INTHEBLACK November 2021 - Flipbook - Page 22
// L E A D E R S & I N N O VAT O R S
This simple experience, and many that followed,
had an important developmental effect on the
young public servant. She realised she had a knack
for looking at a system and figuring out how it might
work better. Moate often improved, or completely
redesigned, tasks she was given. Soon, Moate was
interested in doing more – in being someone who
designs the machine, rather than being a small cog
When she was 19, Moate enrolled in an associate
diploma in business course and, five years of full-time
work and part-time study later, she graduated with a
major in accounting.
“I started at CSIRO in 1991, so took a year off
studying to concentrate on the new job, but then
went back to night-time study at the University of
Tasmania as a mature student,” she says. “I did a
commerce degree part-time for four years, and then
went straight on to completing the CPA, so that I
didn’t lose momentum.
“Along the way, I just embraced new opportunities.
I loved them. I loved looking at a problem, thinking
through the processes, embracing new technologies
and figuring out how you could do it differently, more
efficiently and more effectively. I think that is what
has driven much of my career.”
THE BIGGEST DECISION OF ALL
Ironically, the role that has meant the most to Moate’s
career so far was also the one she came closest to
refusing. The decision-making process, she says, was
one she’ll never forget.
Moate had been working in a relatively senior
management position with the CSIRO, with the
running of Australia’s largest blue-water research ship
part of her portfolio. The ship was ageing and, under
a government stimulus package, a budget of A$120
million became available to build a new, larger vessel,
which would become known as the RV Investigator.
A project of this size and scope cannot be managed
by just anyone, so an international search was
mounted to find the right project director.
At one stage, one of the CSIRO’s most senior
leaders asked Moate if she was disappointed that she
wasn’t being invited to apply for the role.
“I said, ‘Oh no, absolutely not!’,” she smiles. “There’s
just no way I could do that job.”
The person chosen to lead the project was
experienced marine engineer Graham Stacey.
“Graham was a traditional project manager. He was
excellent technically and thought a lot about building
a ship, but never gave much thought to the people
side of things,” Moate says. “My goal for the project
was not so much to build a ship, but to deliver blue22 ITB November 2021
“I TALK A LOT ABOUT VALUES AND
PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST. I TRULY BELIEVE
THAT, IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE BETWEEN
TASK AND RELATIONSHIP, YOU MUST
ALWAYS CHOOSE RELATIONSHIP.”
TONI MOATE FCPA, CSIRO
water research capability to our Australian researchers.
So, I simply had a different lens.”
In the meantime, the organisation also quickly
realised that the project required a second
leadership role – an executive director to engage
with government, the CSIRO board and other
stakeholders, to decide on what equipment should be
included on the Investigator, to dispose of the
old ship and more.
“The project sponsor I’d been working with rang
me on a Friday night, as I was about to go on leave,”
Moate recalls. “He said, ‘Toni, I’ve just been asked
why you are not doing this job’. I said, ‘I just don’t
think I’m the right person’.”
However, she very quickly realised she’d made a
terrible mistake and was missing out on one of the
most amazing opportunities of her career.
“I was actually filled with a sense of grief,” Moate
says. “I was about to lose something that had made
me feel really alive for the past 18 months. Every week
on the project something would happen that would