Disrupting the circadian clock

Fulton Hogan site engineer Diana Delac has been named Rising Star of the Year at the 2019 Women in Industry Awards.

The circadian clock is a small part of the brain that monitors the amount of light you see. At night, when the level of light reduces, the ‘clock’ notices and prompts a flood of melatonin to the brain – telling the body to fall asleep.

To minimise disruption and potential traffic chaos, large-scale road works regularly take place at night. Thereby forcing a circadian clock disruption for the crews of workers and engineers undertaking nightshift.

This is a feeling known all to well by Women In Industry’s 2019 Rising Star Award recipient Diana Delac.

The Women in Industry Awards aims to showcase Australia’s best and brightest by recognising achievement across the mining, engineering, manufacturing, waste, logistics, bulk handling, infrastructure, rail, and road transport industries.

This year’s awards intended to raise the profile of women within industry, promote and encourage excellence and offer invaluable networking opportunities for industry trailblazer’s to exchange ideas and share their unique approaches to leadership.

The Rising Star Award, sponsored by Atlas Copco Compressors, aims to recognise individuals who show significant promise within their chosen industry, or who have reached new goals at the start of their career. The award was presented to Ms. Delac at a gala event on June 6, in Melbourne.

The Monash Freeway Upgrade (MFU) project, which was awarded to Fulton Hogan, involved the construction of 44 kilometres of additional traffic lanes – widening the freeway from four to five lanes in each direction between the East Link interchange and South Gippsland Freeway.

To complete these works, the company required an engineer to work a continuous 12-month night shift.

Fulton Hogan HR Manager, Matthew Inkster, says when the position was first announced, Ms. Delac immediately put up her hand. He notes Ms. Delac’s commitment and resilience as what inspired him and the larger Fulton Hogan team to nominate her for the Rising Star Award.

“Night shifts are a challenging environment for any young engineer, with limited support and needing seamless coordination with day shift requirements,” Mr. Inkster says.

“With difficulty to drive productivities and efficiencies, night shifts require quick problem-solving techniques.”

According to Mr. Inkster, within the first month of work on the MFU project, Ms. Delac had established herself as the go-to person for her disciplines night shift activities.

“Her planning, coordination and attention to detail were exemplary,” Mr. Inkster says.

“Ms. Delac coordinated multiple crews across a 44 kilometre-long project, including required traffic, safety and supervisory resources.”

Ms. Delac has worked at Fulton Hogan as an engineer for the Southern Construction team since August 2016. Joining as a graduate, Ms. Delac was quickly promoted to site engineer.

“With limited experience and a quiet disposition, Diana approached the nightshift challenge head on,” Mr. Inkster says. “Her determination to prove her abilities and gain the respect of crew workers is highly regarded by management.”

As the appointed Fulton Hogan Site Engineer for the MFU, Ms. Delac independently coordinated five night shift crews to install 130 kilometres of optic fibre, 29 kilometres of power cable, more than 200 terminations and splices, 400 pole installations, 634 wireless vehicle detectors, as well as 39 distribution boards.

According to Mr. Inkster, Ms. Delac increased team productivity by minimising wastage and improving frayed relationships with some of the subcontractors that are also part of
the project.

“To ensure seamless coordination with day shift crews, Ms. Delac was always the first person on site and the last person to leave – her work ethic is excellent,” he says. “The crew relied on Ms. Delac’s advice – I can honestly say I do not recall Ms. Delac making one mistake.”

According to Ms. Delac, working as a female graduate in a heavily male-dominated environment can create challenges. However, by taking the experience on head first, she was able to overcome and develop an efficient working relationship with her team.

“It’s crucial to gain the crew’s support and respect to ensure we can work collaboratively to deliver outstanding results,” Ms. Delac said.

“At first, the crews hesitated taking direction from a graduate engineer, however after working with the team closely for a few weeks, they began to lean on me for ongoing guidance and assistance.”

To help other young female engineers, Fulton Hogan have recently established the Southern Construction Diversity Committee, of which Ms. Delac is a member.  The group aims to raise awareness, develop new policies and improve Fulton Hogan’s approach and tactics to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“Fulton Hogan has been very supportive of our efforts, and it’s great to work in a place that supports the idea of equality in the industry,” Ms. Delac says.

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