A UNSW Canberra alumna has been selected into the 5th cohort of the Homeward Bound Program (HB5), an initiative that will run for 10 years, to build a global collaboration of 1000 women with a background in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM).

Rachel Murdoch will take part in the global initiative in 2020, which aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape the planet. She says it is vital we see more women in STEMM careers.

“We cannot be what we cannot see. Since becoming a project manager on large multi-disciplinary infrastructure projects, I have had the pleasure of becoming aware of and working with a range of engineering and science related professionals”

“The more we see and hear about women doing these things, the more we normalise it and get a balanced society with greater outcomes,” she said.

Ms Murdoch works as Technical Director - Project Management, Defence Infrastructure Estate Planning Lead at GHD, where she applies the engineering skills, project management skills, leadership skills and business skills she learnt throughout her career, her time in the Army and her education at UNSW Canberra.

“I became an officer in the Royal Australian Engineer’s Corps in the Australian Army after graduating ADFA. My first assignment immediately after completing all my training was to deploy to Papua New Guinea to be a project engineer (Troop Commander) refurbishing a disused Army camp in the remote jungles of the Western Province,” Ms Murdoch said. 

Working as an Army engineering officer until 2015, she then transitioned to the private sector where she worked as a business operations manager and project manager.

She describes the transition to a civilian career as a culture shock.

“Consulting is a completely different mindset to the military and public sector. I had to be a sponge again and open my mind and eyes to how business works, what leadership means outside of Defence, how organisations work and how to adapt my own leadership style,” she said.

Her advice to those about to transition out of the Defence Force is to not be afraid to step outside of your ‘trade’ and learn new skills.

“The skills you have developed in the military are invaluable and will set you apart in the civilian sector if you can adapt your skills and approach to your new environment.

“We excel at teamwork, we become good planners who can think about second and third orders effects and we are flexible, resilient and adaptable,” Ms Murdoch said.

Being part of the Homeward Bound program has provided the opportunity for Ms Murdoch to continue to develop herself as a leader in STEMM.

“My leadership development has predominantly occurred around a very male-dominated, mission-focused environment. I want to expand my leadership skills and perspective in a different context now, including leadership attributes such as visibility, vulnerability, legacy and strategy.

“I am also very excited about forming a new network of amazing women in STEMM,’ she said. 

You can learn more about the UNSW Canberra alumni network on the UNSW Canberra website.