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Icon Water's Ray Hezkial on contributing to the community

Note: This story was first published in Current October 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Executive Officer at Icon Water, Ray Hezkial has been working on the front line of water for quite some time. Here, Hezkial shares his aims for community engagement and leadership.

I still categorise myself as a civil engineer by trade. I worked in design for short periods of time, but it didn’t take me long to figure out I prefer being much closer to the action. I moved on from design into a range of roles, predominantly in civil construction and operational management, in both the private and public sectors over the last 20 or so years.

While I fell into the water sector almost by accident, I haven’t looked back. I am drawn to the sector as it satisfies my love of engineering.

The water industry attracts a lot of amazingly talented and generous people, which is also very inspiring. But above all that, the best thing about working in water is that I know I’m contributing to our community in a really practical and tangible way.

This is something that is really important to me; I like being able to deliver something real and make a meaningful contribution.

"We are lucky here in Canberra. The attitude of the region is very progressive when it comes to environmental issues."

Icon Water’s current business strategy has three main objectives. The first is to build a safe, innovative and inclusive workplace. The second is to deliver sustainable value for our community and shareholders. The third is to enhance the customer experience.

In summary, we’re seeking to be a genuine partner with the community, while looking after both our business and our people. This means being more visible as a utility, to demonstrate to our community the value we bring and, as an organisation, being as accountable as we can possibly be.

We are lucky here in Canberra. The attitude of the region is very progressive when it comes to environmental issues. Icon Water is very much attuned to this and we have a number of initiatives focused on environmental sustainability such as our ‘Refill Canberra’ campaign, which is being rolled out in conjunction with ACT Health.

Cafés sign up and agree to feature a ‘Refill Canberra’ sticker on their front window. The sticker tells Canberrans that, if you’re walking past and you’ve got a reusable water bottle, you are welcome to walk in and have your bottle filled up with chilled tap water for free.

Another part of the campaign involves providing drinking-water carafes to cafés. The carafes are branded Icon Water and were designed with input from local business owners so that they are practical to use in a busy café. We think it’s a great way to promote our business as well as the use of tap water.

We launched the program because we feel we have a responsibility to remind our community that tap water really is the best option and is great for our planet by reducing landfill from plastic bottles.

In recent years, as an industry I think we’ve lost some ground to plastic bottled water, largely because of convenience. So our Refill Canberra campaign is one small way of reminding people that we actually have a superior product and it can be just as convenient, without harming the environment.

As far as career advice, I’d simply say it’s a good idea to be open to new experiences and challenges, especially if they take you out of your comfort zone. If you can develop your skills and collect these learning experiences, leadership roles will come to you.

Through the course of my career, I’ve been given opportunities to do some very interesting work, which has also provided me with development and leadership opportunities.

For water professionals that are interested in attaining leadership roles in future, I think it’s important to remember that there are many different styles of leadership; there is no one formula. Leaders need to make sure they’re being true to themselves and being authentic in who they are.

I haven’t found there’s any real value in trying to emulate someone else. Sure, you can take note of what does and doesn’t work, but it’s important to be yourself and, to a very large extent, it’s about recognising the importance of your people.