Erin Jackson

Principal and Technical Director Transport Solutions and Mobility | GHD

  • Future focused
  • Innovator
  • Proactive collaborator
Based in: TAS
Modes: Road Rail Trams Ferries Busses Freight/logistics
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"In transport, there is a lot we can learn from other parts of the globe. Everyone seems to think we are ‘terminally unique’ but we are not; humans are humans regardless of where you live."

Current position

  • Principal and Technical Director Transport Solutions and Mobility, GHD

Previous positions

  • Smart Transport Solutions Lead | Transport Engineer, GHD
  • Service Line Leader Traffic Engineering & Transport Planning, GHD
  • Manager Civil Infrastructure, GHD
  • Manager Traffic and Transport Planning, GHD
  • Traffic Engineer, GHD
  • Project Engineer, Downer EDI Works
  • Chair, Women in Engineering Tasmania
  • Member, ITS Australia Policy Committee

Career snapshot

Erin Jackson has more than 19 years’ experience in the fields of traffic engineering, transport planning and project management and a Master’s degree in Traffic Engineering from Monash University. Her desire for transformation in technical approaches and thinking has led to the identification and development of key transport initiatives throughout her career at GHD. Coupled with a desire to ensure projects deliver lasting community benefits, Erin constantly champions ways to encourage industry transformation.

In her 17-plus-year career at GHD, Erin has held various positions across technical services delivery and leadership, operational leadership, and client relationship management. 

Erin is a strong advocate of gender equality and supporting female leaders and was Chair of the Engineers Australia’s Women in Engineering Tasmania chapter from 2011 to 2013. 

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In her own words

Transport is an industry where you can see the outcome of your work and make a direct impact.

I enjoyed science and maths at school and originally thought I would study physics at university.  A teacher mentioned engineering to me but said I probably wouldn’t get in because I hadn’t studied advanced maths. This made me even more determined, and I was successful because I worked hard.

In my fourth year at university, I undertook an internship with the Glenorchy City Council and got introduced to the world of traffic engineering. It was a very positive experience because the work was diverse and gave me an opportunity to learn about local government. I had a real desire to make an impact and I realised traffic engineering could do that.

Upon graduating, I started my career at EDI Downer as a project engineer, before travelling internationally. Upon my return to Australia, I joined GHD and have been there ever since. 

I grew up in Tasmania and for a lot of my career I felt I needed to move elsewhere in order to obtain some “big city” exposure. I have finally realised that I don’t need to leave Tasmania to build cross-country networks, participate in industry bodies and connect with other women leaders. I now think: ‘why would I ever leave?’.

Staying in Tasmania has allowed me to build long-term, trusted relationships with my clients and work alongside them through extremely complex issues. It’s a fantastic environment to test and trial, push and challenge, and that’s exactly the space I like to work in.

While I started in traffic engineering, I decided I wanted to be higher up in the decision-making tree and moved into transport planning. Instead of approving an end-product as a traffic engineer, I wanted to be involved in the conversations around, for example, why we are actually building this particular road. In fact, I continue to become more and more passionate about the radical transformation occurring in transport. The way we have traditionally done things is through the eyes of a driver and that hasn’t worked well. We haven’t shifted the dial on worldwide policy issues, or made a significant impact on safety, emissions reductions, nor helping isolated parts of the community connect, and that has to change. The future possibilities are both exciting and daunting. 

Learning globally, embedding locally

In my work I often found myself the mediator between local and state governments which was frequently difficult and could be quite frustrating as a consultant. I was eager to find techniques and methods I could bring to Tasmania to help me resolve those complexities and relationship issues.

When I heard about the work being done in New Zealand around network operation planning and how it was being embedded in everything they did, I could immediately see the benefits. I thought: ‘this is perfect – exactly what we need’, because it allows you to map out priorities across the network in a collaborative manner with all the stakeholders who need road space. You flesh out the requirements of different modes – general traffic, bikes, pedestrians, buses, and freight – to determine who gets what part of the network and at what time of the day and end up with a framework that says: ‘this is what we are going to prioritise’, which serves as a platform for clear decision making, that is understood throughout the community. 

Recent work for road agencies involves the development of performance indicators including trialling the introduction of a new measure around vehicle kilometres travelled. I knew this had been implemented in California, so I reached out to find out what had worked and what hadn’t and shared these learnings with clients. I love to see what we can learn from others working on similar projects, rather than reinventing the wheel. I think Tasmania is in a great position to learn from other states and countries, and mature enough to understand and elevate these insights.

Great transport focuses more on accessibility and mobility than around an actual mode. Future mobility is about having access to what you need and for me that’s active transport – walking,  biking, scootering – closely followed by public transport.

An ideal future state for me is feeling confident about allowing my child to bike to school knowing that the infrastructure to take them from our doorstep to their classroom is in place to guarantee a safe and efficient journey.

Scandinavian countries are doing it well but have experienced their own challenges in terms of transforming. We must learn from them. Everyone seems to think we are ‘terminally unique’ but we are not; humans are humans regardless of where you live. There is a lot we can learn from other parts of the globe.

One of my colleagues said to me the other day, our current network is also our future canvas, because we won’t be building a lot of new road infrastructure. We are influencing a transformational shift around how our transport networks are utilised to shape our future and that is incredibly meaningful.

Building your platform of support

The transformation occurring in transport provides an ideal catalyst to attract more women to the industry. I didn’t know about transport engineering until I was in the workplace, and I didn’t understand the variety of transport roles until well into my career. The more awareness and education we can bring to girls early on, the more we can embed it into their studies.

Mentoring is also critical, throughout your career. For me, it has given me perspective and patience to wait for opportunities in my career that fulfil my values. One of my mentors asked: ‘why don’t you want to be the CEO?’. I grappled with that for a long time but then I realised – I am in an area where I am influencing, transforming, and innovating and that makes me so happy.

In another program I was assigned a male mentor who I knew would challenge me because we were quite different, but it was one of the best experiences in my career. Early in our mentoring relationship, I said: ‘I have to stop wearing so many hats and saying yes to things because I just can’t do it all.’ To my surprise he disagreed. His advice was: ‘you need to say yes to more things but build a structure underneath you, a platform of support that allows you to do more.’ This was excellent advice, as I was in the middle part of my career, and it really changed my thinking. Building a ‘platform of support’ involved bringing people alongside me to work on projects, and giving them the opportunity to shine, rather than me trying to do it all myself.

My vision for the next five years is …

we are using our existing assets to achieve a transformational shift towards the future we want. 

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