What's your background?
I was born in Ingham, a small country town in north Queensland, I then spent my teenage years in Atherton. My parents migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960’s who came to North Queensland to work on sugar cane farms. Coming from a remote country town in Italy, my father only went to school until grade 5 and my mother until grade 7 so they instilled in me the importance of hard work and persistence – and to further my education. I studied Engineering at James Cook University in Townsville whilst also working three jobs to pay my tuition and support myself. When I graduated uni, I moved to Brisbane for a year to work as an engineering design consultant. I then moved to London UK with my partner (now husband) where I worked on a range of large scale civil and industrial projects. Some buildings were over 700 years old and it was great to work on projects where new builds are incorporated into culturally significant landmarks. I’ve also worked on projects offshore, where I had to get up every morning at 3:30 am to catch a ferry to work and didn’t return home until 7 pm! I did this for 4 years where I was privileged to be able to push current engineering boundaries, try new technologies and learn the importance of grit and determination. I have been in my current role for 5 years. I was looking for a new challenge and applied. I stepped out of my comfort zone and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!
What's your job about?
I work for BHP who is Australia largest mining company. I am responsible for overseeing the capital portfolio for the BMA mines. Every day is different, I love that about my role. One day I can be evaluating a capital expenditure business case that will need to go to the BHP board and the next day I may be inspecting a newly built mine truck, seeing the autonomous Train Load Out in operation or reviewing the water network! The capital portfolio is over $1B per year. I love watching newly built trucks go into operation as they look like huge tonka trucks, they can just take a 375 tonne payload and cost around $9m each! My role has evolved a lot over the last 5 years. When I started, I was at a stage in my career where I was looking for a new challenge. I had just had my first child, so working FIFO and juggling a young family whilst also trying to complete my masters, was a great life lesson in time management and understanding priorities! I then had my second child and realised that FIFO with two young children and a husband that was also working full time, was a bit too much of a strain on family life, so after 15 years working on a range of projects in very remote areas, I made the decision to take up a role that is predominately office based and it’s been a great opportunity to share my story and encourage others to take up a career in engineering/mining.
Did you always know you wanted to work in this field?
No. Growing up in a small country town, I had no idea what an engineer was or did! I was halfway through Grade 12 and needed to complete the university application form. My parents always said they wanted me to study at university but never said what to study! My grade 12 maths teacher told my I had a great maths brain and encouraged me to choose Engineering -so I did. I’ve never looked back!
What is most rewarding about your job?
I love the challenges of my work and to keep thinking outside the box. I’ve worked in engineering design, construction and mining. I’ve worked in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where I grounded barges on seabed floors to pile from. I pushed cranes to 99.9% of their limits, I’ve looked for new and better ways of working, new solutions to the same problems that we’ve always faced - from curing concrete, to building mega structures and designing everything in between. In 2019 I was incredibly proud to receive an Order of Australia Medal by the Governor General for my services to engineering. I was also the youngest engineer to achieve Engineering Executive Status with Engineers Australia, and the second youngest Engineer to become a Fellow of Engineers Australia.
What were some of the challenges you faced in getting to where you are now?
I have constantly been the only female in a team. I didn’t realise engineering was a male dominated field when I started. Although there are significant shifts and focus on a more diverse and inclusive workforce (my team is currently at 50% diversity), this is not often the case. There is social pressure to be a perfect mum and a high performing worker. Sometimes you will drop a ball and you need to be ok with that. Sometimes you will need to work weekends, travel and be away from family and be subject to high pressure timeframes and deadlines. I’ve learnt to acknowledge that I will not always get it right (10 seconds of guilt – move on) and to thrive on the adrenaline of high-pressure deadlines.
3 pieces of advice you would give women who want to work in your industry?
Have a go at every opportunity, even if you don’t think you are capable, have confidence in yourself and give it a go. Bring grit and grace to everything you do, you will be tested, get up and keep going and do it with the elegance and effortless that only you can bring! You are uniquely you – do not try to be anyone else, your experiences, knowledge and ideas are what will make you successful!