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Sailing into a new career amid COVID | Dawn Brown’s story

Starting a new job in a new company one week after Sydney went into lockdown would be a challenge for almost anyone. But Dawn Brown’s steady energy shone through and her natural resilience means she’s taken the upheaval in stride.

As a Docking Project Manager for Naval Ship Management (NSM), Dawn shared the challenges of changing industries, joining during a pandemic, and staying positive and resilient.

Dawn was working as a Project Manager in Strategy and Transformation in the aviation industry when she faced redundancy. In a move that could have felt daunting, Dawn shares, “I saw it as an opportunity to move away from aviation. I’d been in aviation most of my career with two major airlines – one in the UK and one in Australia – so looked at different industries and opportunities.”

The varied skills Dawn had built across a range of roles within aviation meant she was well suited for project roles in engineering, IT and procurement were all a potential fit.

Big company projects with a small company feel
“The more I read about NSM and the job, the more interesting I thought it was. I could see the similarities with aviation, but there were also lots of new challenges.”

NSM provides maintenance for two of the biggest Royal Australian Navy ships that carry helicopters and light landing craft. Dawn’s team plans and executes the maintenance activity, while other teams looks after engineering changes to improve ship reliability, provide logistic and supply support and asset management delivering a long term view of the cost-effective management of the ships.

Dawn took a leap joining NSM and moving from aviation to shipping.

“I also saw it as an opportunity to build myself. My eagerness to work for NSM was personal — to develop my career and skills in a smaller company. I’d previously worked for large enterprises.”

Dawn sees lots of opportunities as NSM expands and evolves their offering. “They’re still relatively young, but pride themselves on having big, exciting projects while maintaining a small company feel.”
Royal Australian Navy Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Adelaide enters the Captain Cook Graving Dock for maintenance at Fleet Base East in Sydney, NSW.
Initially, Dawn thought, “people were a bit concerned I didn’t know anything about ships. People came around to the idea that in aviation we are very process-driven – we have to be! I might not know the process here but that’s an easy thing to learn. And knowledge is transferrable in terms of systems and focus on safety.”

Diversity of thought is just as important
When progressive companies consider diversity, they think beyond demographic diversity such as gender or ethnicity. They look for diversity of thought and introduce new ways of thinking.

“You bring in a bit of fresh blood. [We have different ways of] looking at things and implementing improvements into ways of working. People see the benefit of getting new thought processes into the industry”.

NSM is also looking at ways of encouraging more women to join the organisation. Dawn shares, “As an engineer, I’ve spent my life working in companies that have a small number of females. NSM is keen to encourage more women in, and we need more women to apply!”

“I’m very pleased that I joined. I’m enjoying the work. Everybody is welcoming, friendly and supportive” Dawn adds.

Naval Ship Management (NSM) Australia was formed in 2010 as a Joint Venture between Babcock and UGL. In 2022, Babcock acquired the remaining shareholding in NSM. NSM is now fully owned and trades under Babcock.

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