After 14 years serving with the Australian Army, Suzanne Shipp made the transition out of active service and into civilian life in 2005.
Suzanne joined the Army as an apprentice at the age of 16 and after completing initial training, moved into a technician role. She then completed Year 12 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Engineering while studying at night part time. After being commissioned, she was appointed as an Engineering Officer, where she led a team that conducted flight line operations and maintenance of a squadron of military helicopters.
When asked why she left the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Suzanne said, ‘I left because I had a small child at the time. Both my husband and I were serving and found our priorities had changed. It was difficult for both of us to offer the military the same amount of commitment we had prior to having our child.’
Since leaving the ADF, Suzanne has been lucky enough to have had a diverse range of employment with both Defence and non-Defence-related industries.
‘I have been responsible for the operations of power generation and gas assets as well as a variety of facilities. I’ve been the executive for digital and manufacturing businesses, which enabled me to use my capabilities in vastly different fields than what I was used to in the ADF.
‘I’m currently the Queensland Operations and Maintenance Manager for APA Group, Australia’s largest gas infrastructure business. I am responsible for ensuring all of the gas transmission and power assets in Queensland and South Australia are reliable and available and are maintained effectively and efficiently to meet our customers’ needs. I have six people who directly report to me and an extended team of 100 technical people, spread geographically across Queensland and South Australia. I also have a diverse set of assets including renewable energy, gas-fired power stations, high-voltage electrical interconnectors and gas transmission pipelines worth almost $1 billion.’
In addition to her paid work, Suzanne volunteers as a director and treasurer of the Currumbin Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch.
‘This gives me a lot of opportunities to give back to my veteran community. I am working with other board members to create a sustainable future for our future veteran community.’
One of Suzanne’s favourite aspects of her job is working with people.
‘I enjoy getting out on site and interacting with my teams, getting to know them and connecting them to the bigger picture and vision of the organisation. I enjoy watching my people develop into high-performing teams and taking them on a journey to be the best they can be.’
Every day, Suzanne uses the skills and experience she gained while serving in the ADF.
‘It’s simple things like change management, taking people along the journey, leadership, such as motivating my team to achieve great things, communicating effectively, the importance of good process and people management.’
Other knowledge and capabilities that she learnt while serving that have been invaluable are logistics, organisational and coordination, resource management, training others, facilitation and stakeholder management.
‘I’ve also used my technical skills such as project management, engineering design and fault-finding to support my career path. The military is one of the best training grounds and civilian industry values that depth of training.’
For anyone transitioning, Suzanne advises being flexible and open to opportunities.
‘One of the biggest challenges I faced was being able to translate military speak into common language. Each industry has its own culture and way of doing things and their own lingo, so you do have to be able to learn fast, be flexible and open to change. Invest in yourself and others and be ready to grab the opportunities with both hands. Then hang on for the ride of a lifetime.’
Thank you for your service, Suzanne.