ECR employer tips – Dr Sharon Harwood, Tetra Tech Coffey

Dr Sharon Harwood is an industry recognised leader with extensive experience and formal qualifications in social and urban planning. She has proven success working closely with all levels of government, industry, and the broader community including Indigenous corporations and marginalised populations to deliver planning and development outcomes.

Sharon specialises in community engagement directed at achieving planning and design outcomes and utilises a range of techniques that include quantitative surveys, focus group workshops, participatory mapping, and children’s artwork. Sharon has written more than 30 peer reviewed publications (more here) and delivered more than 40 presentations to domestic and international audiences in the past 10 years about planning and development. Sharon is a highly motivated, results driven individual who has had her skills recognised through several industry (Australian and Queensland Planner of the Year 2019 and 2018 respectively) and university (outstanding teaching and community engagement) awards.

At Tetra Tech Coffey Sharon focuses on social impact assessment, particularly in regards to mining, resources and infrastructure. Below she shares insights on employee qualities she considers important, and how a PhD could provide key transferable skills important to her team.

How can a research background help in undertaking the main jobs your company/institution/government department focuses on?
We use social change theories to support the analysis of social impacts of development upon affected communities. Social impacts assessment requires a comprehensive understanding of multiple method research techniques and the capacity to create fit for purpose research strategies (otherwise called engagement plans).

What specific tasks could a research background be helpful for?
We use qualitative and quantitative methods to collect the data to inform the impact assessment

If you have previously employed or worked with PhD students and early career researchers (ECRs), what are the best aspects of working with them?
An enquiring mind!

And what are the main challenges in working them?
The main challenge is reining in expectations. The consulting world is not the same as the academic world which is all about the most cost effective method – not necessarily the right method. It is something that I too struggle with!

Are there any specific desirable skill sets for undertaking the work at your company/the company you work at?
Excel! Mastering the Australian Bureau of Statistics databases and the capacity to analyse and present data about trends. Creating social baselines using any reliable data that you can get your hand on.

What is your job-ready ‘top-tip’?
Always always research the firm/job that you are applying for and ensure that you are able to align your career plan/goal to the job you are applying for or working in. You work for a long time in your life – make sure you enjoy whatever you do. This is not a job ready tip – it’s a tip for being happy over the course of your career!

Could you share some examples of job interview questions and what you are looking for when you ask them?
Can you tell me how you manage your time and your priorities to ensure that you are able to deliver your allocatd tasks on time and within budget? (a conscious application of time management)
What would you hope to achieve during your first 6 months with us? (demonstrate goal orientated approach to work, capacity to think ahead, consideration of the firm’s goals relative to their own)
Why should we hire you? (capacity to sell your skills and attributes to the firm and to the client!)

Anything else to share?
Research skills have many applications – it is not just for the academic world.

Get in touch with Sharon through LinkedIn.


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