Jenni Kelly, Senior Site Administrator, has just celebrated 35 years working for CPB Contractors. Currently hard at work at the Western Sydney International (Nancy - Bird Walton) Airport, Jenni took some time to look back on her career, the changes she’s seen, and the best things about working in the construction industry.
What has changed since you joined the company 35 years ago?
Lots of things have changed. I started at Darling Harbour in 1986, and my role was ‘Site Secretary.’ Women back then weren’t managers, engineers, or anything like that. We were called the ‘Site Chicks’ – it really was another world!
Today, it’s fantastic to go to a construction site, see so many female engineers, and know that they are moving up the ranks to senior positions in CPB Contractors. I just want to cheer them on.
Technology has transformed the way we work. I started on a golf ball typewriter. Then we progressed to a Wang OS, which was a huge chunky computer. We had a telex, a plug-in switchboard, and people smoked at their desks – so lots of things have changed.
I’m also very proud of how the safety culture improved - it is now front and centre of everything. There are counselling services available through the company, which is brilliant. People used to be left on their own, especially men, and were not supposed to talk about their issues and what was getting them down. Now, with this free counselling, the guys know there is someone they can talk to.
Jenni at her very first job at Darling Harbour.
Why have you stayed with CPB Contractors for 35 years?
Working on-site was a bit of a culture shock initially, but I just loved it as soon as I adapted to project life. The team, the mateship, looking after each other – these are the reasons I’ve lasted 35 years.
Moving from site to site has always been interesting. You go to a new site with new people, and it will operate differently from the last one. It is a bit like taking a new job, - but you stay with the same company. Working on projects is hectic, but the camaraderie is great as we work towards a common goal.
I’ve done different things – secretary, office management, and when they asked if I wanted to move over to commercial, I thought, I’ll give it a go, and now I love it. It is not like I’ve been doing the same thing year after year – CPB Contractors has given me plenty of options, and I’ve never felt like I reached a dead end.
If I’m honest, I’d say I’m sort of embarrassed about this anniversary - but I’m also a little bit proud of it as well.
What’s been the most memorable moment?
When we were building the Blacktown Hospital one of the sub-contractors used to get paid in cash (another thing that has changed!), and the guards delivered it every Tuesday. One week there was an armed robbery, and they stole all the money. The case made it on to Australia’s Most Wanted, and the police even fingerprinted my car – but I promise it wasn’t me!
What advice do you have for someone just starting their career?
What I’ve learned over the last 35 years is the importance of working as a team. It has always been my philosophy that we are one team.
People are here to help, so don’t get stressed out by yourself. Talk to people. You don’t have to pretend to know it all because CPB Contractors is full of talented and skilled people, so if you need their advice, just ask for it – they’ll be happy to help.
Be yourself, work hard and have fun.
Jenni at her latest project site - Western Sydney Airport.