Just twelve months ago, Yvette Waterfall was working in a sector she no longer believed in. Yet, since joining Veolia as our Head of Commercial for Water, she feels like a different person.
“If I went to a BBQ or to the pub, I wouldn’t tell people what I did for a living. Now, I bore people telling them how I work for a company that is saving the environment, one water treatment plant at a time.”
Yvette is a maverick; she has an open, direct and witty character. Her keen sense of humour tells an interesting story of how she came to be where she is now.
“I moved to Australia from the UK ten years ago to pursue what I imagined would be a fabulous career in oil and gas. As time went by, I realised I no longer wanted to be in the business of exploiting Australia’s natural resources - I wanted to be saving them. Last year, I decided to move to a sector where I really believed I could make a positive difference. I left the coal-seam gas industry because I’d come to my own realisation that the economy and the environment aren’t mutually exclusive. I wanted to work for a company that was leading the charge to bring about that environmental awakening.”
In 2019, Yvette sat down with our Chief Operating Officer for a coffee. That conversation would change the course of Yvette’s career.
“We had this amazing discussion, examining complex business challenges with lots of threads. Then we tore straight into how the future might look, and how we were going to get there - all in the space of two hours. The COO told me to think about the role and get back to him. I said, ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to work for you.’ And that was it! It was one of those conversations that was life changing and you come out going, ‘Heck yeah!’”
A whole new person
Today, as the Head of Commercial for Water, Yvette works with teams across the division to ensure we're a profitable and competitive provider.
“The best part of my role is putting my head together with bright minds and solving business challenges. It fills my cup to help someone, and for them to see their problem made smaller.”
Looking back on her first year with us, Yvette can’t contain her smile.
“I have a completely different purpose for being now. At a dinner party, I can say confidently, ‘I work for a company that treats water.’ It’s such a relief. When I wake up, I want to do some creative thinking and work on a pitch for an enhanced waste-water treatment before I start work.”
‘Creative thinking’ - it’s a term Yvette utters with wonder, and returns to again and again.
“The fact that I can even say ‘creative thinking’ in relation to my work is amazing. There’s just such huge scope here, in terms of what we’re trying to achieve. From my experience, when you’re in a large company, creativity can be stifled by an overwhelming hyper-proceduralised way of working that is foisted upon you. You’re only implementing someone else’s idea. But that’s the difference here at Veolia - you’re encouraged to bring your own ideas. We’re a disruptor company. When we encounter a problem, someone doesn’t just say ‘Here’s the answer, go ahead.’ No - we say, ‘Let’s get some bright minds on this - let’s innovate.’”
Yvette says creativity is stirred naturally at Veolia; a product of a culture characterised by collaboration and inclusivity.
“Veolia doesn’t have ping pong tables, but we manage to come up with creative ideas. Creativity is about being inspired by what’s around you - not by a colourful bean bag in the corner! Being a multinational corporation with access to a range of intelligent people, we can draw inspiration from around the world. Some companies have rigid structures where a finance person strictly counts dollars. Well, those structures simply don’t hold true at Veolia. Creativity happens naturally. It’s how we work.”
Are you looking to move to the sustainability sector?
Yvette reflects on the decade she spent in fossil fuels, offering an insight into her own realisations and the need for urgency in pursuing sustainable solutions for our planet.
“The fossil fuel industry and others are here for now - but we can help them improve their environmental outcomes, whilst also paving the way for more environmentally friendly approaches to waste, water and energy management. And while investment in carbon neutral energy solutions and environmentally-kind chemical production might play second fiddle to lucrative cash generating powerhouses of oil, gas and plastics now - this is going to have to shift at some point. And as it does - I’ll be in just the right place. I felt compelled to contribute to a company that was at the forefront of environmental solutions, and here I am at Veolia.”
To anyone in any industry looking to make the switch to environmental solutions for themselves and our planet, Yvette has one key piece of advice: don’t look back.
“Just do it! No matter what industry or role you’re coming from, harness your transferable skills. Rather than expecting Veolia to have a predetermined script for how you can help, identify problems to solve. Ask yourself, ‘What can I make faster, quicker, stronger?’ You won’t regret it.”
Explore a career with Veolia and help make a sustainable future possible.