By Eliza Booth, Assistant Editor, Pump Industry Magazine
For Billie Tan, Assistant General Manager at Regent Pumps, working in the pump industry isn’t something she initially considered when finishing her university studies. But after getting a break in the industry in 2009, Billie has become a leader in pumps, projects and production management. Here, she talks about finding her place in the industry, and what can be done to promote more women to consider a career in pumps.
Getting started with pumps
For Billie, the journey into the pump industry was not as straightforward as others.
“I started at BKB Pumps & Tanks in November 2009. I was about a year out of university and was seeking a ‘Project Management’ type role and came across a Project Coordinator role that was open at BKB,” Billie said.
“To be honest, there wasn’t an intention to get into the pump industry or any other industry for that matter.”
However, Billie said she has always been drawn to projects and teamwork, and the opportunity that she discovered in the industry allowed her to follow her passion for management.
“I have always been an individual geared towards working in projects/management and when the opportunity came up, it looked interesting and I gave it a go! It has brought me to where I am today,” Billie said.
Describing herself as a very loyal employee, Ms Tan spent nine years with BKB Pumps before bringing her talents to Australian-owned pump manufacturer Regent Pumps in 2018. She is currently the Assistant General Manager and is responsible for the overall operations of the business and production.
Finding a place in the sector
For Billie, the pump industry has shown that it’s a varied sector, with many different types of people coming together and lots of unique challenges along the way.
“It is challenging, it’s competitive, it’s stressful, and I get to meet and talk to many different types of people within the industry that have different experiences which enables me to learn something new every day,” Billie said.
“You’ve got some that ‘know it all’ and others that surprise and boggle you because of what they don’t know about pumps and systems but work within the pump industry. The spectrum is from one extreme to the other!”
Even without a specific mentor in the industry, Billie said she always had a few individuals that she could go to when she needed advice on something or to assist with a technical question.
Another highlight for Billie so far in her career has been the opportunity to work on a project for the redevelopment of the iconic Melbourne Park.
“Although in the early part of my career and perhaps only a small section of the precinct’s redevelopment, working on this project taught me a lot from a technical perspective, personal development and management skills. Although it was stressful and there were many roadblocks, it somehow was memorable,” Billie said.
Promoting diversity in the industry
There’s no doubt that the pump industry is a male-dominated sector. However, overcoming old stereotypes, confidently backing abilities, and supporting and inspiring the next generation are all ways to help encourage more women to enter the industry, according to Billie.
“There is most definitely still a gap in the industry, or anywhere for that matter, where females in technical roles are viewed to not be capable enough,” Billien said.
“For me personally, I have not had very much that I needed to overcome, but I still do get on occasion ‘are you sure you can assist me?’ or ‘you might want to double check with someone else’.
“However, as long as one is confident, you just need to stand by your view or the information that you have provided, and no one should further question you.”
Another avenue to inspire more women to enter into the industry would be to become more proactive at the university level where students are deciding what direction their careers will go.
Billie said organising more agenda-driven get togethers, organised by women, for women, would help to give insights to prospective engineering students and show them what the pump world is all about.
She also has some valuable words of advice for women who are interested in becoming part of the pump industry.
“Be tough, be persistent, listen, learn from others’ experiences and most importantly, understand what you are doing, not just follow what others do.”
Having fun outside of pumps
For Billie, life outside of pumps is full of fun and interesting hobbies. Travelling is a major interest as well as working on home improvement projects and, like many people, she enjoys watching movies and TV shows.