Water polo Olympian and engineering professional Jane Waldburger on mentorship and the art of multi-tasking

Last updated on September 2, 2021
When someone believes in us, anything feels possible. We are a product of our own determination, skill and dedication – but success is not a solo pursuit. Join Allianz in celebrating the Olympic and Paralympic Movements through the lens of four remarkable Australian Olympians and Paralympians, as they share their success stories and celebrate the people who have helped them #SparkConfidence every step of the way.
Jane Waldburger in the office

If there’s one word that could describe Jane Waldburger’s journey to success, “multi-tasking” would be particularly accurate. However, passion, dedication and collaboration, would also just as aptly explain her story as an elite athlete and engineer.

Jane is no stranger to success – and the determination, focus and hard work that it takes to get there. She balanced her engineering career with elite water polo for seven years, which culminated in a bronze medal win at the Olympic Games London 2012. During that time, she was also able to build her career at Aurecon, where she works in a senior leadership role as a Principal and Client Leader for Transport, overseeing major infrastructure projects.

Competing and training for water polo at an elite level was also a career-defining role for Jane. “Throughout my sporting career people took a real interest in me from an engineering perspective, and saw the value that athletes can bring outside of the field of sport,” she reflects.

She attributes encouragement from her employer, Aurecon, to a large part of her journey to success, which allowed her to support herself while training rigorously for the Olympic Games. It also helped her to have confidence that there would be a solid career upon which to build for life after water polo.

Being able to set the foundations for a career in engineering in parallel with sport was invaluable. “I started work in a really positive, flexible, supportive environment,” says Jane. “And that support allowed me to make sure my career didn't take a backseat, while I had my focus on water polo.”

Competing at an elite level means committing to continual improvement of performance, and the same can be said of life outside of the pool for Jane. “Mentorship has been a significant part of my career,” she says, both as a mentor and mentee. “I believe that you should seek mentors who are not in your immediate sphere. Expanding your network is such an invaluable thing. Someone shared an anecdote with me once; “If you can't get the answer to your question in two phone calls, your network isn't strong enough.”

But for Jane, mentorship plays an even greater role in keeping the trajectory of a career moving upward. “Mentors are one thing, but then as soon as your performance, behaviours and potential are known, your mentors are people who can also become your advocates, and that can help your career progress.”

Part of the journey to success for any professional is also having the courage to ask for advice from others. Jane learned this lesson quickly through her sporting career. “Being an athlete taught me not to fear failure and taught me not to fear seeking help,” she says. “One of my strengths in my profession is unashamedly asking for help or further guidance”.

Her no-nonsense approach to feedback also stems from her water polo competitions. Between whistles, she recalls, there was a very short time frame the team had to critically analyse their performance and come up with solutions before jumping back into the pool.

“We had a matter of seconds to give the feedback in a manner that can be received and understood,” but she reflects that this was not an easy process, and took years of group psychology to understand how to get the best out of every teammate, physically and through communication.

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