Powerlink Queensland’s Senior Asset Management Strategy Advisor Lutfiye Manli arrived in Australia from Turkey 20 years ago.
With formal qualifications in chemical engineering, and two masters in Engineering Management and Research in Engineering, as well as international experience in industrial management, Lutfiye brought significant technical knowledge and diversity of thought to Powerlink when she joined the company in 2004. Powerlink owns and operates Queensland’s high voltage electricity transmission network.
Innovation at Powerlink
At Powerlink, Lutfiye found an employer that, like her, was looking for ways to improve effectiveness and achieve better outcomes. Her colleagues will tell you that, ‘What else can we do?’ and, ‘Do you have an idea?’ are two of the most common phrases to come out of her mouth. Powerlink has encouraged and supported many of the new ideas she helped foster.
One example Lutfiye shares was the implementation of risk-based maintenance approach, which was a direct response to the challenge of finding ways to be more cost effective without compromising reliability or safety.
When working as the Reliability and Performance Engineer, Lutfiye was responsible for research and development activities and fostered strong relationships with universities and industry groups to introduce new ideas and technologies to Powerlink.
She continued her innovation streak at Powerlink as a Business Improvement Manager, innovating project management processes. Lutfiye applied that same approach of continuous improvement to herself, continuing her academic career and completing a PhD in 2018 focused on developing an optimal decision support tool for asset management decisions.
Powerlink has recently increased its focus on innovation to ensure it continues to meet the needs of its customers in a transforming energy industry. A formal innovation framework and program has been adopted and Lutfiye was one of 20 employees selected from across the business to help coach others to improve organisational innovation capability. While still in its infancy, the innovation program is already showing early signs of success delivering a more cost-effective and safer method to replace insulators. When resources are tight in a changing environment, innovation can provide solutions that improve network utilisation, business outcomes and more.
Innovation and Diversity
Powerlink knows the value of diversity to its future business and that engaging employees with different backgrounds, experience and education is the key to problem-solving.
Valuing and embracing diversity at Powerlink is demonstrated from the top down, with four of the five board of directors being female and coming from a broad range of industries.
Lutfiye says her Turkish heritage and direct style of communication hasn’t been an issue at Powerlink, which has an internationally diverse workforce.
“I’ve always had supporters here who have welcomed my voice, encouraged my unique way of thinking, and been curious and wanting to learn more about my culture and background.”
Having a Work Family
With most of her family back in Turkey, Lutfiye says Powerlink and its people have become part of her extended family.
“I really feel at home here,” she says. “I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some amazing leaders including former Chief Executive Merryn York, who recently moved on to the Australian Energy Market Commission after a long period at the helm.”
After 14 years in the business, she is widely known and respected, and has created lasting friendships – many of which now extend outside of work.
Engineers and The Future
Lutfiye says that people generally think of engineers as purely technical people, but she says that stereotype sells them short as “most have very good emotional IQ as well.”
“The future of engineering will rely on understanding how different disciplines integrate. There needs to be a continued focus on technical mastery as well as developing non-technical social skills.”
To Lutfiye, understanding human behaviour is critical to successful leadership. She believes the skillsets of future leaders needs to be multifaceted: psychology, empathy, soft skills, the ability to use and interrogate data, and the rapid capacity to understand and adopt technology.
She wants to encourage emerging engineers to think about how the future will be different, and how they can create a space and add value in that changing future. In that context, we need to be thinking about how to prepare future leaders.
Of Powerlink, Lutfiye has only positive sentiments;
“Powerlink is a great place to work. I am a mother. I lecture at university on the weekends. I run a community group called Brisbane Turkish Women’s Association. I can do all of these things because of the support of my company.”
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