Authored by Taniya Ekanayake, April 2023
What is it like to be a civil engineer? In particular, a woman in engineering?
"Being surrounded by like-minded professionals has been the highlight, and what’s more is that the company promotes a diverse and accepting culture"
Well, there is no one clear answer, as every role is unique in its own way – and that’s what makes engineering such a dynamic and diverse career!
The Engineers Australia’s Women in Engineering Report found that only 7% of women who pursued other fields said they seriously considered studying engineering. The greatest problem in female participation in the field stems from the initial stage of consideration, and this can be attributed to several reasons, including a lack of familiarity and awareness about what engineering involves.
On that note, I’ll delve into what my journey has looked like over the last few years with the hope that this provides insight into what it can look like to be a project engineer! During my second year at university, I realised that I didn’t fully understand what it meant to ‘be an engineer’, which triggered a relentless search for any opportunity I could find in the industry. Multiple applications and cold emails later, I began work at the local council as an undergrad, and this introduced me to projects, design, and surveying. A typical day involved reviewing technical specifications, problem-solving, drawing concept designs, attending meetings with the project team, site visits and, on occasion, conducting surveys.
Exploring different options by networking and completing internships is a great way to make the most of being an undergraduate. My first role was a foot in the door for future opportunities, and by the time I had graduated, I’d had a taste of civil consulting in the urban infrastructure space and construction on the Sydney Metro Project, respectively. I particularly enjoyed my time at Sydney Metro because it involved regular site inspections of the underground tunnels, attending permit-to-tunnel meetings and presenting progress updates to the teams. I was also very fortunate to have my first mentor figure during this time, and as a trail-blazing female project engineer, she also became a role model. Building this professional relationship was an important part of my early career journey, as I had a mentor to reach out to if I had any uncertainties or needed words of advice
After graduating, I landed a role as Graduate Engineer at Lendlease Services and was placed on the Sydney Road Asset Performance Contract. I was involved in several new and exciting tasks, including procurement, evaluating tenders, developing the intranet site, user testing for new software and creating visual dashboards for KPI reporting. The role soon progressed to my current position as a project engineer, whereby I work on many complex and unique projects. In my current team, I’m involved in culvert and bridge rehabilitation works spread across the Harbour Zone region. What is more exciting is that our team mainly comprises of female engineers! Being surrounded by like-minded professionals has been the highlight, and what’s more is that the company promotes a diverse and accepting culture, and the teams are a testament to this.
Each and every role throughout my journey has been exciting and challenging. It’s taken me through tunnels over 20 metres below ground to heritage bridges in beautiful national parks. And as cliché, as it sounds, no day is the same, making it so rewarding.
"And as cliché, as it sounds, no day is the same, making it so rewarding."
 ‘Women in Engineering’ Engineers Australia (Web page, 1st June 2022) < https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/women-in-engineering-report-june-2022.pdf >.
Civil Engineer, ConnectSydney