Introducing Helen Fedoruk

Helen is an Estimator for Pensar, and her pathway to the infrastructure industry began with a carpentry apprenticeship scheme in Ireland.

How did you start out with your trade?

Helen: I was a tomboy through & through – some might say I still am. At the end of my first year of high school we had to make subject choices, and one of those choices was between commerce and woodwork. This was quite ironic given that girls weren’t allowed to do woodwork in the first year. But a choice it was and against all advice, I choose woodwork. I loved doing things with my hands, loved the smell of timber, and aced all my exams. From there I sought out options to do an apprenticeship and found a local training centre in Northern Ireland. I was the only female in the non-traditional trade courses, which was a good indicator of the status quo at the time. But I knew I had found my path and was also awarded ‘Construction Apprentice of the Year’ at the completion of my training.

What’s next for the Apprentice of the Year?

Helen: After completing my training work placement, I had the opportunity to do a 3-month workplace exchange in Holland. 3 months became 3 years but I decided I wasn’t ready to settle down there. I had heard great stories about Australia and given the demand for skilled workers in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, I decided to travel to Australia. I worked as a cabinet maker in a joinery factory for another 2 and a half years and then also started to think about how I could balance my career with starting a family.

How did you develop your trade skills to follow a new career path?

Helen: I started an estimating job in commercial construction in 2001 and drew heavily on the skillset I’d gained from being on the tools – some of these skills I gained without even noticing. These included time management, communication skills, liaising with various stakeholders and working to a deadline, as well as having the ability to interpret drawings and other documents. I also decided to return to part-time study so that I could develop and add to those skills to enable further career progression. I studied a Diploma of Building Studies with the TAFE Sydney Institute.

Did the accolades follow you to Sydney?

Helen: Sure did, I was good enough to receive some awards when I completed the Diploma, including:

  • Highest Graduating Student
  • Best Student in Technology
  • Australian Institute of Building Chapter Award

I am very proud of the awards and I think it’s a reflection on following a career path that I’m passionate about, have a talent for, & truly enjoy – and hard work of course!

What drew you to Pensar and a change of industry?

Helen: I had previously worked for a company for 10 years and within that time transitioned from their commercial construction division to their oil & gas pipeline division. To do this successfully I relied on my practical mindset and the estimating skills I’d honed over the years. Pensar was brought to my attention when the oil & gas industry went through a downturn and I was drawn to the culture and attitude of the people. It was a different industry so another opportunity to learn and grow – this time specialising in the water & wastewater industry and reporting directly to the General Manager.

And life at Pensar?

Helen: I’ve been with Pensar for 2 years now and it’s been great. I’ve been given opportunities to develop and Pensar has implemented some processes I’ve suggested based on previous experience. The culture and the people are open minded and approachable, innovative and not afraid to try something different. Pensar encourage and support an active lifestyle and provide opportunities to get involved by organising several events each year that are open for everyone to join in on. Last year, I achieved a half marathon! Our HSEQ Manager, .aka. Coach Daz, really helped me with the training and managing the restrictions of being a busy single mum.

We have recently completed the Maximum Adventure Race and with it being St Patrick’s Day as well, it waa a lot of fun and fantastic to see everyone having a go.

I regularly go to the boxing sessions that are available to all Pensar employees with Coach Cyclone. I particularly enjoy the weekly dedicated Pensar session where roles and responsibilities are set aside and replaced with gloves, enthusiasm, strength, energy & speed. This is the best team bonding strategy I’ve seen. I love seeing another side to everyone as they come alive and push their boundaries.

What are you aiming for next?

Helen: I recently had the opportunity to present at WorldSkills Queensland’s Try’a Trade workshop, where I spoke with a group of Year 10 girls about the opportunities that can come with, and from a trade. It took me back 25yrs down memory lane! I truly enjoyed meeting the girls and encouraging them to follow their intuition and their own interests and passions when it comes to choosing a career. I’d love to do more in this area, giving back and showing young people how it is possible to shape an entire career – and one that allows for work and family balance – from a trade.