Systematiq Spotlight: Edina Hadzovic and Sam Tait

Edina discusses International Women’s Day and her mentors, including Sam Tait, Director of Operations

Systematiq strongly supports women in the work force, providing pathways for graduates from all kinds of disciplines, and strong mentors for their staff. Systematiq recently purchased a table at the Engineers Australia luncheon in honour of International Women’s Day, and we sat down with Edina Hadzovic to discuss the lunch, her path at Systematiq, her thoughts about engineering as a career and the women in her field who she admires.

“I’m working at Metro Trains on the HCMT project with Sam [Tait – currently serving on the Systematiq board as Director of Operations]. I started in June last year. The good thing about Systematiq is that there is so much diversity here.”

We asked Edina what drew her to the engineering field and what she enjoys most about her current job and her future prospects.

“Problem solving,” she said with a short and assertive nod. “I like the logic that engineering provides. I was always a numbers girl and a very hands-on person. In high school my love of math and science progressed and I decided to use it and turn my knowledge into something practical, something useful. I thought that engineering was a good stream. Systems Engineering, in particular, is great because you can use all disciplines of engineering together, in addition to elements of project management and business management. Once you understand the Systems Engineering process, you can apply that methodology and solve any problem, regardless of the engineering discipline.”

We asked her what kind of career opportunities a grounding in engineering offered women. “There are so many different streams related to engineering. You can go into technical writing, testing and safety assurance, even project management. You can specialise in a field of engineering and still do all of those roles. If you’re not sure what you want to do, engineering provides a great pathway to so many other roles, roles which you don’t even know exist yet. As an engineer, you utilise your math skills, critical thinking, people skills, project skills and much more. Engineering demands multi-skilled professionals, and fortunately those skills are so transferable within industry.”

We asked Edina whether she looks up to anybody in her field, or feels she is mentored by other women in engineering.

“Sam [Tait] is currently the Safety Assurance Manager over at Metro and I work very closely with her. It’s been really good having her. You don’t often get the chance to work directly with a Business Director. She handles herself so well in difficult situations; her experience and knowledge within engineering and stakeholder management is something to look up to.”

Sam Tait gained her engineering degree in Naval Architecture in 1995 and was the first woman through the Australian Maritime College’s degree stream, and only the second woman in Australia to achieve her degree. Beginning her career in shipyards in Darwin, she has worked as a Systems Engineer and Ship Construction Manager on the ANZAC Frigate Program. In 2004, Sam joined the team supporting the historic ship Polly Woodside – a three-masted iron-hulled barque originally launched from Belfast in 1885 – and it was around this time that she became the first woman worldwide to chair a chapter of her professional engineering organisation, the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. She also managed to squeeze an MBA in.
She initially joined Systematiq as a contractor before accepting a role full-time, being impressed with the culture of the organisation and wanting to be a part of it.

We managed to fit in a few minutes with Sam between historic landmark achievements, to get her thoughts on what it feels like to be a woman in engineering who has blazed a trail for younger engineers like Edina.

“I’ve come through a very male-dominated industry and for the most part, have had the honour of being a bit of trailblazer,” said Sam. “I’ve learnt how to deal with some difficult characters who see ‘me’ rather than what I can do.  I am fortunate that I am a fairly resilient person and I’ve been even more fortunate to be able to provide some advice to other female engineers about how to tackle a variety of interpersonal issues that they feel are holding them back.”

“It’s been really good to have her as a mentor,” said Edina. “To see how she conducts herself daily has been a great insight into what a future in engineering could look like for me. Sam is a terrific mentor; she doesn’t let the little stuff get to her. I believe all engineers, not just female, should be exposed to people like Sam.”

We asked Sam how important she believed it was to support younger women in a modern workforce and in non-traditional roles, particularly in light of her role as mentor in the 2019 Women In Transport initiative.

“In short, it is essential.  A better balanced workplace leads to a better result, a more diverse approach to thinking – particularly for engineering problems – and, in general, a happier and more productive workforce across the board.  We can’t ignore the talent that resides in over 50% of our population or else we do so at our own detriment.”

The International Women’s Day, celebrated at the Engineers Australia luncheon, was promoted on social media with the hashtag #pressforprogress. We asked Edina what that meant to her.

“Equality isn’t about letting females have extra entitlements, it’s about reaching that same level,” she said. “Press for progress is about making sure that everyone understands that there’s still a gap and that we actually need to push – both women and men need to understand that. Women have come a long way to where we are now but we still need to continue our progress otherwise we won’t reach that level of equality. We still have to keep that momentum going and we’ve done a good job.”

We asked Sam what value she felt was in celebrating International Woman’s Day at industry events like the Engineers Australia lunch.

“It was encouraging to see such support for women in engineering, particularly after I cut my teeth in a time where there really weren’t any other females in my industry. I had to quickly become used to being the only female in any engineering or management meetings.  It wasn’t a particularly supportive environment that I came through, so it is good to see that this is changing.”

Women’s equality in the workforce also means that men are offered the same opportunities to take on stronger parental roles than traditional family models used to show. Systematiq is proud to offer flexible working arrangements for all employees to help balance their family lives and their careers. Edina referred to a speaker at the recent Engineers Australia luncheon with the same message.

“At the lunch, that’s exactly what they were talking about. A woman explained how she had a four day work week and her partner had a four day week so their kids would have two days per week where their parents were at home, and three days with their grandparents. Which is great. It’s fostering an environment where Mummy and Daddy both have full time jobs.”

In light of this, we asked Edina whether there should be more women in the engineering field.

“It’s all about diversity and whether you’re female or male, you can do any role with the right support,” she said matter-of-factly. “See yourself as an equal. Don’t see yourself as a burden or as deserving of more than men; see yourself as an equal. Make sure you look after yourself. See yourself as strong and really believe in yourself, in anything you choose to do.”

Systematiq takes a concerted and active interest in fostering the career potential of all its employees and we asked Edina if and how she felt supported.

“I’m still early in my career and Systematiq offer a lot of opportunities not only in engineering but in project management and bid writing,” she said. “The Directors work with you, asking you what your long term goals are. Having that relationship with management is awesome. They trust that you’ll do your job properly. They offer flexible working arrangements like working from home certain days because they understand that life happens and you have to make allowances sometimes. They trust that you’ll do your job to your best potential and that motivates you to do better. Systematiq as a company, is a really supportive environment.”