Find Your People - Jessie McCudden
Monday, 20 November, 2023
Jessie McCudden is an Ecology Team Lead from Brisbane. Get to know Jessie and her passion for sunsets, the environment, and people, and why the culture in the Brisbane office has a reputation for being noisy. Hint, it involves animal mating noises.
Jessie in action in the grasslands
1. How do you explain what you do for work at dinner parties?
It’s surprising the number of people that don’t know what ecology is, so often I say environmental consulting.
2. Can you please briefly tell us about your career journey with Eco Logical Australia (ELA) and how they have helped propel you in your career?
I ended up getting my dream job as an Ecologist at ELA in early 2016 after working in a health, safety and environment team at BHP. It was quite a steep learning curve, and I learned both the technical side of ecology and consulting skills really quickly on the job.
I’ve now been at ELA for 7 years which is a long time these days. I think back to our parents’ generation, and they used to spend a lifetime at a company, but it’s not like that anymore. I think it really does take a special company or team to keep you somewhere for longer because people stay for people. You might not necessarily stay for the work, but you definitely stay for the leaders and the team.
Jessie (middle, back row) and her team
3. How did ELA support you when you had to take time off in your career?
When I took time off for parental leave, ELA was completely supportive and excited for me from the beginning. They were very supportive and gave me the option to come back earlier or later if I needed.
When I did come back, I came back on really reduced hours for one day a week, and they were super flexible with that too. There had been so many changes in the team and with new software over the time I was away, so they allowed me to integrate back in a way that worked for me.
Now I’m back up to three days and they are still super supportive of the part-time agreement.
4. What do you love most about what you do?
The feeling that I’m contributing in a meaningful way. We’re involved in the development of significant projects and helping them to be delivered in the most environmentally conscious way is a really good feeling.
Also, working in such a great team for a company where the environment and ecology is at the core of its business values. It makes coming to work every day a fun and rewarding experience.
Everyone at ELA works really hard too. With consulting, I think in general you're busy and you've got deadlines. But being able to have a laugh with your colleagues is so important for making the whole experience enjoyable. As well as having that feeling of being supported and part of a team. We're all in it together and people have got your back if you need help. Culture is so important.
5. What has been your coolest or most unique experience in nature?
A lot of my work has been in the Brigalow Belt in Queensland, so getting to visit different parts of Queensland that I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to visit, like the Cooper Basin, is pretty cool.
Some of the sun rises that you get to see out doing field work are spectacular. Getting to see the country, and the landscape that you're in at such a stunning time of day that you'd normally be in bed for is such a privilege.
I don’t know whether this is exhilarating or terrifying, but something that has definitely been memorable is getting my vehicle bogged in the mud!
The Brigalow Woodland
6. What’s the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on?
Some projects we work on are really big and run over several months or years. With these projects we’re accumulating so much data, and the scopes can develop to a completely different place than where you started. These changing needs that come up over time can be quite challenging.
Also, with these bigger jobs we're doing seasonal monitoring over multiple years so there's all sorts of challenges with moving parts. Whether that’s staff members coming and going, conditions changing or client contacts changing. Those projects often end up being the most rewarding however because you're seeing the most change and getting through it.
7. What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on desktop research for several smaller ecological assessments. We also just completed broader field survey and impact assessments for some mining clients in central Queensland.
I’ve spent the last two months working on Inland Rail, which is a huge freight rail line that is being built between Victoria and Queensland. We are supporting and reviewing the ecology documentation for that.
Fringing woodland on Condamine River
8. To better understand your team, can you tell us a bit about them?
I work in ELA's Brisbane office and am part of a relatively large ecology team. Ecology teams can often be really small, so you would only learn from one or two people, but that’s not the case with us. We work in a fun, interactive environment where there is always someone asking questions to the rest of the team to get them thinking and creating discussion.
What I love about our team is that we have a huge range of experiences and interests. Everyone has their own individual skills, and you can learn something from everyone. It’s not like you only go to your boss to learn from.
I think the Brisbane office also has a reputation for being a bit of a noisy bunch. There’s often bird calls or koala mating sounds being played, or acoustic recordings coming straight out of someone’s mouth! So, there is definitely a bit of noise around the office at times.
9. How would you describe the culture of your team?
We are hardworking but fun loving. We are all generally really, really busy but I think our way of dealing with the pressure is to have a good time together. It’s a release from feeling super under the pump on our projects. We always make sure to have a laugh and try and do something social outside the office.
I also think we are also a really supportive team, so if someone needs a hand then there is always someone willing to help out. Whether it’s something more serious or if you need support going through something difficult at work or at home, we're there for each other. It’s a really good culture and something that the whole team really values and wants to maintain.
10. How do you ensure your team feels supported in their roles?
I make sure I’m checking in with people to see how they are going on a day-to-day work level as well as how they fit in at ELA from a professional development level too. Also, making sure they feel comfortable at a personal level too. I want people to feel comfortable and to speak up if they need a hand.
Jessie (second from the right) and her team in the field
11. Why do you think ELA is a great place to grow and give you a fulfilling career?
There is so much opportunity at ELA. We work on such a diverse range of projects and there's such clear progression in your career. There's lots of ways that you can be recognized for increasing your skill set and growing your knowledge.
I think that there's lots of scope to grow your career in the direction you want to, and ELA has the mechanisms to acknowledge you as you are developing. Which is great because there is nothing more frustrating than feeling like you're stuck.
12. How would you describe working at ELA in three words?
Opportunity. Fun. Challenging.