For Kartikee Gupta, she strategically pushes for change on multiple fronts – from leading a team of project managers to more sustainable for water projects to championing inclusion and diversity within engineering.
What motivates your career?
So many things drive me, so I haven’t had the most traditional career path. I’ve worked in many different roles in multiple organisations. I started as a graduate engineer and then was offered an opportunity to be in a graduate operation role where I worked with the company’s Business Operations and State Operations manager. Working on a large water utilities and asset management program with one of our major clients sparked my interest in project management and the business side of engineering. All of this stimulated my interest in returning to university and studying for an MBA. After study, I worked for a large consulting organisation in their strategy practice developing process improvement strategies for large engineering clients. Then I took a bit of a turn and ended up working for the University of Queensland’s Women in Engineering program as a Development and Communications Coordinator, where my passion for inclusion and diversity comes from. I really missed working with engineers and on projects where I could impact society and the local community, so I got the opportunity to work for WSP as a Project Manager within the water team and later ended up being the team manager. So, I technically wear two hats as a Senior Project Manager and as a Team Manager leading a group of project managers in our Queensland water utilities team.
What are you hoping to change in your industry?
I want to see more inclusion and equality within engineering, I am seeing a lot of women being attracted to the industry but that’s not enough for me. I don’t just want to see an increase in numbers, I want to see real cultural change and shifting the dial where people within organisations accept that everyone comes from a diverse range of backgrounds and where a diversity of ideas are heard, and people feel like they belong.
Within the water industry, there is a lot of work to be done in the areas of sustainability and integrated water management. Water is our most precious resource so having strong technical people driving that change and helping people build that sustainability into projects. We need to make our projects Future Ready™ for the changes in climate and resources. Having a diverse range of people working on these problems also leads to better outcomes.
What are some barriers to this change?
The biggest barrier for the change in diversity is resistance to change. I see many people who’ve been in the industry a long time who struggle to see why inclusion and diversity are important. I think we’ve come a long way in getting more women to study engineering, but we struggle to retain women within the industry because people in minority groups (such as women) hit the glass ceiling and leave. It is why I think education about inclusion and diversity is important and sharing the success stories. We need people of all types to solve the big problems.
Water is a key driver of economic and social development, while it also has an essential function in maintaining the integrity of the natural environment. Drivers such as demographic and climatic change further increase the stress on water resources. The traditional fragmented approach is no longer viable and a more holistic approach to water management is essential. We need full participation by all stakeholders to successfully develop these holistic strategies and build a community for the vulnerable with opportunistic thinking and address the impacts of climate change, urbanisation and other waste challenges at all levels.