Sep 28, 2020, 14:00 PM

In the opening frames of our explainer video (link opens in new window) on Citywide’s civil reinstatements team, a young lady sits at the controls of an excavator, carving up a driveway in the storage yard of Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project. She’s clearly in her element: focused, confident, highly accomplished at what she does.

But this picture doesn’t tell the whole story.

Dig a little deeper into the resumé of 24-year-old Celia O’Kane and – like many of Citywide’s frontline staff – you may be surprised at what you find.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to find that she grew up on a cattle farm and drove her first truck when she was 11. Nor that she’s qualified to drive a drum roller, an excavator, or a 14-ton tipper truck.

But what might surprise you is that she’s also on track to become a full-time corporate lawyer.

DSC07180 Celia OKane steamrollerComplementary careers

COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works of young careers around the country. Students who wanted to pursue white-collar jobs are now looking at more practical trades. Others who wanted to become city slickers are now looking at jobs in the regions.

But for Celia O’Kane, becoming a lawyer has been an enduring dream since she enrolled in 2015 at the Australian Catholic University – from which she graduated with a degree in business administration and law earlier this year.

“I don’t consider a career at Citywide as counter-intuitive to my career path – quite the opposite actually,” says Celia. “Right now, I’m doing a job I love in civil reinstatements, and there’s a path here to another job I love.”

The second job Celia refers to is becoming an in-house legal counsel and helping a business like Citywide make informed decisions that take account of every risk and potential legal issue.

Of course, Citywide already has a highly qualified legal counsel in the shape of our General Counsel and Company Secretary, Heidi Mitchell. But Heidi would be gratified to know that she’s been a long-term inspiration to a young machine operator at Green Street.

“I’ve been a secret admirer of Heidi’s ever since I joined Citywide,” admits Celia. “As a tough female lawyer in a male-dominated world, she’s a real role model to me. But as I always say, you should never be intimidated by what you don’t know – it should just motivate you to learn more and grow your skills.”

Growing skillsets

Celia’s own skills have been growing exponentially since she joined the reinstatements crew 18 months ago. Under Operations Leader Matt Gionfriddo (click to connect) and Operations Supervisor James Tomeo (click to connect), she’s been rapidly accumulating licences in everything from heavy-rigid truck operations to first aid and electrical spotting.

DSCF0243 Celia Nahom Furkan pic“Matt and James have been so supportive to me,” says Celia. “They’ve been continually pushing me in new directions, giving me new challenges – as a girl in a male-dominated world, this really means a lot to me.

“Just over a year ago, I was on a broom and a shovel – now I’m driving the biggest truck in our fleet. Not bad for a little blonde girl, hey?”

For Matt Gionfriddo, giving Celia the chance to learn new skills – and practice on Citywide’s vehicles – was a no-brainer.

“Celia is a joy to work with,” says Matt. “She’s continually investing in herself and learning new things. I see her as someone I could definitely approach when an opportunity came up in the office for the next supervisor or team leader… She’s going to be someone to watch in the future, that’s for sure!”

Celia is currently doing her practical legal training at Melbourne’s College of Law, which she should finish in December. That will put her on course to be formally admitted to the legal profession in February 2021.

“It’s hard looking for work for everyone at the moment, but I’m in a place I wouldn’t trade for the world,” she says.

“Working for the legal team at Citywide would be a dream come true for me. And right now, I’m learning the business from the other end – which will be really useful knowledge in understanding all the legal implications that face different parts of this industry.”

(Photo, above: Celia and crewmates Nahom Tekulu (l) and Furkan Erkan observe COVID-19 physical distancing measures on a works site)

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Media Contact:
Simon Mossman - Group Corporate Communications 
M 0427 307 216 
simon.mossman@citywide.com.au