Guest Blog - Women in Transformation: Tanya Graham, Alinta Energy

Jonty Plewes 05.03.2019

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Transformation. They will be discussing their success, career-defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Tanya Graham, Chief Transformation Officer at Alinta Energy, had to say.

tanya graham

Profile: Tanya is a Business Transformation Executive with a demonstrated ability to develop new business ideas and successfully implement them across a business. She is a leader who is enthusiastic about driving change and organisational growth. Having been in senior roles for over 20 years, she has experience working with Board Directors, Executive teams and regulators, to drive change across industries including Pharmaceutical, Financial Services, Technology, Retail and Property, Federal Government and Utilities.


Tanya is currently the Chief Transformation Officer at Alinta Energy, overseeing an enterprise-wide transformation to scale up the business to meet ambitious growth targets whilst also meeting evolving regulatory requirements and intense market competition.

Prior to Alinta, Tanya developed the digital and data strategy for Austrade as their Chief Digital Officer.

Tanya holds an MBA from Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM), is a graduate of the Company Directors course, Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD) and is a member of the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET).

What are the key habits that make you successful?

Working in transformation means my days are always full and each day generally brings a number of challenges to deal with - there are highs and lows. This means I need to be super organised and be able to switch my mind between multiple topics.

I always have half an hour at the end of the day to reflect and plan the next day - what are the critical things I need to achieve? What do my team need? Who do I need to call? Who do I need to follow up? What meetings/ conversations do I have planned and what are the outcomes I need from these?

I also use a concept called ‘the third space’ which is making sure I have short gaps between key meetings and activities to Reflect, Rest and Reset - the 3 R’s. If you don’t do this your effectiveness quickly diminishes through the day.

Lastly I aim for balance. I work from home one day a week and I protect this fiercely. I use this day for strategic work... and a bit of catch up.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?

I had an amazing mentor for a couple of years who was an ex CEO, and we’re still in touch. His advice was to treat every role as a ‘project’. Time-box it, mentally have a start and end date and set specific objectives to achieve in that time. And clearly articulate what success will look like at the end of that time. This helps to form clear goals to achieve and also forces you to assess at a point in time how you’re going in a role and when it might be time to move on, either because you’ve achieved everything you set out to, or it isn’t working for whatever reason.  Or stay and set a new wave of goals! This helps prevent ‘overstaying’ in a role and maximising the value you can add. I always have his wise words in the back of my mind!

What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

In 2001 I moved countries from the UK to Australia. I had had a successful career in the UK and it was daunting coming to a new country where I didn’t know anyone, had no network and didn’t have a clue about Australian businesses. We had decided to give it a go for two years and then planned to go back to the UK.

I had just moved into a transformation role before I left the UK and decided to pursue something similar. I targeted management consulting as figured this would give me a rapid immersion into Australian companies, and it did! In my first year, I had worked in everything from a steel works to a car manufacturing plant, printmaking, banks and everything in between!

And we’re still here 18 years later...

How do you approach making a difficult decision?

I’m a rational decision maker so my approach with difficult decisions is first to make sure I’m clear on the decision that needs to be made, identify the objectives around the decision (what are the absolute ‘musts’ that need to be met versus the ‘nice to have’s’), weigh up the options and then look at the risks with each option. I prefer to involve others in decision making to ensure I haven’t missed anything and considered all perspectives. You can’t always do this though, particularly with sensitive decisions. These are the hardest to make, where they impact someone on a personal level.

What do you believe will be the most in-demand skills over the next 10 years within Transformation and why?

10 years is a long time!

Certainly, the skills I think are in demand now and for the immediate future are the ability to conceptualise ideas and then turn these into something tangible that can be delivered. The ability to drive outcomes is also important, transformation is hard and there’s often a lot of ‘activity’ but are the outcomes actually being delivered?

Relationships and the ability to drive change in a practical sense are critical. The two go hand in hand. It’s not about filling in a bunch of templates, it’s building rapport with people, using processes to facilitate thinking and helping people to shift their mindset into a new or different way of working.

Lastly, it’s essential in transformation to be constantly scanning the environment, bringing in new ideas, and adapting as needed. An important skill is, therefore, flexibility and also curiosity.

Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter

Jonty Plewes's picture
Associate Director | IT & Business Transformation
jplewes@morganmckinley.com.au