a brief stint in the private sector, she landed a job at Goldenfields Water and has gone from strength to strength.

“I’ve always been interested in the water industry,” Jung said. “That overseas travel helped me open my eyes even further. I was lucky that the opportunities that opened to me helped me fall into the sector early in my career.”

Who is Goldenfields Water?

Goldenfields Water is responsible for water supply functions within the local government areas of Bland, Coolamon, Junee, Temora, and parts of Cootamundra-Gundagai, Hilltops and Narrandera. It supplies drinking water to approximately 46,000 customers across 22,526 sq km in parts of NSW’s South West Slopes and Riverina regions.

“Goldenfields Water has been fantastic for my career,” Jung said. “I started as an engineering officer, and an opportunity arose to take on the engineering manager role. It was both a blessing and a curse because I’m not sure I was entirely ready to step up. However, I didn’t want to miss my opportunity, so I gave it a shot.”

Jung believes that she is now in a different learning environment and is benefitting from it. Goldenfields Water is all about achieving excellence through innovation, regional efficiency, technical excellence, and customer service by recruiting for success and fostering an atmosphere of continuous improvement and support.

“Our management team is 50 per cent female, and so are our engineering officers. It wasn’t a conscious achievement. We’re fortunate that our organisation attracts enough diversity that the equality occurred organically.”

“Goldenfields Water has been an excellent supporter of me and my career. They helped me find a mentor, whom I found in former Australian Water Association President and highly experienced woman in water, Carmel Krogh. The water industry tends to be smaller and more close-knit than other industries. Carmel was happy to take me on as a mentee, as she wanted to help others in the industry,” said Jung.

What else is Jung doing?

Jung is a young mother and has found both water and local government to be highly supportive of her needs. Both industries understand the needs of mothers, and she appreciates this.

“The local government sector is typically very thoughtful and supportive of mothers. They ensure that flexible workloads and flexible arrangements are available to staff. We can access many benefits regarding different arrangements around kids at Goldenfields Water. They understand that if your kids are sick, things can be adjusted,” she said.

When she took the job as engineering manager, she thought she would be managing engineering. Jung was slightly surprised that the role was more centred around managing the people and supporting them to achieve the organisation’s goals.

“It’s a fantastic role where I get to be involved in so many projects without being involved at an intense level,” said Jung. “My role is helping my team to look to the future. We want to take the right steps to consider our community’s future needs. We are looking at what we need to do to plan now for the future and how to capture and use all the asset information. As a business unit, we need to be able to provide the most cost-effective way of servicing our community.”

What about women in water?

As a woman in the water industry, Jung has thought about ways the industry can better attract and retain the best female talent. One macroeconomic issue is that women do not generally have their superannuation topped up while on maternity leave.

“Women wind up with less superannuation than a comparable man. It builds up disadvantage for women,” she said.

There are some aspects where Jung believes the industry is heading in the right direction, but there are always more opportunities for it to improve.

“One of the questions I got asked at the Women in Water panel is how people can be better allies from women in the industry,” Jung said. “I think that picking up the small and borderline behavioural things is one of the best things for potential allies to do. It can be tough for people when they are not treated quite correctly. There’s that tendency to brush it off and let it slide, but that’s not helping others experiencing the same thing. People need to say that it’s not an appropriate way to speak to a woman or any professional in the industry.”

Another challenge is considering those women working in regional areas. Australia’s regional population is spread across small towns, villages, and farms, each with unique issues. Jung has found that her experience can differ significantly from others in the regions.

“One of the biggest challenges is the lack of networking opportunities. While I tend to shy away from them, I know they can be vital in growing your career. Having that person to bounce ideas off and get answers from can make a real difference,” said Jung.

“Women are playing and will continue to play a critical role in the industry. We are crossing the stepping stones for women’s rights and equality within the industry, and I hope it’s helping other groups to follow.”

This article originally appeared on Inside Water.

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