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Kathryn Harris - hydrogeologist and nature lover | S1E7

November 02, 2021

Kathryn Harris - hydrogeologist and nature lover | S1E7
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In this episode: Finding a love of geology and the environment. A path that through dropping out of music school and waitressing in outback Australia to managing multi-million dollar groundwater projects. Finding a search party waiting after getting lost in the wilderness. What it’s like to be an environmentalist working for an energy company on coal seam gas projects. How low points in life can open up surprising new pathways, filling your own cup and the dangers of putting too much of yourself into work, the importance of a nurturing environment for learning, and what it’s like to be a mum to a curious little boy. Diversity and inclusion in the energy sector and the challenges of moving from being a specialist out in the field to being a manager behind the desk. 


About the Guest: Kathryn Harris is a hydrogeologist at Origin Energy in Queensland, Australia. Kathryn has a wealth of experience in the private energy sector around Water Quality, Earth Science, Geophysics, and Water Resource Management, and she has recently been involved in setting up one of the largest and most complex aquifer injection schemes in the country.  [Kathryn's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-harris-a1065766/]

Recorded 2 October 2021

Links:

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About the Host: Danu has been thinking hard about education, technology and society for 30 years. His ambition is to start a company that offers holistic learner-first experiences that set the soul on fire. He is based in Auckland, NZ and is currently working as a consultant on research information systems, academic performance and games for education. [Danu's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danupoyner/]

Music: Kleptotonic Swing by Tri-Tachyon

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Website: stillcuriouspodcast.com
Twitter: @stillcuriouspod
Email: stillcuriouspodcast@gmail.com

Transcript
Danu Poyner:

You're listening to the Still Curious podcast with me Danu Poyner My guest today is Kathryn Harris, who is a hydrogeologist at origin energy in Queensland, Australia. Kathryn has a wealth of experience in the private energy sector around water quality, earth science, geophysics and water resource management. And she's recently been involved in setting up one of the largest and most complex aquifer injection schemes in the country. I met Kathryn when we were both working on a systems implementation project at Bond University. In this episode, we discuss how Kathryn got her love of Geology and the Environment and the path that took her through dropping out of music school and waitressing in outback Australia to managing multimillion dollar groundwater projects. We hear about the time Kathryn found a search party waiting for her after getting lost in the wilderness. And her thoughts on what it's like to be an environmentalist, working for an energy company on coal seam gas projects. This is my most wide ranging and surprising conversation to date. And it's also a very personal and emotional one. We cover how low points in life can open up surprising new pathways, filling your own cup and the dangers of putting too much of yourself into work. The importance of a nurturing environment for learning and what it's like to be a mum to a curious little boy, if that weren't enough, Kathryn also shares her experiences of diversity and inclusion in the energy sector. And the challenges of moving from being a specialist out in the field to being a manager behind the desk. We hear about singing in a barbershop quartet. And at one point we even have to pause the conversation because Kathryn has just seen a whale. This one has a bit of everything. And I hope you'll forgive a couple of small audio glitches towards the end. Enjoy. It's Kathryn Harris coming up right after the music break on today's episode of The still curious podcast. So hi, Kathryn, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. How are you?

Kathryn Harris:

Good Danu, how are you this money?

Danu Poyner:

Oh, really? Well, thank you. I've got so much to ask you. So I'm just going to jump straight into it. If it's alright with you. You describe yourself as a hydrogeologist with experience in water quality and Earth Science, petroleum geology, geophysics and water resource management. That sounds like a terribly impressive bunch of things. How would you explain maybe what hydrogeology is, I always like to ask people how to explain these things to a 10 year old.

Kathryn Harris:

Yeah. So I sort of fell into hydrogeology. What it is, is basically a geologist. So I love looking at rocks and finding out about the history of the Earth really by looking at the rocks, but then I specialize a little bit more by looking at the water that's in those rocks. So I guess if you imagine, you know, a kitchen sponge, it looks quite solid, but then it can soak up quite a lot of water. Well, rocks in the ground are offer the same or they might have fractures that they have water in. And hydrogeology is really finding out more about that water. So you might be wondering how old it is or where it originally came from, you might be looking at it from a resource point of view. So you know, how much water can we use from a particular rock, which we might call an aquifer, which is the rocks that have water in them. So lots of people out on the land, like landowners might need water for their cattle. So their drill a bore, and they need to know how much water they're going to get out of that bore, for instance. So that's, you know, that's, that's one of the things that we do looking at water resources, also water quality as well. So there's a whole variety of things that hydrogeologists do. And I just find it ties back into that story of formation of the earth and where does this water come from? How did it originally get there? You know, I work a lot Out in the great artesian basin and Roma itself, which is one of the main towns out there. Their main water source is from the precipice sandstone aquifer, and that water is, you know, a million years old so it was it was going into the ground, you know, a million years ago and here they are pulling it aren't drinking yet and I just I just think that's fascinating.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, that's really interesting. I like what you said about being able to see the history of the Earth through rocks. That's that's not something I had personally considered before it. Have you always been interested in in geology in that way?

Kathryn Harris:

So, no, not always. I was a late bloomer. I always was intending to become a music teacher, really. And

Danu Poyner:

we're coming back to that for sure.

Kathryn Harris:

But then, when I when I went back to university when I was around my mid 20s, I picked up geology as sort of my fourth subject as something that oh, yeah, sure, I'll do this. And just loved it. I mean, just from the very first lecture. Our lecture was a man by the name of Clive Barrett. And I'm just so blessed that he was my first ever lecture in my first lecture in geology, because his, his passion, very dry sense of humor, but he did have a passion for geology and the way that he talked about the formation of the earth and the history of the earth. And the things that we can learn and how human kind is really such a tiny, tiny portion of Earth's timescales. It just hooked me he just really hooked me even though I hadn't really had much exposure to formal learning of geology before anything, you know, I could always like to bushwalking in being out in the thing out in nature, but but that really hooked me.

Danu Poyner:

Wow. So was there was there a moment when you were, were you sitting in a lecture or there was a moment when the whole world of geology was revealed to you it sounds like

Kathryn Harris:

I think that first lecture absolutely sparked my passion. Because I remember it so distinctly. And, and then as I went through university, geology is, is a very small community in a way and very close community. And so I really liked that about it as well. I like the sense of community amongst geologists, and they're very, the terrible pun, but down to earth.

Danu Poyner:

I was gonna make a pun about having a dry sense of humor before, but we'll let we'll let it pass.

Kathryn Harris:

Can I just interject and say there's a whale jumping out of the water down in front of me. Wow. Which is quite interesting. Yeah. So yeah, and then and then. So as I went along, it was this sense of humanity, but also just, you know, everything I learned just increased my enthusiasm for the subject even more. When we started looking at rocks and minerals through a microscope, you know, it's a world of beauty that you just don't realize. And you know, it's such a small percentage of people in the world that get that experience to look through a microscope out of rock or mineral and just say how amazingly beautiful they are and spin around and they make different colors. And it's amazing. Yeah.

Danu Poyner:

That's, that's really interesting. I guess then, I often ask people about what was plan A and I'm I'm already hearing that geology wasn't plan A and that you fell into hydrogeology. So maybe, can you can you tell us a little bit about the story of what of how you fell into things and what you were doing before you accidentally discovered geology at uni?

Kathryn Harris:

Yeah. So my very many plan.

Danu Poyner:

I'm on I'm on Plan double letters, some.

Kathryn Harris:

I think some of my original plans when I was young included becoming an actress, becoming an astronaut and becoming a park ranger. But I did settle on becoming a music teacher. And that's really what I was sort of aiming towards throughout high school. Because I was very dedicated to piano I played piano quite seriously. classical piano always sang as well. In choirs or groups, not not solo and So, following high school, I was accepted into the School of Music in Canberra. And so it was sort of a split degree where I would study the music component at the School of Music. And then I would study the main education degree at University of Canberra. So I lived on campus at AMU. And, and then caught the bus or rode my bike, through the streets of Canberra out to university, Canberra and did education out there. I was, I would say, quite a naive, young 18 year old and university really hit me with a blow and I was a bit lost. I wasn't that socially aware. And so it was really a very difficult time for me to adjust to living out of home, which was something I'd always thought that I'd be totally fine with. I was quite an independent young girl I thought. And then the music world at the School of Music was just so alien to me, I'd, I'd had a amazing piano teacher, so supportive and loving, and I'd really flourished with her, I'd always felt very safe and very confident in my abilities with her. And then the School of Music, I'd, I'd imagine that it would be this very nurturing atmosphere where everybody was supportive of each other encouraging. And it was far from that I found it very, very competitive. I found the teachers there really couldn't care. I couldn't care less personally about you. And it just really struck a blow for me. And so I only stayed there for six months. And I ended up staying in Canberra for about 12 months. And just really hit a bit of a low point in my life. And so my mom had been talking to a friend whose daughter was working up at yulara. I've got all the room. And she said, you know, here's the contact, give them a call, see if you can get a job up there because I'd been waitressing in Canberra. And so I gave them a call and put in an application and off I went to the center of Australia, wow. It was a bit of a change. And it was it was honestly exactly what I needed. It was such a, an absolute pivotal moment in my life changing as a person. And, you know, I'm just so grateful that I got that experience. Because I got up there and I was a terrible waitress, I have to say, I was terrible at talking to people. And the cafe that I was working in with the cafe, but all the cool people weren't doing that everyone kind of wanted to work there. And I had a lovely, lovely boss who took me aside and he said, Look, I think you're really lovely girl, and you've got a great smile. So let's just use it a little bit more. And he and he, you know, he gave me some ways to talk to customers. And so he really helped me out and and so that was a really pivotal moment in changing me as a person and and then from there, I sort of tripped around quite a lot and eventually realized that I needed to use my brain bit more than what I was and I had been bushwalking down in Tasmania after year 12 And just absolutely loved it. Absolutely loved it. So I applied for university down there and got in and that was kind of the start of the geology journey. I hadn't been planning on studying geology, I was going to do an environmental degree very focused on you know, zoology and geography. And as I was signing up for my fourth subject, the lecturer looking at my enrollment for me said, What bloody degree is this because it wasn't a bachelor of science. It was some new one that brought in some Bachelor of Environmental blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. long winded on I'm sure never stopped. And he crossed it out and he said, Ah, just do a Bachelor of Science. You know, it'd be recommend Around the world, he said, geology is your fourth subject, I bet you'll love it. And he ended up being we ended up being quite good friends. In fact, we still stay in contact. So he knew what he was talking about.

Danu Poyner:

Wow. Yeah, there's a few things that struck me about that story, Catherine. So it just what's really leaping out to me straightaway is the chance encounters and those kind of conversations with particular people like the Clive the lecturer lecture at then the lecture in Tasmania uni. The conversation that got you to all the room, the piano teacher, these kind of people who are looking out for you and acting with a bit of care really having quite an influence on what happened. Is that, is that a fair assessment? Do you think about it that way?

Kathryn Harris:

Absolutely. Danu, it was very interesting when I was reflecting on your questions and thinking, Well, you know, what's my plan? And, and what has driven my decisions to this point in life? And I think a lot of it is, is external factors. So as you said, people sort of influencing those decisions may moving into spaces where I feel safe and supported, and encouraged. And so I'm not sure that I, I'm consciously planning and following determined pathway so much as, oh, this seems good at the time, I'll take this opportunity, and so sort of bouncing around like that, but, but also, I guess, I'm guided a little by my enthusiasms and my, I guess you would say curiosity. You know, it's almost an emotion driven enthusiasm to think, wow, that seems really cool. I'm going to go do that for a little while. And, and this person seems like, they're going to be able to support me in that. And if, if they think this is cool, then let's have a look at it. Yeah.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, really powerful stuff. Would you be able to share I'm really curious actually, what it was like being in Uluru, or, as some international folk may know, at Ayers Rock. What was that? Like? How long were you there?

Kathryn Harris:

So, I stayed in yulara, which is a little township near Uluru for seven or eight months, I think it was and it doesn't sound very long. But as I said, it was it was really quite life changing. I was very shy, I was almost depressed at the time, to be honest, because of, you know, just everything that had happened in Canberra and such a big life change for me, and maybe, you know, other people can relate to that too, as they move out of home and life is not exactly as they expect, that it's going to be. So when I moved to yulara, and I really had to learn how to be social and come out of my shell. And, you know, I started partying and meeting boys and, and it was just a real eye opener for me and I, I learned how to have a few maybe be a little bit less serious about things I was, I was very serious child, I'm still a very serious person. But, you know, I just learned how to have a little bit more fun, I think, and, you know, that life didn't have to be so serious and that I could just have fun and maybe, you know, take some time to just do whatever and meet people and and that was really important. Make those friendships. So actually living out there. Well, it's a, again, it's a really strong sense of community, because you're all in the middle of nowhere. Many people sort of do the resort round. So they'll go work on Hamilton Island, they'll go work at yulara You know, there's the sort of a trip you know, around the people will do working on various resorts or boats or whatever, and they might know people from various resorts that they've worked on. And so it's quite a tight community. And also the landscape itself is really just something else it it's so unique and You know, luckily, I was lucky enough to live there for long enough that I saw it in different seasons that I was able to have, you know, quite a few quiet moments away from tourists away from crowds, sitting in San Juans, you know, in the middle of the night watching a storm, just roll across this massive, massive landscape, you know, the sky out there is just part of the landscape because it's, it's such a huge tangible presence. And when the storms come over, you know, the thunder, it, it reverberates everywhere. It's quite an incredible place. So that too, I think, brought a sense of pace to me as well, it, it helped me heal a little little from from Canberra. And yeah, and feeling that sense of community around me and feeling supported again and feeling loved and joyous. You know, it was a really wonderful experience to have and enabled me to then go on from there and have the courage to do a lot more. Yeah,

Danu Poyner:

yeah. How many people live in yulara?

Kathryn Harris:

Oh, good question. I would say 1000. At most, you know, it's just enough people to support the resort.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. And it's how closest the nearest town

Kathryn Harris:

so Alice Springs would be the nearest major town. And it's a good few hours away. I can't remember what is it four hours or something. My, my, my, sort of came to a bit of a abrupt end because I was involved in a car accident just outside Alice Springs and had to spend some time in Alice Springs hospital and then wasn't able to work as much as I had been because I broke my pelvis and, and my hip. And so that, that sort of determined that. Okay, it's time to move on and do some new things.

Danu Poyner:

I was gonna ask you, if there was a moment you decided to move on, but I wasn't expecting it to be so dramatic as that I'm sorry. A car crash? So well, I'm still digesting all of that. Catherine. Could you tell me a little bit about the piano teacher? You had?

Kathryn Harris:

Yes. So Kathy Burgess. She was amazing. And I have, I've sometimes thought I should look her up and just let her know, you know how influential she was on me. Because she was really just such a caring person. And I, I often reflect, you know, how I would like to be more caring and kind like she was, she taught piano to me in a way that I understood it. So, you know, I was very technically great. And I love the technicalities, and that was fantastic. But she also tapped into my emotions, which was pretty amazing that, you know, a woman in her I imagine she was in her 30s, or perhaps 40s, at the time, you know, could still connect so emotionally well to a 16 year old girl going through all the emotions of a 16 year old girl. That, you know, we would, I would play these pieces. One was by Mendelssohn song without words, and, you know, we would talk through emotions and situations of each part of the pace and, and that would really bring it to life for me and brought a depth to my playing, I feel that other teachers hadn't been able to tap into. And as I said, that sense of security that she gave me, you know, this is another thing that I was reflecting on with your questions. And one of the measures was about when I feel I'm performing my best or when I'm able to create things is when I do feel supported, and when I feel that I have the courage to perhaps step outside what I think I'm capable of, because I know that I'm in a supportive environment. And she certainly provided that even though she, you know, provided a lot of challenges as well. So every month we would have a concert, and most of the time it was at her place, but there would be other students and their families or their friends, so you need to perform it. front of people, which was very nerve wracking at first, but then as you get more and more used to it, then it really built confidence and just such a great, great opportunity.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, again, really, really powerful. And I guess music schools, losses, geology is gain. You've, you've got a very palpable sense of the love of the landscape and, and the environment. And I guess that was already there. And then geology that's that study moment kind of activated that in a practical way, is what I'm guessing. Have you always had that that love of the environment?

Kathryn Harris:

Yes, yes, absolutely. I mean, I would say that that was largely due to my parents, particularly my dad you know, we would, we would go camping quite a lot rather than staying in hotels or fancy places or anything or holidays. Where there was a lot of camping which I just loved talking to mom in recent years, it wasn't something she particularly loved. You know, I just loved it as a child I still remember one a stir and they old a frame tents that we had. And we we weren't came out in the morning and mum and dad had put out the Easter eggs for the Easter egg hunt and just you know, hunting all around the campsite for the Easter eggs and it was raining and muddy. But I didn't care. It's just so much fun. And I grew up in Wagga Wagga, in New South Wales. And not far from Walker, there's a town called the rock, which is fairly unimaginative. Yes, so I guess I was just it's from a young age to be a geologist. And we do a lot of walks up and down the rock, which was the name of the hill there. It's quite it's good walk, you know, it's a couple of hours up. And I remember how do we get birthday party out there and dad and I actually got lost out there one day, and they sent out a search party for us and everything. I just remember it being a big adventure. I don't remember being upset or anxious or scared about it. But there was police and everything when we got down in the dark. So yes, yes, I've always had a love of nature. And, you know, when I travel, so I've traveled around the world a little bit. I always seek out the national parks, or try and go hiking or try and go camping because that's what interests me. It's never the cities. I try and get out of the cities as soon as possible. And just always get out into the mountains or, you know, go for a walk.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. Okay, I'll ask you more about that in a little while, I think but I'm keen to come back to the hydrogeology. If that's all right, so you did the you did the study. And now you're sort of managing these multimillion dollar groundwater projects. Can you share a little bit about what that actually involves?

Kathryn Harris:

Yes, so I've, I've changed positions this year. So I'm a manager now of a team, the groundwater team. So excited this year is a little bit different to previous experience. So I'll talk a little bit more, I'll talk a little bit firstly about what it was like working as a hydrogeologist as compared to now working as a manager. So I worked for origin for about five years, a few years ago now and now I've recently come back to it and when I worked for origin before I was out in the field a lot so what that entails is our field work is out in sort of western Queensland. And it was visiting a lot of land owner bores and so doing some testing on those so if you were doing testing might be using the pump that's currently in there or or using your own pumps that you've brought along and testing the water quality. So you pump it out for several hours. Sometimes to make sure that you're getting the right water quality sample, fill up your little lab sample bottles and send them off to the lab in a SP full of ice or you stick a very high tech tape measure basically, down a bore. And that tape measure has a electrical unit on the end of it that when it hits water, it goes beep. And that's how you know where the water level is so so that's something that we do. And, and sometimes you would need to know how much water they're getting out of the bore. So you could do something like a pumping test where you look at flow rates over a certain period of time. So that was a lot of what my previous work was. And it was fantastic. It was just great. Driving around, you know, around the area, north of Roma miles chinchilla, when you're on the Warrego highway heading out there, you don't get the sense of how beautiful that landscape is. The Warrego highway goes through very flat cotton lands around doby. And then, as you head north of Roma, you certainly see a few more hills. But once you actually get off the highway and into the properties themselves are some absolutely stunning areas of creeks and gullies and hills. So that was a wonderful experience and going around to all sorts of bores, you know, from some of them were, you know, 80 years old, or older. And then some of them aren't quite modern with solar panels. So So I guess the actual work. My work was largely focused on the heat landowner bores other people in my team also set up one of the largest and most complex injection schemes in Australia. So that's part of what our team does as well, which is another fascinating topic. But now as a manager is very, very different work. It's really managing people managing processes, I don't do so much of the hydrogeology anymore. So I'm not analyzing results. As I was looking, you know, using Excel, I became quite an Excel aficionado, I was fantastic. I love Excel. I'm not doing so much of the, you know, geospatial analysis or mapping. All of that stuff. I do love and I do miss. But being a manager is also bringing new learning opportunities and new challenges. So it's always good in life to challenge yourself, even if the time it feels a little uncomfortable. So So I guess that's where I'm at at the moment with with my hydrogeology journey.

Danu Poyner:

So it sounds like less out in the field and more more behind the desk now is it?

Kathryn Harris:

Very much so. Yeah. Yeah. So I do try and get out to the field, at least twice a year. Now, but yeah, it's it's nowhere near what it used to be, which, you know, it gives other people in the team, that opportunity to go out into the field. We have somebody out in the field full time now anyway. But, yeah, although I miss it, you know, my priorities in life has changed as well. Previously, I didn't have a child or a family. And now I do. So my priorities have changed a lot as well.

Danu Poyner:

How have you gone about learning how to be a manager in that situation? It's quite a shift from doing things to getting them done through other people. How do you approach that learning?

Kathryn Harris:

Yeah, that's a very good question. I'm sorry. No, no, no, it's a good question. So I felt that so I said before that I worked at origin previously, and now I've recently gone back. So in between times, as you know, I worked at Bond University, which is where I met you. Now. Bond, I felt that, you know, I was given a great opportunity to manage my own project, and have a team that sort of looked to me to direct them. So I felt a little bit like I was in a managerial role there. But since actually being a manager I've realized that that was, it pales in comparison. Because it was really very small team and there was a lot of things that I wasn't responsible for that I am now such as you know, Pay, not pay reviews, but performance reviews, directing the actual direction of the team setting goals strategy. So it's it's a lot broader than what my previous experience had been. So in terms of how my learning how to be a manager, I have a executive leadership coach, who is helped me along the way. But I am also just about to enroll in a course. And it may or may not be particularly appropriate for the style of management that we do in our company. But I think it's another tool to put in my belt, because it's it's scrum management. So, you know, it's particularly used in it, I understand. But I think that it's a strategy that I can at least get some tools from. And at the moment, honestly, I feel I learning a little through trial and error. And also, through talking to other managers, finding how they're managing things. I'm actively seeking new mentor at the moment of have always had somebody who's been my mentor, and our relationship has drastically changed this year. And that mentorship is sort of no longer available. So I'm actively seeking a new mentor and actively seek you female mentor, because my mentors to date have been can I say, middle aged white males. And I, look, that has been great. And they've been fantastic mentors, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But I, but I'm finding now that I want a female mentor to discuss it, it's different perspectives. And it's a different way of approaching things and looking at things and, you know, males and females do think differently, and we communicate differently. And we have different needs. So it will it will be really interesting for me when I when I do find that female mentorship, how I been progressing, my career will be interesting to see.

Danu Poyner:

Again, I'm really struck by the importance of having that mentor in that nurturing relationship to be able to to progress and really get the best out of out of yourself. That's really coming through to me again. Yeah. I hope that that that works for you really soon. So it sounds like I mean, it sounds like these projects are quite stressful and high pressure. And I mean, when we talk about curiosity, we often put emphasis on seeking out new experiences and throwing yourself into things and being surprised, but I can imagine that in this kind of environment, that that kind of chaotic new experiences, maybe not something you're always wanting or looking for, is that is that a fair assessment?

Kathryn Harris:

Yes, so. So I work in the oil and gas sector, in the energy sector, which can be quite volatile, and particularly, you know, with COVID, last year, and various other factors, it has affected our business and hit our business quite hard. And so there's been a lot of changes in our business. And that does cause increased stress, anxiety, uncertainty, amongst not just myself, but right across the business and within my team. So not only are you trying to manage projects that not only are expensive, but they also determine you know, our compliance with government regulations and, and therefore really affect our licence to operate. So they're quite, you know, high pressure tight deadline projects that require you know, strategy and planning and they also require a lot of cooperation across the business. So, working in times of uncertainty, when people are feeling threatened and people are feeling stressed and anxious. It has created that extra layer of complexity. And being a manager, I now responsible I feel for those people's well being for not just how they do their work, but how they are managing personally as well. And for making sure that communication is clear that expectations are clear. So communication within the team communication across teams. So, look, there's been a big push in our company, towards focusing on people's mental health, and supporting people to feel engaged with their work and with the company. But it's a very hard time at the moment, I think, when there is this flux and uncertainty. So I feel that that is, is affecting how effectively we can work. I can't remember what your original question was, I think I deviated

Danu Poyner:

it's, I mean, it sounds like a lot. It sounds like a lot. How, how do you feel your cup in that environment and keep yourself up?

Kathryn Harris:

Yeah. So at the start of the year, I was really running myself ragged, trying to be the best manager straight out of the box and do everything right and not fail in this new role. And I've realized that I have made mistakes, I'm going to continue to make mistakes, but I'm doing my absolute best. I'm doing my best to learn how to do it better by going and doing this course by reaching out to mentors by reaching out to other leaders, by, you know, trying to maintain those lines of communication with my team. So I have to give myself a bit of a break because I am somebody who's quite. I like to achieve high. I can say that, you know, in any port grana on the high achiever, let's say, so, when I'm not hitting those goals, and I am harsh on myself, so how do I feel my cup? Well, my partner actually took me aside and he said, this isn't on. He said, you putting too much of yourself into your work. And it's affecting you, it's affecting your family, it's affecting those around you. So something needs to change. So it took him to say that to me to really pull me up on it. For me to realize I needed to pull back from being some ideal that I couldn't possibly be, and reassess, and start doing things again for myself. So at that stage, I went to my boss. This is a situation so I opened those lines of communication, which I think was really important. So he knew where I stood. And I started singing again. So although I was singing in a community choir, I started singing in a more structured choir that expects more and has higher standards and is much more challenging, and bit more of a commitment. And I love it. So that is a great outlet. I committed to walking more. So I walk monthly with a group of girls, and we just can we just did a six day hike up around Carnarvon gorge carrying our 16 kilos of gear. And so I guess I made a commitment to myself into my family that I would take that time away from work and that you know, I'm doing the best I can and I can't be perfect. And so that's what I do for myself is that I do more meditations to calm my mind. And I make sure that I take that time for myself to go do the things that I love doing. And by doing that, I'm actually able to be a better manager and a better mom and a better partner. But I'm better able to do my job and, and I guess learn more about how to do my job because in that very, very, very stressed anxious state that I was in. I was totally stymied. You know, my brain wasn't working. I wasn't being effective.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. Well, I mean, Kevin It strikes me you're doing incredibly well, just listening to it's, you know, to take on I'm not? Well, I mean, to take on a completely new way of working in the middle of a pandemic, by the sounds of it with the timing, and to have your traditional mentor, you had to step out of the picture. And to have feel the weight of the responsibility of your team, which you didn't have before to worry about so much. It's a lot, and you're taking really proactive steps. You're reaching out to find communities and networks, you're still trying to learn new things and take on all these skills. It's incredible. I mean, to do this. And to be this person in a in a traditionally I guess, male dominated sector as well is really impressive. I want to ask you, have you been a mentor for other people you sound seem like exactly the kind of person that many people would love to have, as a mentor. Has that have you had that experience? So I

Kathryn Harris:

was just talking to somebody this week, about that very, I was in a meeting last week, where we had a focus on diversity and inclusion, sometimes I feel that I am not able to get across my points as well as I would like to, or that they're not heard in the same way that I've intended them to come across. Whereas if you have that one other female in the room, it provides a bit of a sounding board, and a bit more support. So So I was reflecting on this, and I looked up some diversity numbers for within the water sector in Australia. And then I've reached out to an international organization of hydrogeology, as well, which have just finished running a survey about diversity within hydrogeology. So they're going to get back to me with the results around. So following up on this meeting, a few people reached out to me to say, look, we have very keen to increase our diversity in origin within the company. And these are some of the programs that we currently have in the pipeline to bring talent into our industry. And one of those brands is a mentorship program. And it's particularly for girls in STEM in high schools. In these discussions, I've said, Look, I'm 100% keen for next round. So in a few months time when when we allocate new mentors for this program, then I'm extremely keen to be involved in that. Because I think that when I was in high school, I would have loved to talk to a woman who was really achieving and enthusiastic about what she did, and found some pathways in life where she found a lot of fulfillment, and how did she get there? And I guess what support is available for young girls to follow those pathways, particularly, as you said, in what is perceived as male dominated industries. But in fact, there's a lot of diversity. And it's just, I think, in management and more senior roles, that we're still struggling to see that diversity.

Danu Poyner:

Thank you for sharing that. I think that will be great. I can't wait to hear how it goes and see you doing that. Can I ask you about? Well, I mean, you have a love of the environment and you connect with the profession in that way. When it comes to managing water resources, I guess in particular, do you feel there's ever a tension between how you come to that situation as a as a scientist, and as an lover in the environment and then as a specialist at an energy company? And how do you how do you process that?

Kathryn Harris:

Hmm. Yeah. So I've had a few people have interesting and somewhat challenging conversations with me about the sector that I work in. Because there's, you know, a lot of concern about groundwater and CSG and the energy sector in general. So how I like to talk to people about it and how I reconcile it is, we've actually been able to do so much more research. And we understand so much more about the groundwater resources about our aquifers in the Surat bone basins and the great artesian as being part of the great artesian basin than we ever knew before. And that's been enabled by the development in that area. So you know, there's, there's always impacts from any sort of development, whether it be, you know, a high rise down at Palm Beach, or whether it be the energy sector, oil and gas or resources. So, I'm always conscious that there are impacts from our industry, but it's how we manage those impacts and how we go about our business. And I'm, I'm actually very proud to work for who I work for, I think that they're very ethical business, I think that we do care about our impacts, we mitigate them as much as possible. And I think by doing that, that's how I'm able to reconcile my love of nature, my love of the environment, with what I do, you know, adding to that scientific knowledge about the groundwater, and about the great artesian basin. And some of the programs that we've instigated out there, as I mentioned before the injection program, and some of the benefits that those programs are actually having for groundwater users and for the aquifers themselves. So, you know, there's a balance there that I feel has been struck, and I actually think that we've benefited quite a lot from from having the developments out there and being able to gather that knowledge that we have.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. And for engaging with the question, as well. Did you want to tell me a little bit about the injection program, you mentioned it a couple of times. Now, it sounds really interesting.

Kathryn Harris:

It is interesting. So it, it's a really fantastic program. And you know, I encourage anybody who wants to learn more about it, jump on to the AP LNG website, and you'll find who to contact there. And you can learn a little bit more about the program.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, sounds great. We'll put a link in the in the show notes. Let me change gears a little bit now. And I know we've been talking a while, but I really want to come to the singing and the choir and the walking. Can you tell me a little bit about about what you're doing with the choir?

Kathryn Harris:

Yes, so for many years, with women's barbershop organization, and it's very, very challenging music, it's a fantastic organization. Again, very, very strong sense of community, great learning opportunities, you know, that you just don't find in any other choir that I've been a part of, really, but you know, the international learning opportunities where you get coaches traveling from all over the world to come and coach courses. And you can learn how to, you know, be an account for the, for the chorus, or you can be the marketing director, or you can be the costume designer. So there's a whole range of learning skills involved in and it's not just seeing, what I found was that it's a very, very large time commitment. So I decided in recent years to not be part of that organization anymore. But just this year, I mixed barbershop choir has started. So draws on the experience of the female organization, but there's a also a male organization. And I shouldn't be so gender specific because it has actually branched out to include people of all identified genders. But traditionally, it was the males and the females. And so now we have a mixed vocal ensemble. And we're drawing on that experience of the barbershop. So it has a lot of that structure. But we're also singing music outside the barbershop genre which The Fantasticks,

Danu Poyner:

Don't knock the barbershop genre.

Kathryn Harris:

It's great to thing. But it doesn't always draw the audience of the day. So we're doing quite a variety of things. But you know, the the expectation of being able to thing it's without support around, you have the same part. And just that whole challenge is still there. And I'm tossing up putting up my hand to have a bit more responsibility in the chorus as well in terms of leading the section. Because I'm sort of naturally falling into that role. And I love it. And I said to myself, that I wouldn't do it because I don't feel like I don't have the time. But honestly, it just brings me so much joy that that is probably something I will look at doing and, and it again, it's a very supportive chorus. And it does bring me so much joy, and I do it with my mom. So I want to mention that as well, because my mom moved up five years ago to be closer to myself and my little boy and my partner. And, you know, having my mom around is the best, it's the best. She's absolutely my hero. She's an inspiration to me, just her positivity and her ability to get so much done in a short amount of time. And she is kind and she just really makes people around her feel special. feel like they're an important person and that they mean something to her and she's an amazing person. So it's really good to be able to do quiet with her and have that time with her each week.

Danu Poyner:

That's awesome. Big shout out to mom. What's the what's the crowd drawing number that you're most excited about working on with the groove?

Kathryn Harris:

Oh? Well, we were doing one. I can't remember what it's called. It could be called hide them. Because that's what we repeat most of all in the song. Hide on wasting. Tilikum, Timmy pom pom pom pom pom, but it's just a really fun song just saying. So I think that's probably going to be a good one. Please just put my singing on air by the way.

Danu Poyner:

I'm not going to ask you to sing. But if you want for the Lincoln to Summer Tour performance, we were happy to do that.

Kathryn Harris:

Yes, we are working towards the Christmas performance. Will will I'll let you know when that's happening.

Danu Poyner:

Please do please do. You mentioned your your family and your your, your little boy your son? Is he is he curious? What's he like?

Kathryn Harris:

He's very curious. I I'm inspired by him. He is a very, very smart switched on little boy. He asks the most amazing questions. And what I find incredible is that his reading journey for this year, for instance. You know, he started off this year being able to read a few words here and there. And then the rate at which he just applied himself and just would not give up. You know, like an adult trying to learn something just

Danu Poyner:

now, unfortunately, at this point, I lost Katherine due to a connection issue, which is a shame. But eventually I got her back on the line.

Kathryn Harris:

Sorry, I was just talking to myself saying how amazing my son is.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, well that that's perfectly fine to talk about their phages he sounds lovely. I guess then you've had a lot of experiences in your in your life that have kind of taken you off in different directions that have been life changing really, if you could gift someone a life changing experience like that, what what would you give to them?

Kathryn Harris:

Hmm, um, interesting. So one of the biggest life changing experiences for me was having a child. So I don't know that I'd necessarily give somebody cuz it's, it is such a massive change. But it's been amazing for me and I remember very clearly saying to a friend and he, he brought it up with me recently. I said to him, you know, I feel like I'm actually meant to be a mum. Very naturally for me. You know, there was a lot of challenges involved in terms of staying at home and working for me forms part of my identity. So being a mommy, I suddenly sort of felt like things slipped into place almost having my own family unit provides me with so much stability of I, I have a sense of love and support. And I provide that for people as well. You know, it's not just that I take it, but I'm providing that love and support as well. So a really pivotal moment is I'm going to bring it back to going to yulara and taking that step just so far outside of what I'd ever expected in my life, what I had in my head as planned way forward, you know, I'd always going through high school, thought it was going to be high school, and then University and then be a music teacher, and go on school camps teaching music, and, you know, that was sort of the plan in my head. And then when I moved to somewhere spread, you know, red sand everywhere, no other town within Caray, just that little community, no family within a few hours. It was an absolutely pivotal moment in my life about growing as a person. Importance of community, understanding the importance of friendships, learned learning how to be social and communicate with people in different ways with different people, that diversity of people in the world and it opened up the world to me. And so if I was to give something to a young person or an old person is just step right outside your comfort zone, do something amazingly different, that you've never planned on that you've never thought of, and you will not regret it. You know, you just learned so much from that experience about yourself and not all parts of living out there were good goodness, I had many a nightmare. I'm in the middle of frickin nowhere. But but, you know, all in all, it was absolutely life changing for me, personally, and I, I would I would give that to somebody in a heartbeat is in all

Danu Poyner:

tears and all is important. I think that's definitely part of it. And none of it would have happened where the Conservatorium folk at the music school and more more friendly by the sounds of it.

Kathryn Harris:

Probably right, maybe I had problems with the boyfriend. So that played into it to

Danu Poyner:

a whole whole constellation of things. One, one more thing I just want to come back to quickly and that was when you talked about being out on the on the hike with your dad, and that there was like a search party waiting for you. When you when you got back. But for you it was just an adventure was there. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Was there ever a time that you were kind of aware of there was any danger or that people? What were you what was that experience? Like?

Kathryn Harris:

I think I must have been really quite young at the time, because I don't remember it that clearly. But I I do remember, you know, being Out With Dad, and it was getting late, like it was starting to get dark. And he must have, you know, my dad is is very much a kid at heart. He loves adventures. He's still a world traveler, he probably made it into a guy. Very good at that. So I just don't remember there being xiety Any event from him, you know, I don't remember him, exuding any sort of worry or anything like that. And he probably didn't to be honest. He probably was aware that you know, mom might have been a bit worried. But he has a pretty different sense of time anyway. And so I don't know whether he was surprised when we got down that there was quite a massive search on for us and just how worried mum had been he probably, you know, thought Ah, well, you know, you should have known would be fine, but, but I just remember it being quite an adventure. So thanks, dad.

Danu Poyner:

Oh, well, I can well imagine that It must be, you know, I can tell it's a stressful time with everything at work and the leadership position you're in. But I imagine that your team probably feels like they're on an adventure with you, and, and you're definitely leaving things better than you found them, which is a bit of a theme for our conversation, I think. So, I really value and I'm grateful for all the things you've shared. Today. Katherine has some really, really powerful stuff. It means a lot that you share that I've really enjoyed the conversation. I really wish you the best for the for this kind of stage that's unfolding in your in your career, which sounds really challenging, but also really exciting. Hope you get a more chance to to do some getting out of the city and doing some walks and connecting with the landscape when when the world opens up again, a little bit. So I just wanted to say thank you on it on a personal note, but great conversation. Thank you so much. And I hope you can enjoy getting back to watching the whales now.

Kathryn Harris:

Thank you.

Danu Poyner:

Alright, Thanks Catherine.