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Past Engineering/Marketing student

Where are they now? Debi Parascos

 


When she undertook a CEED project in Bundaberg back in 1999, Debi Parascos soon found out that being a fresh-faced student and a lifelong city slicker weren’t going to be her most cherished attributes. Having realised this, Debi adapted quickly to her environment at Bundaberg Walkers (formerly Bundaberg Foundry Engineers). 

 

 

Debi Parascos - past CEED student 
 Pictured is Debi Parascos - past CEED student

The purpose of Debi’s Engineering project at Bundaberg Walkers was to get a snapshot of their quality management system. The goal was to revamp the quality system in order to improve to a standard where the company could assess whether it wanted to achieve accreditation. The actual accreditation was not part of Debi’s required outcomes.

 

Certain changes and efficiencies were put in place to make an already good quality system, become great. One of the aims was to reduce the heavy reliance on documentation for the system, substituting it instead with reliance on efficient processes.

 

Debi describes her experience as “very eye opening”, especially for an undergraduate Engineer (Debi graduated with a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Marketing, from QUT). Being thrown into the reality of the workplace was a rewarding experience. Bundaberg’s rural location was an added point of difference, however, this was by no means a negative aspect of Debi’s CEED project. “I wouldn’t have got that experience if I’d just been in a corporate environment,” Debi says. “It was good being up in Bundaberg, because it gave me exposure to an environment quite different to a Brisbane office-based Engineering role.”

 

Debi found she was conscious of not coming across as a visiting bossy intruder, although part of her project mandated her to alter processes already in place, thus it would affect the way employees worked. She says she utilised the chance to “find ways to work with the employees and overcome the issue of a student engineer coming in from the city trying to show them what to do.” In breaking down these barriers, Debi endeavoured to understand things from the perspective of the factory workers who were, as she says, “doing the hard yards” and who had valuable experience with the ways things worked.

 

Another potential challenge was giving the impression that her project was all about top-down changes being imposed on employees. Though she admits she experienced resistance at the start, Debi’s interaction and engagement with those who would be affected by the changes helped to prevent this from becoming a real concern. Maintaining a collaborative environment was a constant goal.

 

Overall, Debi says that the Foundry was happy with the outcome of her project and extended the offer of a permanent position. In the end, she declined, opting instead to move back to Brisbane, but not without valuing the skills she’d learned up in Bundaberg.


Since graduating from university, Debi worked initially at iVolve (her current employer). After this, she moved to Melbourne to work for 5 years with Momentum Technologies Solutions on niche projects – increasing efficiency of the response operations through video streaming for emergency services agencies. Meanwhile, iVolve was experiencing rapid development and growth, so when her sister asked her to come back to assist, Debi was enticed back to Brisbane. Although growth is always welcome, Debi says that iVolve was no exception to the growing pains experienced by small businesses after dramatic expansion.

 

Debi’s sister and brother-in-law are Directors at iVolve. The company started out in 1995 as an engineering consultancy for port authorities’ SCADA systems, but have since expanded into the mining industry with a focus on the integration of systems for real-time data. So, yes – pardon the pun – but iVolve have evolved.

 

Debi’s change management skills learned in Bundaberg have helped her in her current role as Operations and Project Manager at iVolve. Much of Debi’s work today is in improving internal systems and processes to ultimately provide a better product and more satisfied clients. Change from the inside-out is Debi’s strong point and passion.

 

Although a qualified engineer, Debi has mainly focused on the business end of the spectrum. Nonetheless, the Engineering degree has not gone to waste – Debi says she’d planned it from the start. “That was the idea of the double degree at the time – that in the business role, I’d have the understanding of how and why products are made a certain way, as well as the industry.” Debi’s situation is no anomaly, as most of iVolve’s employees are also engineers.

 

Though females are becoming less and less of a rarity in traditionally male-dominated industries, Debi recognises that being female is still not ‘the norm’ as an engineer. She says that there have been issues over the years where her capabilities as a female have been challenged. Despite this, she says that overall, it hasn’t been an issue and perceptions have improved as a female presence in the industry has increased.

 

Furthermore, Debi doesn’t tend to attribute any difficulties to the fact that she is a woman. “Even if you take out the gender, just working on a day-to-day basis with different personalities, you’ll deal with some very interesting characters and it won’t matter whether you’re a female or male,” she explains. “It’s just that they’ll handle something in a different way, and you have to find a way to work with them.”

 

Though she treads the issue cautiously, Debi says that where there is a need for conflict resolution, being female can even be advantageous. “You’re very well respected when you go out in the field,” she observes. “If you’re dealing with a difficult situation where, if I were male, guys could be quite aggressive about it, they’ll tend to actually temper the way they handle it, which can be much more effective.” By taking the emotion out of a situation, Debi says this leads to a swifter resolution where the key issue remains the focus.

 

Due to Debi’s knowledge and prior involvement with the CEED Program, iVolve has also hosted and supervised a student. Though Debi herself had little involvement, she says the final outcome of the software-related project was impressive and, with minor adjustments, it will soon be incorporated into the company suite of products. Having experienced the CEED Program from both a student and a company perspective, Debi valued her experience and recommends it highly.

 

On top of Engineering and Marketing, Debi has also attained a Master of IT and is now toying with the idea of an MBA (Master of Business Administration).

 

In spite of being an all-rounder and self-confessed “sucker for punishment”, she has no interest in running the company – she loves Operations. “What I really enjoy is the internal focus and making sure we operate as efficiently as possible,” she says. “I really enjoy learning new concepts and trying to keep up to date with improving my skills base and being able to translate that into what I do on a daily basis, and what I learn becomes quite beneficial to the company.” With her diversity of experience and passion for learning, the company is sure to benefit from having Debi on board.

 

Written by Katherine McElrea (CEED Marketing Assistant - summer 2012/13)

 

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