Thinking about a secondment? Sean Hanrahan of City West Water shares his experience

Sean Hanrahan is the Manager of Service Planning at City West Water.  He has a background in biomedical science, and a Masters in Environment and Sustainability. Sean undertook a secondment with DELWP in May 2019, as Acting Senior Manager, Regional Integrated Water Management (IWM). The secondment opportunity arose after the person in the role was taking extended leave and Sean saw it as an opportunity to broaden his professional experience beyond a water corporation.

His experience at City West Water has been quite diverse, he has worked with business customers on energy and water efficiency, worked within the environment team, the regulatory team, and the strategy team. This professional experience has been further complemented with his secondment at DELWP.

The role at DELWP involved managing the integrated water management forums that ran across regional Victoria, supporting the team and managing the funding applications for integrated water management systems. Sean had been working in a Senior Strategist role for two years and had reached a point where he wanted to do something different.

He was on the cusp of looking for something else when the secondment opportunity came up within IWM at DELWP. The experience at DELWP helped Sean understand what direction he wanted to take his career, and he realised that he was more interested in working on the utility side of the water sector, than on the government policy side.

While at DELWP Sean learnt a lot. He made some great connections, increased his professional network and reinforced the fact that he “likes to be a bit closer to the coal face”. While it was not Sean’s first leadership role, it was a leadership role outside of City West Water, so to be able to bring that experience back in to City West Water was very positive.

DELWP benefitted from this secondment by having exposure to the frontline water sector experience that Sean brought with him. Understanding how things actually work in practice can better assist DEWLP to enact their agenda, so Sean was able to provide this perspective. There can sometimes be a disconnect between a policy setting and a practical setting - how things are meant to work and how they actually work can be quite different, so bringing in experience such as Sean’s helps to reduce the impact of that disconnect.

Sean returned to his previous role as Senior Strategist at City West Water for a short time and then moved into the Service Planning Manager role that he is currently in. This was a different brief compared to previous roles, but he now has IWM under his remit again, with asset management, growth planning and long-term planning also part of his role.

If the secondment opportunity had not presented itself, Sean likely would have looked for another role outside of City West Water, so the new challenge the secondment provided was a circuit-breaker for Sean. At the completion of the secondment, he was able to return to City West Water with a renewed enthusiasm for working within a water corporation, and City West Water were able to retain the knowledge that Sean had acquired throughout his career with them – a win for all parties.

Sean would be keen to do another secondment if the right opportunity presented itself and thinks secondments generally are an extremely positive thing for all parties involved. Of secondments, Sean says:

“as a sector, I think we should do more of it, just in terms of cross-pollinating ideas. There’s a lot you can get out of a secondment, especially in the early phases of your career – moving people around a bit to get some different experiences. … I’d really encourage other people to do the same thing and for water corporations to find a way to enable it as much as we can. There’s a lot to be gained from a secondment.”

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