Life is full of unsung heroes. Support workers, nurses, firefighters, paramedics. Few would instinctively put civil engineers and risk managers in that category. Yet their impact can be so vital that they themselves hope it is never realised. She’d be the last to talk about it but Victoria Hogg lives in that space every single day. Essential Energy’s Acting Head of Asset Management has spent much of her career keeping people safe. Her impact is rarely experienced, and as an introvert with a passion for helping communities, she’s quite happy to stay in the shade.
Striving for invisible impact – Welcome to a career in risk and safety
Victoria Hogg is not your stereotypical ‘people person’. In fact, she appears to fit well into the ‘technical problem-solver’ pigeon hole. But like many successful engineers, she is quietly passionate about her impact on the world.
“I have an absolute need for structure and logic, and for understanding why. Engineering flows into that well. I also have a strong need to work in something that makes a difference to the public. It’s about doing the right thing for people.”
Victoria started out as a Civil Engineer, completing a bachelor’s degree and then a PhD in England, her country of birth. After a stint working on bridge engineering with a consultancy firm, she became a research associate at Cambridge University – a role which shaped her career.
“The work I did at Cambridge was sponsored by the UK Highways Agency. Once that was finished the Agency offered me a role as a Technical Advisor in their asset management group. Again, I was dealing with bridges, but across all aspects of asset management, safety management, standards and research.”
Victoria soon moved into a team leader role in ‘Structural Safety, Risk and Reliability’. It’s not usually a job title which draws much interest and discussion but in 2001, everything changed.
“A short while into the role there was a tragic road and rail accident – the 2001 Selby Rail Crash. A passenger train collided with a vehicle which had crashed onto the rail track, and then derailed and hit another oncoming train.”
As a result, ten people died and 82 were seriously injured. The incident required a major review of the approach to safety risk management, particularly in the area of road safety barriers, and Victoria moved into a role to support the process.
“It really brings it home to you - you realise what happens when things go wrong. Working in risk, you’re usually dealing with things that could happen but thankfully don’t. This was different.”
A new chapter, a new challenge
As time went on, Victoria’s interest in the subject of risk intensified. She went on to complete a master’s in risk management and spent eight years developing her skills in a specialist consultancy firm. In 2012, she and her partner took a risk of their own and emigrated to Australia to kick off a new chapter. She spent five years with Western Power in WA before moving to the East Coast to become Associate Director, Safety & Engineering Systems at Transport for NSW. They didn’t take to Sydney, however, so in 2018, they switched to a quieter life in Port Macquarie. There, Victoria joined Essential Energy as Network Compliance & Risk Manager, before recently being seconded to Acting Head of Asset Management.
Victoria says her recent secondment is a big step. She’s now responsible for 65 people – the biggest team she’s managed.
“I realised it would be a huge challenge but I threw my hat in the ring anyway. It’s a little scary, if I’m honest. It’s not the natural thing you think about when you go into engineering. But I saw it as a great opportunity to step up and get experience, and I’m really glad to be here.”
Victoria’s perspectives on ‘people vs technical’ first shifted when she did a six month Leadership WA program at Western Power.
“I don’t know how on earth I got picked but somebody nominated me. We explored leadership through the lens of community, diversity, change and ethics. It really opened my eyes, not just to the difference between management and leadership but also the impact you can have on people.”
With a laugh, Victoria says she’s been a work in progress ever since!
“I value more and more the importance of understanding how people tick. I‘ve learned to trust my instincts and back myself more. Just because I don’t do things the way others might, it doesn’t make it wrong. I’m not a ‘bull at a gate, thumping on the table’ kind of leader. You can get lots done with coaching and mentoring - giving people space to do it their way. I like to think I have a collaborative style. I want to empower others.”
Community and pride: Working at Essential
For Victoria, a key motivation to work with Essential Energy is the opportunity to make a difference.
“We are very much a regional organisation, serving regional and rural New South Wales. There’s a strong feeling of belonging and serving the community. There’s also a lot of history and so much knowledge. I’ve seen people move on or retire after 30 or 40 years with the organisation."
The right thing. The more we speak to Victoria, the more we see that responsible decision-making and the need to help are part of her DNA. As the conversation draws to a close, we ask how she experiences the feeling of ‘making a difference’ at Essential Energy.
“A lot of people see risk and yawn. I find it quite fascinating. We’re literally dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars of investment each year. Using the tools we have, we can break down all the options we have, to determine the right action to take. We show the impact of that investment on the things that really matter – on making sure people have the power they need and that it is delivered to them safely.”
With typically dry humour, Victoria leaves us with a reminder of the selfless nature of working in her field:
“Of course there is one problem with risk management – How do you demonstrate you did a good job… when nothing happened? We still haven’t cracked that.”
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