Interview: Sandra McLean, A/Executive Director Innovation Governance Strategy, Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games

Tell us about the journey to your current role and what it this role entails?

I have spent most of my professional life working as a journalist which took me around Australia and the world working for newspapers and magazines. This was sparked by my love for words and writing as well as a curiosity about people and places.  I worked as a journalist and an editor and also authored a nonfiction book Late Babies: Having Babies After 35. I joined the public service about 8 years ago and have never forgotten that this was due to someone reaching out and making an offer to me to make the leap into a very different environment. My roles in Queensland Government have been in communications, media, engagement, human resources and culture. My current role is leading human resources and engagement for the Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games with recent opportunities to act in senior executive roles in tourism policy and engagement and governance and strategy in the innovation division the department.

Can you describe a project you are working on/recently completed, and any key challenges you have faced along the way and how they were overcome?

Last year we were asked to work as part of a whole of government initiative around gender equity and to investigate how our department measured up in this regard – especially around the gender pay gap and also ensuring equal representation of men and women on key decision making bodies and boards.  This is an ongoing project however key steps were taken last year to capture key data so we could see if there were any pay gaps (there were) and to then also consult with staff to help us understand their views and knowledge around gender equity. We worked closely with the senior executive officers as well as offers in the A07-A08 classification who are our future leaders. It was clear that there were a lot of different points of view on what gender equity meant and what it would look like if we did have department that was in all ways gender equal.

What did you learn from this project? What did it achieve?

The key outcome of these workshops was to raise the awareness around this issue and for everyone to understand that to achieve gender equity we need to act across a range of areas eg flexible work, recruitment methods and that there are some things we cannot influence around gender equity that relate to the environment away from work. This is key challenge for those working in government to shift the gender dial – the attitudes and entrenched ways of working and living – that can dull the impact of any policies government may put in place. It is a work in progress but progress is being made.

What excites you most about the future?

I am most excited about the possibilities that lie ahead in my own career and the work that is happening in Queensland Government around creating a workforce for the future. It is something that I am passionate about as the mother of a son now at university – we must remember to always look out to the world and stay curious. The work the Queensland Government is doing to identify what the future working world will look like and the skills people will  need as well as to connect with those shaping this world – the entrepreneurs, thinkers, researchers – through the many programs in place not just in innovation but across government is exciting. I am also energised by the way Queensland Government has prioritised the public service as a place where people feel safe, respected and supported – and importantly have access to opportunity.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to further their career in government, what would it be?

Be curious, stay open to change, never burn a bridge and put your hand up for any opportunity that comes your way.

Where do you look to for further education? E.g. articles, podcasts, news sources, courses – e.g. University, online, internal etc?

I look to people around me first and foremost; I am a huge consumer of newspapers and news magazines; and I find Linked in connects me to trends and priorities in the working world: it is important to stay connected to this. I also have a diverse collection of books – currently there’s about four on the go on my bedside table!