July 27, 2023

“I’m engine room, not boardroom”

Sharyn Chadwick, the winner of the 2023 UDIA SA Women in Leadership award, is breaking the mould and up for a challenge as an engineer driving some of the SA Housing Authority’s biggest projects.

If you were trapped in a dark tunnel, metaphorical or real, you would want Sharyn Chadwick by your side.

She’s solution-oriented, smart and personable – a combination meaning she could likely talk you through a panic attack while designing the optimal escape route.

The judges in the 2023 UDIA SA Awards for Excellence called Sharyn an “amazingly accomplished engineer” who is “humble about her achievements”.

On winning the award, Sharyn says she is still in a lot of shock.

“I’m engine room, not boardroom. I’m not a an executive and I don’t think I ever will be because I’m so much better to everybody being hands on,” she says.

“If I can help share that knowledge with the next generation, then that’s going to continue our industry on a really good path.”

The development engineer and senior project manager professes a love for what’s underground.

“We can make the most amazing buildings and developments. But unless we take note of all the underground services, especially in the brownfield areas, we’re set up to fail,” she says.

Similarly, she advocates for all development work to be considered holistically, with transport, roads and stormwater just as important as the underground services.

As a team leader, she relates to being the fun auntie. Colleagues, development assessment planners and other industry professionals are often invited on site tours to understand the challenges and opportunities firsthand.

“I love to take people out on site to see the real world,” she says.

“You can look at a plan for as long as you like, but until you actually go out and see something physically, it doesn’t really sink in.

“As soon as you see it out there, it’s just this whole other world and things become a lot clearer.

“I think sharing knowledge is so incredibly important. I’ve learned lots about planning and I’d like to think there’s quite a few very successful planners in Adelaide who have learned from me about the engineering aspects.”

Sharyn’s decades-long path in urban development took her from starting out as a cadet drafter in Far North Queensland to private and government roles as a development engineer in Adelaide.

“My very first job out of school was actually working for an architect, but I switched to engineering. I found the engineering side of things and the infrastructure a bit more interesting,” she explains.

Passionate about teaching the next generations, she hopes to get more young people and people with disability into STEM.

“I’ve actually got a hearing impairment,” she says, revealing she has a cochlear implant.

“I want people to know that you can do what you want, as long as you’re prepared to put the work in and build the relationships. Nothing can hold you back.”

Sharyn’s current job title gives nothing away about her considerable expertise and breadth of skills. As senior project manager with the SA Housing Authority, she is presently managing two multi-stage urban renewal land development projects from feasibility to completion – Woodville Place and Blair Athol.

Before this, as principal development engineer at City of Salisbury, she was involved in the establishment of Mawson Lakes, one of Adelaide’s most innovative urban developments.

“Mawson Lakes was happening really quickly at that time – so I got to be involved in so much of it. It was amazing,” Sharyn recalls.

“I really enjoy taking something – especially something that others have put in the too hard basket – and making it happen, seeing it come out of the ground as such,” she says. “That gives me a really a great feeling.”

“But also, the work that I do now with the SA Housing Authority, I love that work.

“We’ve got some amazing projects on the go and that really inspires me.

“I love that we’re making a difference for South Australians.”

The UDIA SA Women in Leadership Award, sponsored by Them Advertising, recognises women working at mid to senior levels within the South Australian urban development sector and associated industry.

Sharyn is now eligible to be recognised among her peers across Australia as she is shortlisted for the 2024 UDIA National Awards for Excellence to be held in Melbourne in March 2024.

See the full list of the 2023 UDIA SA Awards for Excellence winners here.