Lucia Schefermann recently sat down with a Strategic Planner from one of Australia's largest City Councils to get a deeper understanding of what it's like to work for local government, specifically a large city council.
Lucia's 10 interview questions in the conversation were quite broad and provide a great example of what a potential local government candidate might expect in their next role.
You have worked for one of the largest councils in Australia for a decade now. Your family have also worked for the local government. In this day and age, not many employees show such great tenure at one employer. What do you consider the biggest reason to accredit that tenure at your council?
I am a big advocate of local government as an employer and there are numerous reasons that I have stayed with my one employer for my entire working life, but the biggest reasons for me would be the support and flexibility that you receive as an employee to achieve a good work/life balance and the variety of experience that working in government offers.
As a strategic planner for one of the steadiest growing cities in Australia, what do you find most exciting/rewarding about your job?
It would have to be seeing the projects that you have worked on come to life and to look back and see how much the city has changed and how much of that change you were a part of. Unfortunately, not many people get that opportunity as they move on to other employers or down new career paths, so they don’t get to see the work on paper transfer to work on the ground, but after a decade there have been some amazing developments and changes which I have been a part of.
Can you describe the key responsibilities in a typical day as a Strategic Planner?
- Provide planning advice to internal and external stakeholders.
- Coordinate, monitor and review activities and outputs to ensure that the work aligns with the relevant legislation.
- Work well in a multidisciplinary term and be open to suggestions by others.
- Ability to interpret relevant legislation.
- Co-ordinate and negotiate planning outcomes.
You have worked as both a strategic and statutory planner. For a Grad person entering the workplace, what benefits would you suggest either role possesses?
Mmmm, they both have their pros and cons for a grad position but as a statutory planner, the pace is fast, it’s exciting and you’re making decisions on development applications every day, so you feel like you are making a difference every day and that’s rewarding. It’s also the quickest way to get your head around the local planning scheme and other relevant legislation.
As a strategic planner, the pace is slower and you’re not making decisions every day, but you are exposed to the bigger picture, you are planning ahead for the city, for the next 10-20yrs. You’re learning about every inch of the city, who you are planning for, what population growth will mean for the future and how you’re going to plan for that. It’s much more high-level planning and it’s very rewarding being a part of those long-term projects.
What do you see as the key challenges faced by planners on a day-to-day basis?
I think the biggest challenge is that you will never make everyone happy, it’s a tough gig trying to develop the city when no-one really wants development in their back yard. So, communication is key, hiding behind the legislation is not going to work and will make your job a lot harder.
Community consultation goes a long way, who I better to provide insight on what the city needs and doesn’t need than the local residents.
As a mum of two, do you consider your workplace a supportive environment to your personal life and demands?
1000%, although, like anything in life, if you support your workplace, they will support you. I only have good stories regarding my personal experience with my employer and the support that I have received over the past 12yrs which has involved working while studying my degree and having 2 children.
Do you consider the council/government sector a place of career growth opportunities?
Definitely! Not only does it provide a very fair and opportunistic working environment, but the government sector has the most experience, the most resources and in the development industry, the final decision lies with local government, so where else could you gain such valuable experience and opportunities?
Where do you see your career in 5 years’ time?
As a mother of 2 little ones, the juggle will probably still be continuing for me over the next 5 years and to be honest, I’m happy where I am. I haven’t been in my strategic planning role for very long, so my 5-year goal would be to gain more experience in my current role and hopefully move up into more of a management role. I have been very blessed to have amazing managers, both male and female, and have learnt a lot from them regarding providing a supportive, comfortable and happy working environment. I would like to be able to eventually be in a position to carry on their legacy and do the same.
If you could describe your workplace culture in 3 words what would they be?
Supportive. Inclusive. Enthusiastic!
As a planner, how do you feel about the future development of QLD?
I feel excited, Queensland has fast become a very sought-after place of choice, to live and work, and I have seen so much growth and change evolve over the past decade. People are now choosing to move from the Melbourne’s and Sydney’s to Queensland instead of the other way around and I believe that’s a lifestyle choice. Obviously, population growth results in a need for more housing and infrastructure etc. so I don’t see the growth dropping off anytime soon. We must be doing something right!
You can contact Lucia for Public Sector roles such as:
More about Lucia... "I was born in Argentina, grew up in South Africa and now live in Australia."