When Lani Sawka travelled past Ahrens’ Kingsford office in SA on her trips to the Mid North, little did she realise the distinct orange ‘A’ logo that caught her eye would become her work centrepiece.
Fast forward to today and the thriving Graphic Designer is on a mission to grow Ahrens’ branding across all its divisions, ensuring the company continues to stand out in the field.
“I knew about Ahrens but I didn’t know what they fully did,” she admitted.
Lani also confessed, like others before her, she was unsure how to pronounce Ahrens (Ah-nz), so when a job advert appeared in 2021 for a Junior Graphic Designer she made it her goal to find out.
Two years on and she can list off all Ahrens divisions and their capabilities and has great knowledge about rural infrastructure, including sheds and silos.
Lani’s journey with the fifth-generation company arose from the skills she achieved during her three-year Communication Design degree and a month’s brand and packaging internship in Sydney.
“After university I did a month’s work experience in a marketing agency in Kent Town and was told about this great design agency in Sydney that offered a month’s internship,” Lani explained.
“I applied and the next day I was accepted, and they didn’t even interview me.”
While Lani is of the belief she was selected for being the first interstate person to apply, there’s no doubt it was her unique set of skills, personal qualities and the successful completion of her studies which won them over.
With just a week’s notice to temporarily move out of home for the first time and rent an apartment, followed by celebrating her 21st birthday in a new environment, Lani said it was the best decision.
“I remember rocking up to this towering skyscraper as a nervous Adelaide girl … to this day I still think, if I can live in Sydney on my own and work in a new team for a month then I can do anything,” she said.
With her fate firmly sealed, Lani’s introduction to Ahrens was seamless.
“One of the first tasks I worked on were some print advertisements,” she said.
“Now I project manage all my own tasks, autonomously.”
In 2022 Lani progressed to the position of Graphic Designer and transitioned into design work for tenders, brochures and quotes, which had led her to being trusted with the company brands and trusted by Ahrens people.
“I really enjoy being given a brief and taking my own path. For example, Ahrens division Wheatbelt Steel sheds, I focus on how I can make it look modern and clean, more dynamic and appealing to the customer,” she said.
“I also like pushing the boundaries of a design brief and leaving a part of me with the design – that’s rewarding.”
While she also admits to having doubted her ability from time to time, she says it’s a case of taking a step back and reassessing her work.
“Sometimes being young, you need to trust yourself more and that’s something I have really been focussing on,” she said.
Her new mindset also stems from her selection in this year’s Ahrens Academy – a prestigious in-house learning and development residential program, supporting the company in identifying future leaders.
While the academy remains a highlight of her career, so too does her recent trip to WA, visiting Ahrens Divisions, Wheatbelt Steel, Pioneer Water Tanks, plus Ahrens Mining & Industrial Services division in the Pilbara region.
“It’s not an opportunity, ever, I would have been given if I hadn’t worked for Ahrens, unless I was working in the mining industry,” she said.
Her immersion in the outback region, she says, has given her a greater understanding of Ahrens people, their culture and work pursuits.
“I can now relate that all back to our marketing communications and what they care about versus what they don’t. I also know their tendering approach is quite similar to a Design & Construct.
“This now helps me to portray our Mining brand in greater detail, especially with the look and feel to better support them,” she added.
Her relatively short time with Ahrens has led her to drive new designs which she refers to as “quite bold” while keeping in theme with the divisions.
“I love thinking differently and bringing a modern twist to everything because I want Ahrens to continue to stand out.”
Yet, as mentioned by many new starters, it’s Ahrens’ people who impact Lani.
“Everyone at Ahrens is so passionate and strong willed. They have all these amazing qualities and leadership skills,” she said.
“I have witnessed firsthand that our people are go-getters and get the job done; it inspires me so I don’t beat around the bush.”
Keen to become a trendsetter for Ahrens brands, Lani has thoughts of diversifying her skills and potentially stepping into a brand centric role.
“I want to be that marketing person that people come to. If anyone has a question about the brand I can be the one to answer what the tone and voice of each division is, while still having control of the design,” she said.