Graduate stories - Cindy Duong
Graduate Program

Graduate stories: Cindy Duong

28 March 2023

Part of this article was originally published on GradAustralia in May 2020 during the end of Cindy Duong's second grad rotation as a Project Management Graduate. Cindy is now working as a Project Engineer at Transgrid after her rotation. Read on to find out more about her experience as a graduate and how she made the transition!

I am in the Construction and Project Management Stream of the Graduate Program with my rotations focused on the delivery of capital projects.

What were YOU exactly doing as a graduate?

My latest rotation was in a project called Powering Sydney’s Future (PSF) and was considered to be a Major Project. The PSF project will secure the supply of electricity for more than 500,000 people living and working in Sydney’s CBD and surrounding suburbs. Earlier in the rotation, I was involved in the process from tender preparation, evaluation, contract consolidation to awarding a contract, valued at $173.5m. During this project phase, I was also heavily involved in reviewing and finalising the project budget. This required performing scenario testing, understanding the assumptions, risks and opportunities and lots of number crunching. As part of budget review, I was responsible for the day to day tasks for cost management of the project, such as managing the accruals, monthly financial reports and review of the project forecast and expenditure. This rotation was particularly hectic and with the project team working towards numerous key milestones and so many moving elements to the project, it was rare to have a meeting-free day!

Where did you grow up? How did you get to your current job position and for how long have you been doing it already?

I was born and raised in Sydney. I completed most of the studies in Sydney and did a semester abroad in Austin, Texas. I stayed aboard for 9 months and travelled to North and South America and not long after, did a 1 month trip in New Zealand (just before starting with Transgrid). During this time, I realised that I wanted to pursue a career in project management and have the ability to still move around and experience new things and locations whilst still working. I found Transgrid’s program provided the opportunity to be involved in projects all across NSW and gain experience from different construction sites. It has been one and a half years into this program and industry and I have experienced and learnt so much.

Could someone with a different background do your job? Suppose someone wants to do the same job as you do, would that be also possible with a different background?

Graduating as a chemical engineer, I really doubted whether my formal educational studies would have any use in Transgrid. In hindsight, having an electrical background can help you understand concepts and drawings but it is not essential! Half of the graduates in my cohort do not have an electrical engineering background and although it can be challenging, we work through the problems to find solutions. As this role is focused on project management, I have leveraged my project management knowledge. Again, I don’t think a PM qualification is essential but it can be helpful. The key characteristics and skills you need is an eagerness to learn and problem-solving skills. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

As cliché as it sounds, the coolest thing is that you can have a real impact on the community. In PSF, the project was to secure electricity supply for Sydney CBD and surrounding suburbs! In my first rotation, I was the project manager for a project where the customer, a solar farm, was seeking to connect to our network. I was surprised at how quickly I became accountable and responsible for a project and the potential impacts the project could have. It was a steep learning curve at the start, in particular, but I am very thankful for such a great opportunity.

What are the limitations of your job?

This will depend on the rotation and project that you are involved in. In my first rotation, I was the project manager for a project and very much felt accountable for delivering it whilst satisfying all requirements (i.e. time, cost, quality). In PSF, I largely supported the Project Director in finalising the project budget and performed the ongoing cost management tasks a project manager normally would do. I very rarely work on weekends, and most of the time, it is just sending an email. The role isn’t physically demanding. However, it is particularly important to monitor your fatigue when you are travelling between the office and your project site (eg. rural NSW) and spending long hours on-site during construction.