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Seeing the bigger picture: How Cat Young found a varied and challenging career with Port Authority of New South Wales.

Only a few short years ago, Cat Young would barely have given a thought to the ships pitching in Newcastle’s port. But, since joining us in Vessel Traffic Services in 2013, Cat’s developed a keen and growing interest in the world of maritime. Cat has recently progressed into an IT-based role and she’s thrown herself into the position. Not only is she making a difference, but her operational experience and love of problem-solving are proving invaluable to her new team.

Where your impact really matters

For nine years, Cat Young played a crucial role in keeping people safe on Port of Newcastle’s waters. As part of Port Authority’s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS), Cat monitored shipping movements in and out of the port, communicating with all vessels to ensure their safe passage. It’s a role that required 24-hour vigilance, and Cat truly delivered.

Yet, in December 2022, Cat was ready for a change and we offered her a position within our IT team as OnePort Tester. She may have stepped away from an operational role, but Cat still feels like she makes an impact. In fact, Cat now feels that she’s delivering even more! Her new role involves applying her operational experience to test new software to be deployed across the entire Port Authority. And Cat’s perfectly placed to do this because she understands so well what VTS needs to do their jobs.

“As part of the current project I’m working on, there's scope to create something that's really user-friendly while taking action on some of the challenges I experienced in VTS myself. So, just knowing that what I’m doing may be able to help people do their job more efficiently is satisfying in itself.”

Cat’s role involves collaborating with the IT team to ensure the new software can stand up to the task of assisting with real-world operations across our six distinct port environments. It’s a challenging and essential project, and Cat’s found she’s achieving real impact that really counts.

“I’ve been getting exposure to everything happening behind the scenes. It really gives you a sense of the purpose of the overall organisation. And, it’s nice to be in a position where I feel I can make a positive impact that’s going to be used by my former team members at the end of the day.”

Finding support at the Port

Cat has strong roots in Newcastle, with generations of her family calling Newcastle home. But Cat’s family were never involved in the maritime field in any way, so the maritime industry wasn’t so much as a blip on her radar when Cat initially chose her career path.

“Years ago, I was completely unaware of the sheer diversity of opportunities available in the maritime industry. I thought it was just about going to sea or working on vessels!” Cat laughs.

So instead, Cat, who’s always been passionate about justice, studied law and secured a Prosecutor’s Assistant role on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, Cat soon became disillusioned with the justice system. So much so that she left it entirely and transitioned into police communications, taking on a high-pressure role in radio comms, fielding Triple 0 calls across a large part of New South Wales. It was a role that helped lay the foundation for working in VTS. When she was ready for a career switch, Cat joined an international towage company in Newcastle. And it’s here that she got her first exposure to maritime work.

It obviously agreed with her, because when Cat was looking for a new role in 2013,  her first thought was Port Authority of New South Wales. By this stage, Cat was keen to take the next step up in her career, alongside driven and resourceful people, and she and her husband wanted to start a family too.

“I was keen to step up into the VTS team and to become more involved in marine operations. Plus, I knew Port Authority offered 14 weeks maternity leave. Moving to Port Authority was a massive deal for me professionally. And it made a big difference to my ability to have my daughter and feel supported through that process too.”

And we’re so glad Cat chose to join our team. She handles pressure incredibly well, is always motivated to do the right thing and she’s willing to speak up when an issue needs to be addressed. Cat’s attitude helps us win together as a team - a team who truly takes pride in what we do here.

“When people say ‘What do you do?’ I always feel proud to tell them. Because working at Port Authority is something different, it intrigues people. Coming from being someone who could walk down to the harbour and barely give a thought to the ships in front of me, to someone who’s learned all I have, I feel proud.”

Thriving on variety and challenge

As well as giving her a sense of pride, Cat’s found working at Port Authority has meant she’s being challenged in new ways. The services we offer are so diverse and varied. Because we’re operating at the cross-section of economics, heavy industry, shipping and the maritime environment, there’s always something new to sink your teeth into!

“I’ve found learning about the maritime industry very interesting. There are so many people to learn from, including some really experienced people who’ve been at sea for years and years,” Cat notes. “And then you’ve got the newer people that are coming in. So you’ve got the history, the past and then together we’re saying ‘Let’s look to the future!’”

Cat’s also found the responsibilities in her new role offer plenty to challenge her. Every single day, she gets to put her analytical brain to work.

“I really enjoy the variety of work and the problem-solving aspect of my role. It can be quite a challenge, to gain an understanding of how things work, not just at this port but across all our other ports as well! But it’s been really nice to get exposure to different areas of the organisation. I’m inquisitive by nature so I like getting that sense of the bigger picture.”

When you look at the scale and breadth of the work we do, you can see what keeps our amazing people, like Cat, fully engaged in their roles. Our teams, across New South Wales, have a sense of purpose because they know they’re helping us build a better future - where NSW meets the world.