Sharon Middleton - Whiteline Transport & SARTA
Director - Whiteline Transport
President - South Australian Road Transport Association
I started my Transport and Logistics career in a purely clerical role. It was in my current company I met my future husband, a small freight operator with only a few trucks at the time. As I got involved more in the operation of the business I remembering him saying to me "we can keep going like this or we can make a real go of this and try and build the business."
At this stage my role crossed between clerical, sales and logistics but expanded quickly as the business grew. We had only 4 or 5 employees at this time, whereas now we have 50. I found it fortunate that instead of being thrown in at the deep end expecting to know everything about trucking, my responsibilities grew as the business grew. This gave me the time to understand the challenges as they got bigger and understand the systems as they needed to become more complex.
From the beginning we were a real lean mean operation, so operating a forklift was something I was always quite used to. But after 20 years in the industry, and being involved in the training of our drivers, I wanted to get out on the road myself. I did my MR licence and after only 12 months I already felt the urge to go bigger, and I ended up doing my MC licence. Interstate trips on our Adelaide- Darwin run is something I have enjoyed since getting my MC licence.
After having done the long run myself now I appreciate my drivers even more. I've had the flat tyres in the middle of nowhere on 40 degree days. I can now relate to them on a different level which is helpful when leading morning Toolbox Talk meetings.
People who are looking to get involved in the industry should not be discouraged from starting at the bottom in order to progress upwards. There are many segues in the industry to higher positions. Starting from the base I believe makes you want to achieve more, and you realise what you need to do to move on to that next career step.
Even for Truck drivers these steps illustrate to them how important other sides of the business are to a company's
operation. They know how important the paperwork is to the customer, the importance of signing off on all your trip sheets and compliance papers. They know this because they have worked in the office, and see the need for these processes.
As a teenager I went to Stott's Business College and there I learned short hand, office and other organisational skills which I found to give me a great base to further develop the skills I use today. If you had told me as a teenager I would be running a fairly sizeable interstate trucking company, you are going to be President of a Board, and Transport Woman for Australia in 2013 I would have said you are off your head.
In terms of women getting out there and getting physical and dirty in the industry - it might not suit every woman, nor every man but there are so many tentacles to the industry that branch out and offer a wide range of opportunities within transport and logistics.
Equal gender representation is certainly getting better in the industry than what it used to be. It still has some way to go but women are getting opportunities they may not have got 20 odd years ago. Because women may be under the microscope more so than their male counterparts when entering into the industry, I think to some degree women perhaps may have to work slightly harder.
As a result I believe they can be more concerned with doing a job correctly. Certainly other employers I know comment that women take better care of the equipment, which has huge financial benefits to companies, because women want the opportunity and they want to be able to excel in the industry.