Behind the scenes of our public assets

Michelle Clarke, Project Manager

Michelle Clarke, RPS Project Manager, Project management, Perth, Western Australia

As a project manager on constructions sites, Michelle has a unique vantage point to witness and contribute to the delivery of the places, spaces and services that add value to communities.

QHow would you describe the role of a project manager to someone who isn’t in the industry?

Basically, our role is to lead a project team – which includes a mix of designers, builders, contractors, etc - and ensure all parties are completing their jobs, on time so a project runs smoothly. I work with teams to develop, progress and deliver projects and oversee budgets, timelines, quality, and safety.  

Project management is an incredibly interesting and diverse discipline – we work in offices and on site and are exposed to such a wide variety of industries and professions. 

Quick Q&A

What projects are you working on now?

My main client is Curtin University in Perth. I have about 10 different projects underway covering everything from refurbishment to security upgrades. Also, the restoration of Fremantle’s historic Wyn Carr House.  

Did you always want to be a project manager?

I wanted to be an architect initially. I started in the construction industry as a building designer and draftsperson with the intention to move into architecture. But I didn't really enjoy it, so I changed to project management - thankfully. Although I do think my design background is helpful on construction projects.  

QWhat’s the best part about being a project manager?

Besides the satisfaction of developing a project from an idea on paper through to a real, tangible facility in the community, I really love going behind the scenes to see the inner workings of our buildings and institutions. I liken it to stepping behind the curtain in a theatre to see how things are run backstage - the lights, the sets, the crew and the processes. A building is very similar.  

Your experience entering a hospital for instance, is very different to that of the people who work there. The design has been curated to reflect the operational aspects of the hospital and to allow staff to seamlessly undertake tasks that the public will most likely never be aware of - all while providing a comfortable hospital experience for patients. 

Getting access to and seeing the behind-the-scenes elements of how our community operates whether it be a hospital, an airport, a mine site, a recreation centre or a Defence base is a privilege - and an interesting one at that. 

QHow long can you be working on a project?

Probably the longest project I have worked on was a mixed-use facility in Leederville, Western Australia. I was involved in the project right from its initial conception all the way through design, construction and completion, with the entire process taking around four years.  

The facility included retail, office and residential spaces with its primary function to provide accommodation and support for homeless youth. Residents are allocated a studio apartment and undertake a program within the facility to gain basic life skills - such as money management and cooking. They also have access to social support services and therapy, and are offered education and employment opportunities. The program takes a couple of years to complete, and graduates have an 80 per cent success rate of maintaining employment and long-term private accommodation.  

It was a long job but a satisfying one – knowing we were working on a facility that would go on to positively impact so many people - and by extension our community - for years to come.

QWhat advice would you give to someone wanting to become a project manager?

You need to enjoy dealing with a wide variety of people, be incredibly organised, flexible, articulate, be able to prioritise tasks and think on the fly.  

It’s a job with a lot of variety, both the types of projects and where you work, which is a real mix between the office and on site. If you are interested in project management in the construction industry, you’ll need a love of structures and buildings and a curiosity about how things are put together and why.

I really love going behind the scenes to see the inner workings of our buildings and institutions. I liken it to stepping behind the curtain in a theatre to see how things are run backstage - the lights, the sets, the crew and the processes. A building is very similar.

Michelle Clarke

Project Manager

QYou’ve been a project manager in the construction industry for a while, how has it changed?

It has evolved in terms of construction methods, products, capabilities and even software programs to make it easier to track and monitor a project. But I’d say the core of job is the same.  

It’s still about day-to-day people skills. It's about building relationships with clients, contractors, design teams and other project managers. It’s about creating a network to work together to deliver something amazing.

QAre there certain projects that you’ve worked on that stand out? 

While I’ve worked on many interesting projects over the years, the most memorable are the ones that have a positive impact on the community – like new facilities in remote communities, and recreation centres and projects that help more vulnerable community members, such as the restoration of Wyn Carr House, which I am currently working on. 

QYou were recognised for your social responsibility work by the National Association of Women in Construction last year. What does it mean to you to contribute to social projects like Wyn Carr House?

I think organisations and business have a huge role to play in addressing social issues. RPS is currently providing pro bono project management services for the restoration and extension of Wyn Carr House in Fremantle.  

When it’s finished, the facility will provide accommodation and support for women over 55 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I’m grateful for the opportunity to use my skills to contribute to a project that will empower vulnerable women and help them shift focus from survival to planning for a secure future.  

The flashy high-profile projects are exciting – and I know it sounds super cheesy - but contributing to the creation of a facility that helps people to turn their lives around, makes me happy.

More ideas and insights from our local team

Discover more from our team or get in touch with Michelle for support with your next project. 


Desert meets the sea - an aerial view of ocean and desert sand dune beach, Broome Western Australia

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