With over 16 years’ experience in the property industry, Karina is a highly motivated and results driven Senior Development Manager. Karina’s extensive background in mixed-use land and property development ranges from townhouses through to large-scale master planned communities, with more recent focus on commercial, retail and community developments.
Joining SEMZ in 2013 as the first full-time staff member, having completed 11 years working at Development Victoria, Karina was looking for a change. Leaving an organisation of 200+ staff with legal, marketing, finance and admin departments, the shift was huge with her new role delivering the vast challenge she was seeking.
‘Joining a very small organisation meant that I had a lot of one on one mentoring with Jon, and I had to learn very quickly.’
Fast forward six years, SEMZ has grown to incorporate Project Management services and a team of 20 staff. Karina has taken maternity leave twice and is now balancing the demands of two young children with part time work at SEMZ.
‘Initially it (being a working mother) was a really big challenge and after a while I almost resigned… I spoke to Jon and told him I was struggling.. and then I hired a nanny so that I could have the flexibility I needed.’
‘Jon and the SEMZ team have been supportive of my need to balance work and home. I was working three days per week and finding that there was too much to get through and I was putting the kids to bed and then logging on to work every night. These days with email and mobile phones, it’s difficult to switch off, and clients can’t be expected to remember which days are my work days.’
The answer for Karina was to add an extra half day of work. Finding the right home and work ratio meant achieving the balance of being mentally present at home (mostly) while effectively managing her workload. ‘When I returned to work last year after 9 months on maternity leave, I made a conscious decision to draw the line and leave my work at work as much as possible. SEMZ has been great in supporting my decision, empowering me to choose the best fit for me to achieve this – to deliver the standard of service that I want to deliver and have the time with my family – that’s so important, especially while my children are young.’
As a woman working in a traditionally male dominated Industry, Karina faced challenges early in her career. ‘There were times in my previous roles where I was the only woman on site. I felt that I needed to know more, with better understanding and education on the construction side than the men I was working with. I felt the need to constantly prove that I was effective and work really hard to achieve a balance between being considered too tough, or on the flip side, being considered too soft.’
‘I’m slowly seeing the gender balance in the industry change. There has been an influx of women over recent years but it’s still quite male dominated and therefore it’s difficult to find female resources, and then to find the right fit for an organisation.’
As the gender balance gradually shifts – currently around 11% of the Industry’s total workforce and 1% of building trades are female- organisations such as NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) and Master Builder’s Women Building Australia are steadily raising awareness, promoting the opportunities for women within the industry.
‘I don’t feel that pressure (to prove myself as a woman in the industry) any more. At SEMZ I’ve never felt like women and men are treated any differently. It’s completely gender neutral here and it’s all about your skills and abilities and not what sex you are’.
Heading in to her sixth year at SEMZ, Karina is still enjoying the challenge of her role. ‘I’m constantly learning and I’m challenged. This role is so varied, I’m always growing’.
In the lead up to 2019 International Women’s Day, we’re proud at SEMZ to be well ahead of the industry average of 11% female staff, and more importantly providing a workplace where all staff are considered equal.
For more information about International Women’s Day 2019 and how the industry can achieve #balanceforbetter see internationalwomensday2019.