Danielle Coelho: From a career in law to rail

After graduating with a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in psychology, Danielle began her career working for a law firm that serviced the construction and engineering industry.

“After working there for almost 3 years, I thought the commercial space seemed more appealing than working in law, so I took a job as a contracts advisor in a steel detailing and engineering firm,” she says.

Two years later, she appealed her decision.

“I thought I needed to give the law a proper chance, so I left my job and helped my friend establish a small law firm specialising in construction law. After only nine months I realised I really didn’t want to be a lawyer. When I told my previous employers I was keen to return, they welcomed me back and promoted me to contracts manager.”

For four years, Danielle oversaw the company’s formal agreements. Though she enjoyed her job, she felt it was time for new challenges.

“I was talking to a friend about looking for a new role and she mentioned there was a position going at her workplace, Arc Infrastructure,” she says. “I thought the rail industry sounded really interesting, so I applied.”

Danielle joined Arc Infrastructure as the Sourcing and Contracts Specialist and two years later, she has no plans to leave.

“I really enjoy the work I do. One day I am developing KPIs for a rail grinding contract and the next day I am negotiating a contract for the collection and purchase of scrap rail. There is a new challenge every day and I love it.”

Danielle heads a team of two procurement members, managing contracts and tenders for the Perth-based company.

“My team administers everything relating to the procurement contracts from due diligence to compliance management, tender development to preparing and reviewing scopes of work,” she says.

“We work with such a wide range of people from a variety of disciplines – from engineers to IT professionals, network controllers to safety specialists. I learn something new about the rail industry every day, so I’m never bored.”

“Working for Arc is amazing. They’re a great workplace and a very modern employer,” she says.

“They were already flexible with working conditions, but COVID made them even more flexible. They have developed a culture where everyone goes above and beyond to help each other out – they really do care.”

Danielle says the industry’s contribution to our sustainable future was part of the appeal of working in rail

“As I get older, I’ve become more concerned about the environment,” she says.

“Working in rail aligns with my values because it is less carbon intensive and takes cars off the road. Rail makes for sustainable living, and I take pride in working in a job that facilitates the growth of the rail industry.”

A new project Danielle spearheaded stemmed from the introduction of new modern slavery legislation in 2019. The law focuses on accountability for maintaining ethical and sustainable operations and supply chains.

“I performed an extensive review of our supply base in order to deepen our understanding of the human rights risks associated with the different types of goods and services we source, their source countries and their relevant sectors and workforce profiles,” she says.

“I led the working group, developed a framework and implemented further controls into our procurement processes. I also modified third-party risk software to customise the platform and improve our supplier risk-assessment procedures and due diligence activities.

“I am keen on continuing to explore more ways in which I can leverage technology to further enhance our procurement processes.”

For Danielle, her accidental start in rail has turned into a career.

“Other industries such as construction, mining, oil and gas get more attention than rail which is a shame, because there are so many benefits,” she says.

“The rail industry is a secure and attractive career path that people really should look into. I am so surprised by how many different opportunities there are for work… you never finish where you start.”