From Temporary Project Assistant to Business Operations Manager: Eva Skartados tells her story 

Driven, organised, committed, practical, determined, adaptable. These are all words that Eva Skartados’ colleagues use to describe her. And while they may be true, they don’t provide any insight into the unconventional path she has taken to find herself in the role of Business Operations Manager at DM Roads in South Australia.

From the metropolitan depot at Walkley Heights in Adelaide’s north, Eva reflects on the variety of experiences she has had — including managing teams through bushfires, floods and most recently, a global pandemic — since she joined Downer more than a decade ago.

“There has certainly been many opportunities and challenges that have pushed me out of my comfort zone but also progressed my learning and career development,” Eva says. 

Back in 2007, when she accepted a six-week temporary project assistant role with Downer in Perth, Eva certainly couldn’t have foreseen what the next decade would bring for her, husband Graeme and their cats Albert, Dolly and Zelda.

Originally from Darwin, Eva spent four years with Downer in Perth before accepting a role with DM Roads based in Geraldton —  just over 400 kilometres north of the Western Australian capital —  in 2011.

Looking back, Eva says it was during her time in Geraldton that she realised the career direction she wanted to go in. 

“My time in Geraldton was where I probably had the most significant growth professionally,” she says.

“I took on the challenge of a HR role without much experience or any qualifications in that space, so I learnt on the job over the six years I was there.

“Given it was a small team, I was able to branch out into other areas of the business and it was during the last couple of years of the contract that I decided I wanted to move into an operational role.”

That role was the Maintenance Services and Delivery Manager on the Transport for NSW Sydney Maintenance Contract.

 “It was quite daunting going from a regional town in Geraldton of 40,000 people to Western Sydney. It was a big change,” Eva says.

Taking on a completely new role, in a new city, might be enough to overwhelm some people but when the opportunity arose to apply for a Maintenance Manager position during her first year in Sydney, Eva decided to put up her hand.

As a HR and administration specialist, and a female in a male dominated field, Eva seemed an unlikely contender for the role.

"The business took a risk by appointing me because I wasn't your usual candidate,” Eva says.

“Being responsible for a multi-million dollar maintenance budget, if I wasn’t able to bring the team together, earn their respect and get the job done then it would have put the future of the team at risk and had a negative impact on our ability to deliver work as well as our relationship with the client."

The greatest challenge for Eva and the team was delivering services during the major bushfire and flood events that devastated New South Wales in late 2019 and early 2020.

“We were in fight mode for basically four months straight and it was probably during this time that people saw what I was capable of because it was either sink or swim,” Eva says.

“It took continuous planning, communication and many welfare checks to make sure our people could keep going. There was a huge volume of resources on the ground during this time and I had to make sure I had my finger on the pulse and that everyone knew their roles and responsibilities. I couldn’t have done it without the people around me; it truly was a team effort.”

In October 2020, Eva embarked on a new journey, joining the team in South Australia as they commenced two major road maintenance contracts with the state government.

Relocating, Eva says, doesn’t get any easier the third time around. 

“You would think I have mastered the art of packing and unpacking but absolutely not.”

Settling into her role in Adelaide, which includes overseeing the new 24/7 national Operations Support Centre and providing business support across both major SA contracts, Eva says she’s in it for the long haul.

“I'm looking forward to finally being able to put down roots somewhere for more than a couple years, making new friends and building a life here.”