Making mobility happen in your career
Sometimes the most important lessons you’ll learn in your career pop up out of nowhere, thanks to a bit of luck and serendipity.
The rest of the time, however, they come at the end of a dogged and intentional pursuit.
A diverse and international career led Rachel Parry to the role of First Assistant Secretary heading electricity for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER). But working alongside her state counterparts made her wonder how things got done at their level of government.
When a senior vacancy emerged in heading up energy policy in NSW, Parry saw an opportunity. She pitched making the role a two-year secondment and sold the idea of building leaders with a dual state/federal perspective.
Copyright: Peter Rae
“I had identified it as part of my professional development plan,” she said. “I thought I could learn a lot by going to work with a state.”
Her hunch has proven true. Now well into the secondment, Rachel has discovered a new lens on energy policy.
“The states are much closer to the implementation and delivery. I have been able to see firsthand what that delivery looks like.”
In the Deputy Secretary role, Parry is heading up energy and climate policy for the NSW Government. This includes state level net zero and clean air policies, through to energy transmission, electric vehicles and support to help low income groups afford their energy bills.
“Each state has their own particular needs and being able to understand those needs has been really interesting,” Rachel said.
She has also jumped into a different operating environment, with a different parliament, different decision-makers, different language and a different scale.
“I went from a department of 3000 in the Commonwealth to a department of over 12,000 people in the state. Being able to understand how an organisation that size operates and functions within the government context has been a steep learning curve as well,” she said.
At the same time, Rachel has been able to inject her own experience at the Commonwealth levels, working with different jurisdictions, ministers and policy portfolios, into those conversations.
And she has also done it all – mostly – from Canberra. She commutes to Sydney on a part-time basis and sometimes works from Queanbeyan just over the NSW/ACT border.
“Location has not been an issue…I would argue that COVID has shown us we can work from anywhere,” she said.
Rachel credits her mobility experience to a “fortunate confluence of events”.
But she did not leave it all to good fortune, and says that anyone who wants to emulate her experience needs to articulate how the move benefits everyone involved.
“It’s about making that case for the benefits to the losing party and the gaining organisation, as well as the individual,” she says.
“Ultimately this will drive benefit back into the Commonwealth...it is not just a one way transfer.”
“It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know a whole new group of people and to see that the quality of the public service, whether you’re operating at a state or commonwealth level, is really high,” she said.