DANNIELLE James doubts the quiet student she was at Loreto College would have believed she would end up one day running a civil construction company in her hometown.
Initially a high school teacher by trade, Dannielle said being open to new possibilities had taken her on an incredible journey. It has not been until looking back, asked to tell her story at functions, that Dannielle started to realise how many twists and turns there had been to taking the leap with her husband Jason to create their own directional drilling company, Pipe Pro Drilling.
Dannielle will headline Loreto's annual International Women's Day breakfast on Friday and the best advice she can offer young women is to think big and stay strong.
There are no limits to what you can achieve, but in saying that, nothing comes easy. You need to work hard and focus.
"You have to work double-hard (as female in a male-dominated industry)," Dannielle said. It's not so much an issue in Ballarat now our company is becoming well-known, but we still get phone calls asking if I am (husband) Jason's secretary.
"It's not overt sexism, but people don't often realise there is a woman in a director's role in this industry."
The couple's first major leap was to move to Western Australia, more than a decade ago, where Jason had been offered a job as a directional driller in the mines. Dannielle started teaching before joining him in a mine in the Pilbara as a site administrator.
Her first mining camp was small with 10 women working alongside 200 men in what was was an intimidating start for Dannielle.
"It was like a different world over there," Dannielle said. "There's the physical heat, the different scenery with the desert and you're in a mining bubble, living in the camp with no phone."
In the mines was where Dannielle learned about the industry and developed a passion for occupational health and safety, a focus she said helped set their company in good stead now. Dannielle takes pride in Pipe Pro Drilling's reputation for being particular about safety.
Moving back to Ballarat in 2010, Dannielle went back into the classroom at Ballarat High School were she worked with the VCAL program, helping students find their way in trades.
Jason was back working in the drilling industry with a Ballarat-based company, soon realising the amount of work around western Victoria and how few companies were doing it.
Dannielle kept teaching initially when they took the plunge to start their own business, juggling classes with bookwork for the business. Four months later she was pregnant with their first daughter.
Starting small, they gradually built up contracts about the region installing telecommunications, water and gas pipes.
A state government roll-out to connect small towns to natural gas was the big break their business needed. Pipe Pro Drilling won the sole contract for almost 40 kilometres of pipe work in Swan Hill.
Dannielle said word of mouth had been a key factor in their business growth.
The biggest hurdle, with two young girls, was finding time together as a family.
"People assume it's all great because we go to work together as a husband and wife," Dannielle said.
We do complement each other with our different strengths - I'm more of a planner while Jason will just want to jump in and do it - and this is why our business has worked out well.
"But it's not always having the clear line between work and home. We're clear about what our roles are at work and when he's away, I know I have to pick up some of the slack. It's not easy. There's lots of compromise."
Dannielle said in taking any plunge, it was vital to surround yourself with good people because you might not realise the extent of what you were getting into, until you were in the thick of it.
Ballarat Business Women's network has also proved invaluable for Dannielle in finding female support across the region.
Dannielle's daughters go to work with her one day each week. She wants their business to be a place where they feel comfortable too.
Pipe Pro Drilling hired its first female machinery operator in September, a move they had wanted to make for awhile, but Dannielle said it was important to focus on hiring the right people to fit their company into the future.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.