Sue Murphy (Wager)

1975 Collegian

1975-Sue-Murphy-1

I did well in my exams and all my teachers and family expected me to do medicine because that's what "bright girls" were supposed to do. But that never appealed so at the last minute I changed to engineering.

In 1976 I found myself the only girl in a class of over 300 boys.

Being captain of the MLC debating team in no way prepared me for boys whose idea of wit was to fit as many four letter words and fart jokes in a sentence as possible, but I made friendships which have lasted these 30 years.

I graduated from UWA in 1980 and joined Clough Engineering in construction roles. I have been lucky to have some wonderful bosses – Harold Clough was the most empowering.

I'd think, "It's his company and his money but he has faith in me." So I'd work every hour there was and fix it. He is a genius.

I always maintained project management is simply good organisation, and shared this view when interviewed by the local paper in Whyalla, SA. I was there to work on the construction of a jetty in 1982. I likened running a marine construction project to organising a dinner party.

This caused enormous mirth among the boys on site, who presented me with a copy of the Women's Weekly cookbook re-covered in stainless steel and labelled Every Girls' Guide to Jetty Construction. It remains one of my most prized possessions.

In the early '80s I was living in Karratha working on a LNG jetty. I was the engineer in charge of the subsea pipeline installation which meant I was supervising teams of divers – super fit young men who wore only Speedos!

Suffice to say that the project went well, finished on time, under budget and I ended up married to one of the partners in the diving company.

I later became CEO of Clough's minerals and infrastructure division and was appointed to the board.

After 25 years with one organisation I left to explore the big wide world and found myself at the Water Corporation.

In late 2008 I was appointed CEO and now have the privilege of shaping the future of this State and how we use and manage this most precious resource.

But all this engineering stuff is actually the easy part – the real pressures come in juggling three kids and a busy husband, while keeping all the rest under control!

My advice to others striving to achieve their goals is don't be too hard on yourself. You are smarter, prettier, thinner and more determined than you give yourself credit for. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey – focus on the stuff you love – and everything else gets easier.

On MLC: To me, those years were spent weak with laughter. I remember laughing till I cried, getting the giggles in chapel, inventing silly games. The daily absurdities were a joy and my friends are life-long because of that shared hilarity.