Taylor Burrell Barnett

Top 5 Tips from WA Young Planner of the Year

28 Jan 2022

This week we sat down with Bec Didcoe, the latest recipient of the PIA WA Young Planner of the Year award to ask her about her top tips for young planners entering the industry.

The annual WA Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Awards for Excellence recognises the best projects, teams and individuals in the WA planning industry. At the recent awards held in December, TBB’s own Bec Didcoe took home the 2021 Young Planner of the Year. She was acknowledged as an emerging leader in planning in WA and described as being beyond her years as a professional planner.

Bec was recognised as excelling at technical and project leadership skills in government and consultancy as well as being a compassionate mentor and a strong role model. Always looking for professional development opportunities, in 2022 Bec has taken up the role of Convenor of PIA WA’s Young Planners committee with some ambitious goals for the year, She is looking forward to working with the other Convenor’s Australia wide to advocate for and create opportunities for young planners Australia wide.

In just a few years Bec has shown that with determination and positivity you can achieve some amazing things in the planning world. So, we sat down with Bec and asked her for her advice for the next generation of young planners - resulting in these useful Top 5 Tips for Young Planners from PIA WA Young Planner of the Year.

Tip 1 - Become an active member of industry bodies and start to build your network.

The opportunities provided by joining PIA; the Local Government Planners Association (LGPA); Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) and Property Council of Australia  are endless. Despite what sometimes younger people can think, while networking is daunting, almost every person I’ve met in planning and broader industry groups have been nothing but helpful and accommodating of young people.

Not only are there social events where you can meet people and have a chat, but there are usually many formal mentoring opportunities and there can even be a chance for informal mentoring. WA might be big by size but there are usually 2 degrees of separation at best and many of the people you meet will either be able to give you great advice, act as a mentor, send you through jobs they see or hear of, and they will generally be people you spend a lot of your career working with. Don’t expect anything from people but a strong network can’t be underestimated.

Tip 2 - Contribute beyond what you do at your desk

Don’t get me wrong, working hard at uni and work is important but related to item 1, finding ways to contribute to the profession are also important. I, along with a number of other planners I work with, go back to UWA where we studied to speak to geography and planning students. Joining the PIA Young Planners committee allows me a voice in the industry to advocate for young planners and advocate on things that matter to me (for example having the opportunity to speak on the relationship between the built environment and mental wellbeing with the YPs at the 2021 PIA WA State Conference). It isn’t just about committees, there are so many ways to give back and it always helps build a better profession for everyone which in turn should help build a better WA.

This also goes for skill building – it doesn’t all need to be technical skills (although I swear a couple of job offers I got back in the day must have been by rattling off that 5.3.9 of the R-Codes Volume 1 was about Stormwater Management to try and prove I knew the R-Codes). Soft and hard skills that contribute to your job are great but so are skills (and hobbies, and interests) that perhaps make you a more well-rounded person. Contributing to the community you are a part of in a work sense, a sporting club, a local neighbour greening group- whatever it is! - is important to build a whole range of skills that will be important in your career.

Tip 3 - Take opportunities outside your comfort zone

You don’t grow in your comfort zone. As young planners we definitely don’t know it all and taking opportunities outside your comfort zone will help you learn and grow. Moving from State Government to TBB was taking what felt like a huge risk but I know now it was absolutely the right decision for me and in the last 18 months I’ve learnt so much and been given so many opportunities that might have scared me at the start but have made me a much better planner.

It is never too early, or too late, to take a chance and there is no set pathway for success but all the opportunities big or small along the way make a difference – so take them!

Tip 4 - Discover your colleagues’ favourite chocolate – joking (only a little) – discover your workplace identity

Here’s a hint – your workplace identity is usually pretty much exactly who you are already – just maybe a little more polished. Chances are, if someone has worked with me, they’ve seen me cry, they’ve heard me swear or they’ve eaten something I’ve baked or chocolate from my very well stocked Mary Poppins style desk drawer.

Why is all that information important? Because people get along better with genuine people. People who have worked with me know some or all of that information because Bec the person and Bec the planner are – not so shockingly – the same person.

There isn’t some cookie cutter person you have to be to be successful. Be yourself with a workplace vibe (although I do promise that having your boss’s favourite chocolate on hand if you know they are having a bad day can be really helpful).

Tip 5 - Find people who will champion you – but remember to always be your own biggest champion

Looping back to almost end on the same point as number 1, but find people who will amplify your name in a room. People who will want to give you an opportunity where they can. I am so lucky in my career so far to have had many people who have been champions of me – including going out of their way to do so. I’ve found the WA planning industry has so many of these people (luckily for me, so does TBB) and they will mention my name in rooms I’m not in to give my chances to learn and grow.

BUT, as hard as it sounds, you need to be your own biggest champion, cheerleader, advocate! Push yourself to set goals that are lofty and you may admittedly not achieve because in pursuit of those lofty goals (like setting what felt like a very unrealistic goal to win WA Young Planner of the Year one day) you might just get there.

Finally, I'm always eager to help young planners, so please feel free to reach out (see details here) or connect on my LinkedIn.


 As the WA Young Planner of the Year Bec is now a national finalist for PIA National Awards for Planning Excellence - we will be keeping everything crossed for May - all the best Bec!

TBB team supporting Bec at the 2021 PIA Awards for Planning Excellence

Bec Didcoe_presenting at PIA Conference 2021

Bec Didcoe presenting at PIA Conference 2021