Prue Mackenzie10 March 2015

From working in investment banking in London to her current role as Vice President at Aurizon in the Commercial and Marketing Team, Prue Mackenzie demonstrates how critical thinking, questioning, and learning to speak up have been vital to her career success.

Where are you working now? Describe your current role and what you do.

I am a Vice President at Aurizon in the Commercial and Marketing Team. I am accountable for our diversified bulk freight and iron ore revenue. Our business is a billion dollar business that we have operating around the country.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the opportunities that I believe I’ve had at Aurizon within the diversified bulk freight space. This is a business within our organisation that hasn’t had a lot of attention on it because we’ve been so focused on the coal business, and turning that around. We’ve reached a point within Aurizon where we have government wanting to move more freight from road to rail, and we as an organisation are looking to make our operations more cost effective. This means for our customers that it is now more competitive for them to move transport from road to rail. I think that our competitive position in the market in terms of our facilities around the country, and our availability of locomotives and wagons from our coal business, means that we are best placed to be able to provide rail solutions to our customers.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The most challenging part of my job is probably trying to change a culture that has existed within Aurizon for 165 years.

Can you give us a bit of an overview of your career journey? How did you come about getting to where you are in your career today?

I left The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours), and a Bachelor of Arts degree and went to work for Credit Suisse for nearly 10 years in Sydney and London in investment banking. I worked during that time on the initial public offering of QR National which was the privatisation from the Queensland Government. At the end of that process I decided I wanted to move back to Brisbane, so I called the CFO of Aurizon and asked if I could have a job - and she said yes. I moved back to Brisbane and joined Aurizon at the beginning of 2011. I started off doing mergers and acquisitions because that was my background, and a few months ago I moved into my current role in commercial marketing where I get to run a business - which is really exciting.

What is your proudest career achievement?

My proudest career achievement is probably the teams that I’ve had the opportunity to build and develop, and the talent that I’ve seen that have worked for me and with me at Credit Suisse and also at Aurizon. When I joined Aurizon, I had to build a team within the mergers and acquisitions space. The group of men and women that ultimately joined that team over the first six months are doing fabulously well across the organisation, and contributed to such a magnificent achievement within the two transactions we did over that two year period.

How does the future look for you in your current role/industry?

I think the future at Aurizon, for me, is what I want it to be. There is an enormous amount of opportunities within this organization, and we have such a strong position within the transport and logistics space in Australia, and we’re looking at opportunities offshore. The opportunities I’ve had up until today have been spectacular and they can only improve from here.

What mentor or inspirational figure has guided or influenced your career/life?

I’ve been really lucky from a mentoring position that I was put into a team in investment banking where my boss, Campbell Lobb, was my mentor throughout my whole banking career - even when I moved to London. He helped set me up over there and always kept a watchful eye on what I was doing. When I moved back to Brisbane to join Aurizon my boss - the then CEO, Deb O’Toole, was the most wonderful leader and mentor for me. I’ve been super fortunate in my career that across both organisations I’ve had great mentors, and both of them continue to be mentors for me today.

How has the UQ Business School honours program helped you in your career?

The UQ Business School Honours program is just essential to setting you up to be a success in the workplace. I was a student that went through an undergraduate degree sitting in the back of the classroom not really engaging, cramming during SWOT VAC, and getting through exams. It wasn’t until Honours that I was forced to actually speak out, to think critically in class, and to contribute to a broader discussion, which you just have to do in the workplace. You can’t sit in a meeting and let it happen around you, which is how I felt I spent most of my undergraduate degree. From a critical thinking, questioning, learning to speak up perspective it was crucial. From a second perspective, it was the students who went through the Honours program that not only are lifetime friends, but lifetime colleagues and peers throughout the workplace. We’re spread all around the world now, and are all doing very different things but we all stay in contact and it’s a fantastic network to have.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to do the Honours program at UQ Business School?

The piece of advice I’d give to someone thinking about doing the Honours program is to go and do it. It’s a super program that is only 12 months, and it totally equips you to succeed in the workplace.

Why did you choose an Honours degree at UQ Business School?

I chose the Honours degree at UQ Business School because it had the best reputation with the investment banks. I knew I wanted to do banking and I knew that the banks recruited the most students from the UQ Business School Honours program. It made complete sense to me to roll on from my undergraduate degree with my peers and complete Honours at UQ Business School.

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