Lee’s Journey

March 7, 2023

As we approach International Women’s Day, we wanted to recognise and celebrate one of the many women that make up our great business.  

We recently sat down with Paynters own Lee Townsend to discuss her career journey and personal experience as a woman entering what is often considered a male-dominated field. Lee has shown an unwavering commitment to her professional development, which has brought her to where she is today – an experienced and valued Site Safety Officer. 

Lee is an advocate for change and encourages anyone considering a career in construction to not let assumptions about an industry or job, stop you from taking a chance.

We are incredibly proud to have Lee as part of the Paynters family and hope her story gives further momentum towards achieving more equitable workforce. Read her story below:

When did you start at Paynters – and in what role?

My journey with Paynters commenced in July 2019. My colleague had been for an interview with the business and had recommended me for the Central Queensland Site Safety Officer position.

I first heard about Paynters when I was on a project with my previous company, which was on Hamilton Island. The Island had been devastated by Cyclone Debbie. I was on site, observing a crane lift, when I heard a helicopter coming towards the area I was working in.

To my amazement, I saw a helicopter transporting roof sheets to the marina area to the vicinity of the Paynters project. There was so much excitement around the activity. Everyone was looking up and talking about it. It was an awesome site to see. I thought that’s pretty cool. I wonder what they would be like to work for.

Fast forward several years later, Paynters contacted me to see if I was interested in applying for the Central Queensland Site Safety Officer role. I was so excited to be given the opportunity to work for a company with such a great reputation.

Even though I have remained in the same position for my Paynters Journey to date, I have enjoyed the challenges and the personal growth. This is attributed to the teams that I’ve had the privilege of working with.  Both site based and at head office.  An amazing group of people that help you get the job done.

What does your role involve, for those that aren’t familiar with it…

I am a Site Safety Officer; I am flexible in the sense that my day-to-day tasks are varied. It is fast paced most days.  

Predominantly, it is to ensure together we excel at meeting our system requirements; to provide a safe working environment, so everyone returns  home to their loved ones safely.

Sounds boring, doesn’t it?  If I could only give you a snapshot of my day.  It is never boring! It has more highs than lows.  We laugh, we debate, we consult and focus on solutions, and of course there is lots of coffee, lollies, and colorful language to help us get through the day.

What do you love about your role and more specifically Paynters?

Well every day is different. It is challenging.

Most importantly, knowing that I have a team of people, a support network that I can turn to who will be honest with me, give me the support I need when I don’t know the answers, and listen to me when I am having a tough day. People that have your back 100%.

Projects you’ve worked on – any favourites/stand outs?

As much as I enjoyed my first project at Calliope State High School, and the intensity of QAL Occupied Buildings Program (the construction version of SAS Australia. LOL), Carinity Brownesholme Aged Care Facility has been my favorite project so far. It was so rewarding being on that project from start to finish. 

I was able to experience different aspects of construction, which was a challenge, that allowed me to develop my skills further. We also did a lot of onsite CSQ training/skill development for the subcontractors, which was very rewarding.

We were all mindful that we were not just constructing a building. We were creating a community environment.  To give family members peace of mind. Knowing that their loved ones had such a beautiful facility to call home.  A facility that had a wonderful sense of tranquility.  A final destination.  

What about the people you’ve worked with?

Well, I have been a little spoilt. I have basically had the privilege of working with the same team members over the three major projects that I have been involved in.

As for our subcontractors, I am very grateful we have such strong network trade partners across the regions. It is my job to ensure these individuals continue to embrace the Paynters safety culture we are trying to create, and I enjoy the challenge of educating and consulting with them. 

It is also helpful to have a sense of humor, be understanding, compassionate, patient, positive outlook and most importantly a Teflon cap.

We have a lot of good memories and funny stories. There have been some characters, I must say.  They make the day interesting.  As for the stories, probably best that I don’t share.

What did you do prior to joining Paynters – did you think you’d end up where you are today?

I worked in the retail sector as a front-line manager for decades.

I worked for Transpacific collecting recyclable waste.  That was actually really fun, as I got to drive a truck, and a forklift daily, collect recyclable waste whilst driving all around the Pilbara.

It took me ten years to be given the opportunity to work in construction.

I mentioned to my brothers I wanted to get into the Construction industry, they just laughed at me. I am the baby sister and they said it would never happen, girls don’t work in construction.

Thankfully the culture for women working in construction was changing.

The previous company I worked for gave me the break I needed.  I had no idea about the Construction industry. I felt like a fish out of water, I was so used to being in control of what was required to be done.

Construction was a whole new world for me.  It wasn’t easy, the work environment was harsh to say the least.  I quickly realised, if I intended to stay in the industry, I would need to educate myself with some basic knowledge.  So, I went to TAFE part time, three nights a week, for 12 months, and studied on the weekends to complete my assignments.  It was so difficult.  But I persevered – my reward at the end was I obtained my Cert IV in Low Rise Residential Construction.  But more importantly it gave me a little more confidence in the foundation of construction knowledge I needed.  It set me on course to complete further study in the Health and Safety sector, which allowed me to progressively become a site safety officer.