Wondering what a secondment is like? Emily Plymin shares her experience

Emily Plymin is a Policy Officer for Resilient Cities and Towns at DELWP. She was employed by DELWP on the graduate program at the end of 2017. The program usually consists of three rotations within DELWP but Emily was fortunate enough to secure an external rotation with Barwon Water in Geelong. Emily spent eight months living in Geelong and working at Barwon Water. After her seconded placement with Barwon Water Emily came back to DELWP to start her substantive role, which she worked in for around 18 months before taking on another secondment within DELWP.

Emily’s substantive role at DELWP was in the Regional Integrated Water Management (IWM) team. In the regional areas this program is led very much by the water corporations and Emily wanted to gain a deeper insight in to how the regional water corporations worked.

"I wanted to go to a water corporation to learn more about how they operated, I knew that I could bring that knowledge back to DELWP and use it to build a better program and build better relationships."

The work that Barwon Water are doing in the IWM space (with their focus on recycled water and community engagement) was what attracted her, along with being able to move down to Geelong to get a taste of regional living and a beachside lifestyle. DELWP assisted with the moving costs to Geelong, which made the transition to Barwon Water easier to manage.

While at Barwon Water Emily worked across two teams – the Sustainable Futures team, which manages the IWM program in the region, and the Environmental Management team. While in the Environmental Management team, Emily oversaw two construction projects from the planning approvals and environmental management plan stage, through to seeing the work on the ground and making sure that the environmental controls were in line with the environmental management plan.

"It was really interesting and completely different to anything I would have been able to experience within DELWP… My area of DELWP doesn’t do a lot of on-ground-work directly itself, so to be a part of that gave me a really good insight into the scale and effort that goes into delivering these projects that we seed when we start the policy process."

Emily’s experience at Barwon Water meant that she had valuable insight into the priorities of the water corporations and how, often, the impetus is different to that of DELWP. Having that knowledge has meant that she was able to alter the way she worked on her return to DELWP to make life easier for the water corporations. For example, Emily recognised that the administrative tasks related to the project work could hinder the delivery of on ground outcomes. On her return to DELWP Emily took on some of those tasks to help ease the load and clear a pathway for better outcomes, as she recognised that without a dedicated IWM person these tasks took time away from some of the more critical aspects of the projects, such as strategic relationship building and strategic planning for IWM. Recognising that people who work in water corporations have a multitude of roles and getting a view from the inside has meant that she has a better understanding of the day-to-day pressures that water corporations face when working on major projects.

Emily’s current secondment is a policy-focussed role and is working on stormwater policy and more broadly on the upcoming sustainable water strategy. Her motivation for this second placement came from knowing that she could better contribute to the IWM team if she had a broader knowledge of all the areas the team worked across. From a career development perspective, the opportunity to gain policy skills has also been invaluable.

There are benefits to both parties and Emily explains what she was able to bring to her current placement.

"Having someone with my experience across regional Victoria and bringing that into a team has helped provide a bit of balance. I’m also one of the younger people in the team so while I have less experience in the industry, I provide some fresh perspectives and new methods of working."

Emily would definitely be open to other secondments in the future. The personal benefits mean that she has developed new skills, broadened her water sector experience, and built an amazing professional network that will continue to benefit her career and the wider water sector.

VicWater has recently launched its secondment program for the water sector, you can read more about it, or register your interest here.

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