Becky Paroz, Mentor, Coach & Project Manager
Posted May 24, 2019, by Jenny
Having spent almost 30 years in the construction industry Becky Paroz has demonstrated her unique leadership abilities on some of the most demanding projects in the public and private sectors. As well as a successful Engineer and industry leading Project Manager she is a Director in three companies and a global professional mentor. With involvement in Graduate training programs and in-house workshops for many of her employers and clients; Becky’s formal training as a Performance Coach allows her to generate learning outcomes that create lasting change.
Becky has been and continues to be a speaker at state and national industry conferences; she is a driving force for the development and integration of culture and systems for industry improvement. Delivering workshops that transcend lessons learnt and focus on the improvement of human capital in relation to project management and beyond. Becky is known for her use of humour to challenge status quo thinking and offering alternative views for consideration. She is motivated to pass on her lessons learnt to assist and educate the next generation of leaders to become high achievers like herself.
Through childhood trauma, chronic pain due to a debilitating immune- condition and the vast challenges of her career, Becky has never accepted anything less than achieving and surpassing her goals. She believes everyone needs the chance at a full life no matter the circumstances they were born into or grew up in. Read her inspirational career story ...
Tell us what a day in your world may look like
That is really hard to describe. A traditional day in Project Management looks a lot like fire-fighting and counselling at the same time. Delivering solutions while encouraging people to be their best to ensure the client is happy. In my mentoring, it is even more varied. People often think that a mentor or coach is going to assist them in one area and often it takes a sharp turn into something they had never even considered before. Being flexible and having many skills to draw on to support a client going through some major realisations and watching their face light up as they realise a new way of being or thinking is so worth the convoluted path it can take!
What did your study journey look like?
I started working on construction sites during my senior years in order to pay for my schooling. My parents never had money, so I had to earn in order to afford the things required like uniforms and books, etc. The same thing was necessary for my university studies. I didn’t get the traditional “waitperson” type roles, I couldn’t wait to get into my career so I took (a much lower paying) role in the industry I was studying in. It was tough, but it made so much more sense to me when I was undertaking various areas of my study, and it gave me more of an insight into the industry before finishing my degree than a lot of my study contemporaries. I have continued to study off and on for the rest of my life – coaching, aromatherapy, oil painting as well as industry qualification in safety, quality management, project management and coaching. I read a lot, so I am always studying in that regard. Fiction can teach us a lot about people and challenge how we think, just as much as formal education.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be out of my home and have money. I grew up in family violence and abuse. I couldn’t care less about my role (although I think I went through all the usual young girl expectations – vet, teacher, astronaut!) I just wanted to be anywhere and anything that wasn’t my family.
I was good at maths and science and also studied tech drawing (also called draughting) so my school told me I should be an engineer. I had no idea what it was, but really can’t see any other career that would have fitted me so well.
Tell us about Words of Bek and the inspiration behind it
The Words of Bek; is my first collection of non-fiction writing and captures my insights, journey, horror, and humour that encapsulates my entire life experience; including the solutions I found to live my life to the fullest. My style is supportive, educational, conversational, practical, easy to read and designed to offer the lessons learnt throughout my tumultuous life for others to benefit from.
It is a guide to mentoring yourself – without much of the “affirmation only” that I found in many other self-help books.
I got sick of "just believe in yourself" without anyone being able to tell me what that actually looks like and what the process is - when you grow up in a poor family environment, what others take for granted you “should” know is just not a part of your development or understanding. I needed a book that showed me the ‘why’ and ‘how’. I couldn’t find it, so I wrote it.”
Tell us about your career in Project Management
I studied engineering while working in a consulting engineering office to pay my way (no family support available) and I have pretty much curated my career to attempt all sorts of different roles on projects. I didn’t get hung up on being an engineer, rather learning all about the business of engineering and construction. I was made a manager at 24 by a boss who saw my potential and I have been in management roles ever since. I specialised in QA for nearly 15 years as it was a way of learning many different things about process, products and installation. It is also not a popular job, so it was an easy role to gain access to bigger projects.
After a while, I realised that without the certification, it was hard to be recognised as a manager in the construction business so I completed the certification.
It is a tough business but so rewarding in terms of resilience, conflict management and the satisfaction that comes with being part of seeing a building (road, bridge, manufacturing plant etc) appear out of what was essentially a bare patch of dirt. I love it and I couldn’t imagine having chosen any other career.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career change?
Do it, but plan it first! Get some advice on the real costs – especially if you are going from employee to business owner. Get a mentor in the same area you want to work in so you can avoid their mistakes where possible. Get a coach to get your mindset right for the big changes ahead.
Don’t listen to bad advice (and it is hard to know what bad advice is until you try it and it doesn’t work!) and never let anyone else guide your dreams.
Learn to own your skills and then look for ways you can incorporate those skill into your career change.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?
Too many to list! But developing and delivering the IPMA Young Crew conference – a 2-day workshop for Project Managers under 30 – held for the first time in the southern hemisphere. This was a massive learning curve, extremely satisfying to pull off and set the new standard for the Young Crew teams in Europe to see what they could do with their concepts. I won an award for the year-long volunteer work I put into making that happen.
Name a career highlight
Mentoring – seeing all those 'youngsters' that I taught, guided, disciplined and encouraged go on to achieve amazing things in their careers – that is really worthwhile.
Name a career low
Again, there have been a few. One of them was probably being let go from the company I worked for because I had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 18. The Disability Discrimination Act didn’t come into Australia until 3 months after that event and it really messed up my life and mindset at the time.
What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?
Don’t be good at something you don’t want to do!
I was told that too late to realise that just because I am good at something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea to make a career out of it. You need to love what you do and be engaged with it for your own reasons. Otherwise, it is a hard slog for very little personal satisfaction.
What career advice do you wish someone had given you after you graduated high school?
I wrote a book about all the career (and life) advice I wish I had been given by someone. The worst thing I was ever told is “dress for the job you want”. For most women that is heels, makeup, corporate clothes – and this is the model we are sold in advertising. This is what “management” looks like in the general expectation of life – especially when you are young.
My uniform is safety boots, jeans, polo or safety shirt. If I turned up in heels on site, I would not be able to command the respect I do and build the relationships I have over my 30-year career.
I can list many things I was told that were really unhelpful – on a personal note I was always told to be ”less than” so as to not scare the men and snag myself a boyfriend/husband. I always thought that was a dreadful idea – a man who wants me to be less than I can be is not the one for me.
You do a lot of mentoring and host workshops. What prompted this?
I received some excellent mentoring from men when I was young. It wasn’t called that then, but that is what I received. As I grew older I had a talent for interpreting information and putting it into plain, simple and understandable language – I have a real problem with people who use buzzwords to make themselves sound more important and intelligent than they might be. I found that I was given the juniors – junior and new-to-industry engineers, cadets, etc. It probably wasn’t intentional, but more either convenience (Bek can do that) or it was recognised by my managers, but they never gave me that positive feedback. As I noted the juniors that I had been involved with going on to have great careers, get promotions and be awesome, I realised that I was a part of that. So I have spent the last 15 years of my career actively mentoring and coaching, and now I have decided to so it professional outside of the industry as well. I have learnt so much from being in the industry that many women don’t get exposed to and I want to share it.
Again, that is part of why I wrote my book.
Having a coaching qualification allows me to really challenge mindsets and communication styles and develop the person from within, not just job skills.
What important qualities and skills should people have if they want to be a mentor?
There are no short answers to this! But a real care for other people. I find some of the people who call themselves coaches and mentors are really in it for the kudos – the credit – the thought that this title somehow makes them 'better'. I don’t understand that. In order to pass on information and skills, you have to really want it for the other person and allow them to grow and develop into who they are – not just follow a tick-list or pattern themselves on you.
Other attributes I think are be prepared to be tough – you have to hold people accountable and you don’t have to be mean, but you do have to be prepared for push back. Some people take to mentoring like a duck to water, some really want it but don’t understand that it is all about them doing the work, and some love it, but don’t put what they are taught into action.
You need a lot of patience, resilience and acceptance of where the to-be-mentored party is at and meet them there, then guide to them an improved version of themselves.
A lot of what I see out there is about creating a fear – a lack, or FOMO, which is then played on to elicit a response and payment. I would rather come from a recognition of success and want to build on that, rather than a fear-based approach.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully, some mentoring/coaching clients, a few more non-fiction books to publish and I am also working on a fiction series! I have twin puppies who take up some time to train and I am also working with a few companies to build their capabilities and teams. This is me not busy – or so I keep telling myself – and I am still working on my habit of thinking that if I am not doing 12 hour days I am not busy. That is one side effect of working in construction that you don’t realise until you step away from it – the hours are crazy busy – so that is my current challenge – to accept that working fewer hours does not equate to working less!