Senior Project Manager
Consultancy, Asia Pacific
Dearbhla Keane started working in the construction sector in Northern Ireland – and then travelled from Belfast to Perth before joining Mace in Sydney. Now she delivers complex construction projects for the aviation sector, helping her clients’ projects to take flight.
- How did you come to join the construction industry?
I never expected to end up working on construction projects. I originally grew up in Northern Ireland, and after leaving school I went to the University of Ulster to study a degree in communication, advertising and marketing.
The course required me to do a year long placement and I ended up spending it with a construction company.
I loved the industry – particularly the sense of delivering something tangible – and once my placement was complete I did an MSc in construction and project management at Queen’s University in Belfast.
- What brought you from Belfast to Australia?
I worked in the construction sector in Northern Ireland for a year or so after finishing my MSc, but then the financial crash happened.
Work in the sector dried up as the economy struggled and so, in the hunt for better work and to progress in my career, I decided to up sticks and move across the world!
I ended up in Perth in Australia, working to deliver projects at the airport. Before then I hadn’t really worked on aviation projects. It’s a complex environment in which to deliver projects; the airport doesn’t stop so you’ve got to work quickly and efficiently to keep up with the pace.
- What attracted you to delivering aviation projects?
Initially it was just a job – but quickly I realised how much I enjoyed delivering these really complex projects in a challenging and live environment.
Every airport has so many moving parts – passengers, planes, crew – and all of it has to run on time. As a result, any construction project is hugely complex. You need to be able to tell people exactly when they’ll have access to specific sections of the site.
That’s part of the thrill; you know that if you don’t get it right you’ll cause a huge impact on so many people – so it has to be right first time!
- When did you move over to Mace?
In 2016 I moved from Perth to Sydney. I saw a job advertised with Mace in mid 2018. My brother-in-law already worked for Mace back in the UK, so I’d heard that it was a great company to work for.
I joined as a senior project manager and started working at Sydney Airport, helping to set up their programme management office. That quickly followed with a roads project for Melbourne Airport.
I was immediately impressed by the people – the team here has so many experts in their fields; a huge range of international experience delivering some of the most complex and challenging projects in the world.
- What are your ambitions?
Since I began working for Mace I’ve helped to deliver a range of different projects for both Sydney and Melbourne Airport. I’ve now taken a wider sector brief and I’m constantly building my breadth of experience.
I’m very career focussed and I’m hoping to progress quickly at Mace.
There’s a lot of opportunity and there’s so much happening in the Australian infrastructure industry. I want to lead project delivery teams and I can see a real chance to do that here.
- What do you do in your spare time?
Both my husband and I are real foodies – we love to eat out and try new foods and cuisine. Although I’m very focussed on work, project management can be quite a stressful roll - it’s important to be able to unwind sometimes – I usually do this through the gym. If you can’t get out of work and switch off you’ll struggle to deliver!
“The team here has so many experts in their fields; a huge range of international experience delivering some of the most complex and challenging projects in the world. ”