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Women at Work: Fiona Wright

Laura Peppas

For most people, the simple act of switching on a light is an everyday given, but behind the scenes are people like Fiona Wright, who devotes her career to making sure our electricity turns on without a hitch.

As ActewAGL’s primary assets manager, Fiona is responsible for the entire electricity distribution network throughout the ACT.

“What that entails is I’m responsible from where the electricity comes into Canberra, all the way to each customer where we connect at the meter,” Fiona says.

“I think about how we’re going to maintain that asset all the way to list cost operation and safety. So if you think about how you run your car it’s thinking about when I’m going to service it, when you’re going to replace it, across the whole network.”

Starting her career with ActewAGL (then ACTEW) 22 years ago with an engineering cadetship, Fiona studied a degree in engineering before beginning full time work. As ActewAGL enters its 100th year, she reflects on the many changes to the industry.

“Engineering was a pretty male-dominated industry back then…in my [university] class of 120, there were only about five women,” Fiona says.

“Things are slowly changing; these days we’ve got two female graduate engineers, but for a long time I was the only one. It can be a bit of a challenge because you’ve got to be able to go out onto the field, but you’ve also got to be able to communicate well in the office.

“It was also harder technologically wise… we’d send each other memos in those days.”

iona Wright, third from left, circa 1993 when she received her cadetship. At that time, ACT Electricity and Water was promoting and supporting women in engineering roles.

iona Wright, third from left, circa 1993 when she received her cadetship. At that time, ACT Electricity and Water was promoting and supporting women in engineering roles.

Fiona, 40, was nominated for Telstra ACT Businesswoman of the Year in 2001 and ACT Young Australian of the Year in 2002 for her dedication to her role.

“It was a bit of a shock to be nominated because at the end of the day I’m just doing my job, but it was nice to be recognised,” she says.

“People sometimes think what we do is just numbers and psychics, but it has real life implications impacts on people. When you think of the electricity network, you take it for granted, you flick on a switch and it works, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in making sure it happens, and that’s my everyday life, looking at the risks and looking at how we’re going to keep the power on in Canberra.”

With four young sons, Fiona says ActewAGL allowed her to progress her career while offering flexibility.

“I think the reason I’ve stayed on so long was prior to having kids I had a lot of opportunities for career progression, in the first five years I was able to move up the ranks pretty quickly,” she says.

“Within two years of working there full time I had worked up the ranks to manager system control, and just prior to having [my first son] Jesse, at age 27, I was running the electricity control room.”

Fiona says her colleagues were particularly supportive when she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, a moment which changed her perspective on life.

“It was a tough time, something that comes out of thin air, and was a big change to our lives – it makes you never put off anything anymore,” she says.

“When opportunities arise, you’re much more likely to say yes, and just do it. It puts into perspective what’s important.”

Fiona recently studied a masters in business, and says she still loves coming in to work every day.

“Even though I’ve got a family now I’ve still got opportunities to push forward in my career, which I love and am thankful for,” she says.


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Gordon Watson

    Fiona is a complete inspiration 🙂