- Favourite school subjects
- First full-time job
- What sparked your interest in a construction career?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with Honours from the University of Wollongong
Chemistry and Geography
I was a fencing contractor in my gap year between high school and university. I worked on the Hume Highway bypass project around the regional and rural areas of Tarcutta and Holbrook.
Looking back, while growing up on a farm and liking to be outdoors, I’ve always had an interest in building things, solving problems and having tangible work – products you can feel or see. And then going into fencing during my gap year gave me insights into construction. I have to say, though, that even when I did my engineering degree, my next transition point wasn’t obvious. Graduate engineers typically go one of two ways. They can go down the design side and become a consultant and onto design engineering, or they can go to the building side. Lendlease seemed like a good workplace, and I chose the grad program there. So you start as a Graduate Site Engineer and then move on to be the Site Engineer. And then, after Site Engineer, you go to Project Engineer, which is what I am now.
"You will never be bored working in the construction industry. You will also have so many challenges and opportunities for learning." - Jessica on what the construction industry offers.
Can you tell us about your current job?
In my role, I manage the entire project lifecycle — from the concept and design phase with consultants and clients to the shop drawings, fabrication, signing up the subcontractors and then delivering it on-site. It’s a busy role.
The work is project based, and I spend several years on each project. The scope of work I am managing will change between projects or throughout the lifestyle of a project, for example I could be managing the structure, supervising the façade, civil services, or fit-out.
What does a typical day look like?
I usually spend the first couple of hours on-site, depending on the stage of the project. First, I check everyone’s where they should be, that the work is underway as per the program, and everything is complying with the safety standards. There is usually lots of questions from subcontractors and throughout the day I’ll get calls asking about this detail or that coordination issue that needs resolving. As engineers, we work closely with the Site Foreman. Then, I return to the office, do some admin, check emails, and go over the plans. From there, it’s all in and out; in and out of the office, over to the site, and in and out of meetings. Sometimes my day will get thrown out if a big event happens on-site. It depends on what happens on the day. Good coffee is a mainstay around 10 am!
I find the variety and the learning curve rewarding and interesting. I’m always learning about the next trade or the next package of work. I find there is a good balance between being out on-site and in the office. There’s always something happening that keeps me interested.
It’s around trying to balance the workload. We work long hours, and there is a lot to manage. So yeah, the most challenging part is the planning and the programming, managing all those different trades and ensuring it all runs smoothly. Very challenging!
There are many, but I tell new site engineers that attention to detail is critical. Our jobs are complex. If you’re across the detail and know what you’re talking about, you can go from there. Of course, communication skills, including getting your message across to different trades and personalities is essential too. But if you don’t have that attention to detail as a fundamental, you’ll miss the boat with all those other things. You can’t communicate what you don’t know. Or you can’t plan and schedule what you don’t know. So that’s the number one thing for me, and then all those other skills you can work on and develop.
"It’s great to go to work every day and collaborate with so many people. It’s got its challenges, which makes it so rewarding." - Jessica on the best part of her role.
I have a senior construction manager in our company who I catch up with monthly for a chat. We talk about the projects we’re involved in and our career pathways. She inspires me. Our general manager of New South Wales Lendlease Construction also inspires me. And she’s had a great career and navigated her way up through the grad program into the top job. So pretty impressive!
Wherever you score a job get involved in things outside your day job, not just your day-to-day role. So, wherever you score a job, say “Yes!” to opportunities when they come up. Also, look out for development programs and industry events. I find them quite valuable because it’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day job and forget or put off finding out what’s happening in the wider construction circles. Sure, it may be an extra effort at the time, but it often pays off with a new connection or people wanting to see what your brand is all about.
What do good construction employers do?
- Offer flexible working options, I think having a work-from-home day now and then is feasible
- Foster safe, satisfying and high-quality work
- Compensate fairly for the type of work you do
What’s next careerwise? And, in the longer term?
Senior Project Engineer is the next one. So I’m pushing for that role at the moment. But it’s pretty much the same job, with more responsibilities. There’s a few different ways you can go in the company, you can go operations-wise, or a bit more general management-wise. I want to do construction management, the highest role in the engineering team. And from there, maybe swap over to project management and strategic positions in the business.
I’ve been on this project for more than three years now. And we’re always picking up new projects. So it’s hard to know when you’re going to finish one and have the opportunity to go to the next one.
I was managing the installation of a three-story structural link bridge at the Prince of Wales Hospital Acute Services Building redevelopment, which is being delivered as part of the Randwick Campus Redevelopment. As part of this we had to lift the bridge in nine different sections, each weighing about 20 or 30 tonnes and around 25 metres long. For some of the sections, we lifted over the top of an existing hospital building. So, not surprisingly, there was a lot of coordination that went into that. As a precaution, we did a big stakeholder engagement piece. We figured out who was on each floor below our slew zone for the crane and put an evacuation plan in place. It was high stakes because this was all happening over the top of the Royal Hospital for Women delivery suite! We even knew the likely number of births on the day and where the spare rooms were. That was a pretty exciting part of a construction job dealing with a hospital for women and trying to work out where to shift all the mums giving birth while we put the bridge in. The contractor managed to get the bridge there on time, ready to lift, and all went to plan. So all good!
Alice is a Graduate Site Engineer from Sydney. She started her career in the construction industry by studying Civil Engineering and Commerce and UNSW. We asked her some questions about her pathway into the construction industry and her experiences working on site.
Bethany works as a Apprentice at the Martin Place Metro station. She started her career in the construction industry by studying wall and ceiling lining at TAFE NSW. We asked Bethany questions about her pathway into the construction industry and experiences working on site.
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