International Women in Engineering Day 2020

Celebrating NDY’s Female Engineers

INWED is an international awareness campaign brought to us by the Women’s Engineering Society in partnership with the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

NDY’s celebration of INWED helps to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to women in our exciting industry.  This year’s theme is Shape The World, therefore we have chosen to showcase the successful careers and reflections from five of our wonderfully talented women from across NDY who are helping to shape the world in their roles with NDY.  They were asked to respond to a series of questions as they reflect on their careers, their journey into the engineering industry, and their successes and lessons along the way.

Hayley leads the NZ division of NDY’s Global Sustainability Group, a team of highly skilled and diverse consultants driving sustainability solutions across the built environment. Highly passionate and sought after for her expertise in Green Star and the WELL Building Standard, Hayley’s knowledge covers sustainable building design, analysis of building environmental quality, sustainability rating tools and occupant health and wellbeing. Hayley is motivated and strong in sharing knowledge, listening and delivering exceptional results for her clients.

What’s your earliest memory in your journey towards a STEM career, and what inspired you to become an engineer?

I’m actually not an engineer, but a building scientist by qualification. Back in high school I was tossing up between graphic design, architecture and engineering. I was lucky enough to have a close family friend who is an engineer and invited me into the office he worked at to see what ‘real life’ engineering was like. I spent the day with a couple of the team members who had studied building science and were working on building physics modelling – predictive energy use, computational fluid dynamics etc. I walked out fascinated and that was the beginning for me!

What does career success look like to you, and what achievements or projects are you most proud of to date?

Career success to me is seeing people thriving in the buildings I’ve worked on. A career defining project for me was working on the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and related sustainability rating tool which took the benchmarking and design of sustainable healthcare facilities to a new level. I was also very privileged late last year to receive a WELL leadership award recognising my contribution to advancing the health and wellbeing buildings movement across Australia and New Zealand.

How would you describe your role?

The classic sustainability consulting job focuses on reducing environmental impact: carbon emissions, potable water consumption, toxic materials and waste. But as sustainability thinking has matured from purely environmental to include social and governance layers of sustainability so has the role of a sustainability consultant.  My role includes design, operations and policy advice across a whole range of issues and focuses on environmental sustainability, health and wellbeing. Working as a team lead means I wear multiple other hats too as a project manager, work winner, client manager, team manager and mentor.

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

A typical day doesn’t exist in the world of sustainability or as a discipline lead! I’m currently working on a range of projects across New Zealand and Australia including a couple of new office/hotel developments, a new national archives facility, and an existing building undergoing WELL Building certification.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation of engineers?

The best pieces of advice I’ve been given over the course of my career have always related to seizing opportunities and making things happen for yourself. Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they’re not. Be that motivated person and find something to believe in and be passionate about, bigger than the job at hand.

The 2020 INWED theme is Shape the World. How would you describe the role engineering plays in how we #shapetheworld, and how do you contribute?

Buildings affect our health, our work, our leisure, our thoughts and emotions, our sense of place and belonging. If buildings work well, they enhance our lives, our communities and our culture. Sustainability consulting/engineering directly contributes to shaping the built environment through ensuring we design resilient, sustainable, inclusive and healthy places.

Leigh is the Sustainability Manager for NDY Perth and provides technical leadership to facilitate team collaboration on her projects to deliver positive environmental and social outcomes. Leigh has experience successfully implementing climate change impact risk assessments, adaption and designed resilience programs on a range of projects across Australia to assist projects in the adaptation and resilience of their assets and business to the effects of projected climate change. She has identified opportunities to lead proactive change within the construction industry to address the issues posed by a changing climate to deliver social benefit to the wider community with a long-term focus. Leigh has designed and is responsible for the delivery of Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience workshops, strategies and programs, the priority of which is engaging stakeholders to assist in identifying and describing the risks posed by climate change and rating the consequences and likelihoods of each scenario.

What does career success look like to you, and what achievements or projects are you most proud of to date?

Career success to me is being recognised by peers and appreciated for my uniqueness and what I bring to the table versus what I may be lacking technically. Being in an environment where you are constantly challenged and learning, surrounded by smart people is what I believe to be an environment where you can thrive, given the right support. My proudest achievements to date are:

  • Winning the NAWIC WA Encycle Consulting Triple Bottom Line Sustainability Award in 2013
  • Winning a university prize sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Human Resource Economics (Murdoch University) in 2016
  • Winning Norman Disney & Young’s Excellence Award for Best Project under $30 Million in 2012
  • Coming back from maternity leave and finding my place again, TWICE!!

I am proud of all the projects that I have been involved in, but I have a particular soft spot for the Katitjin Centre which NDY delivered all services for. This was a new state-of-the-art learning facility for the Australian Institute of Management, which we delivered the first 6 Star Green Star Education v1 Design and As Built certification in WA for, and (at the time) was one of the highest scoring Green Star projects in Australia. Most importantly, it is still a beautiful, functional space that contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helped to pave the way for medium sized solar PV installation in WA.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

I grew up in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe, which is where I developed my passion for the environment and nature. We spent a lot of time as a family on safari and in the African bush, spotting wildlife and breathing fresh air. I left home as a young adult to go travelling in Europe and work in London. I spent 5 years in London working for a large media organisation and travelling the world. It was a trip to Perth, Australia in 2006 that changed my life and set me on a course to move here permanently. I started working at NDY mid-2007, six months into a working holiday visa and was lucky enough to be in WA through the ‘boom’ and experience the jubilation of those times, which lead to me being sponsored to stay in Australia more permanently… and the rest is history! I have had many careers throughout my life, travel agent, executive assistant, technical projects administrator, commercial diving instructor, but nothing as rewarding and challenging as being a Sustainability Consultant at NDY. I was given a huge opportunity to move from the administration group in the Perth office to assist the ESD team with Green Star submissions and it worked out for both sides. This led to me returning to university to undertake a Bachelor of Sustainability, whilst working full time and graduating with a couple of awards under my belt, and becoming a new mum. Anything is possible!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation of engineers?

You can’t do it all and no one expects you to. My words of ‘wisdom’ to the next generation of engineers and consultants would be that if you want a successful career it really is based on building relationships, having career champions and engaging with good mentors:

  • Building relationships and networks is key to a successful career. Knowing that you have your colleague or project stakeholder’s back and they have yours is empowering and these meaningful connections often lead to repeat work and unsolicited good PR. If you say you are going to do something, deliver or let people know in advance. Develop trust
  • Career champions have been pivotal to my advancement in NDY. As a woman it can sometimes be difficult to express how good you are at your job or believe in your own self-worth, so having champions has helped me gain confidence and stand out when I may not have wanted to put myself out there
  • A good mentor is also essential in advancing your career, one that can be brutally honest and get you out of your comfort zone.

Everyone says it but it is true, a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle and the ability to balance work and home commitments is important. Find what works to relieve stress, whether it be yoga or exercise or an artistic outlet and commit that time to yourself. Investing in your mental health is really the best investment you will ever make.

How can the engineering profession be more inclusive, and how can it continue to engage more female engineers?

I’ve recently come back from maternity leave (last year) so my suggestions are around preparing and engaging women that are leaving to go on maternity leave, and staying connected throughout what is often up to a year absence. Something that I have experienced is the lack of breastfeeding and family friendly spaces in offices more broadly. This limits the opportunity for new mums to come into the office regularly to stay connected. Facilities such as ‘drop in day-care’ for parents that are called to important meetings, or have urgent deadlines and can’t find child care at short notice for children is a game changer. Knowing that you don’t have to put your career on pause until your kids are older would be a significant step to furthering the career advancement of women in the industry who want to have a family.

The 2020 INWED theme is Shape the World. How would you describe the role engineering plays in how we #shapetheworld, and how do you contribute?

Engineering plays a pivotal role in helping to #shapetheworld because engineers come up with solutions to life’s difficult problems. I think engineering has a particularly significant role to play in the sustainable development of our cities and the future of our planet. In Australia, the buildings we work in, design, build and maintain, account for  25% of our carbon footprint. We have enormous potential to leave positive legacies by designing efficient, carbon neutral spaces that don’t just tread lightly on our environments but in fact are positive, regenerative contributors.

As part of NDY’s Digital group Silvia brings an in-depth knowledge of control system design and integrated network design using industry standard protocols, as well as optimization and energy efficiency. She tries to push the boundaries with helping NDY clients become data driven in how they plan, design, implement, and operate their facilities. Prior to joining NDY, Silvia worked in Switzerland as a system integrator for a control unit company and as a project manager for a BMS service company. She has a technical and methodical attitude, with a strong interested in new technology and green energy.

What do you love about science?

Ever since I read the book ‘Siddharta’ by Herman Hesse, I started to see myself as a seeker. Not the calm and peaceful type, but the restless type. I find my peace through science, as I feel that the beauty of science is that it provides you with the tools to help understand the secrets of our universe, and like me, science is restless, it evolves everyday with new discoveries but it is also built by rules. It is like an infinite puzzle where the shape of the piece is defined but the picture changes continuously the more new pieces that we insert.

Tell me a little bit about your background

My family has a long history as building constructors, so I have always been surrounded by an engineering and science environment. When I was little my mum was frequently taking me on construction sites and while I was there, I would try to understand how the different parts of building were working together. At first, I overestimated myself and I started a very tough engineering course at university.  After I finished, I was exhausted and without any energy but much stronger and more aware of my capabilities. I Immediately started to work within the building automation industry. When I had my 30th birthday I felt that something was missing in my life, so I decided to make a big change and move to Australia, without knowing anyone here. The first months were very tough, but I do not regret a thing. In the end, a cousin of one of my father’s colleagues shared my CV with NDY and here I am.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation of engineers?

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now. Never be afraid to exit your comfort zone, never feel that you are too old or too young to do the next step, there is an entire world that is waiting to be discovered. One thing that I learned coming here, is how many ways you can design the same thing. So, stop yourself from using the sentence: We’ve Always Done It This Way.

How can the engineering profession be more inclusive, and how can it continue to engage more female engineers?

I’m going to tell you a little story. Last year I had this conversation with one of my friends. She was complaining about the fact that for Christmas, her husband’s company gave her daughter a ‘male’ toy as a present. So, I asked her: “what is a male toy?” And then she shows me: a car. Now if my friend, who is a doctor by the way, thinks that a car is a male present, we have a problem as a society. Gender stereotypes affect behaviour, study choices, ambitions, and attitudes about relationships. It should not be acceptable that 90% of the time I am the only woman in a meeting. Achieving gender equality will not happen overnight, therefore we need measurable action. This is why I think that quotas are really important in order to help rectify women’s under-representation in prominent positions and make it entirely normal for women to take up managerial roles in the political, economic and academic systems.

The 2020 INWED theme is Shape the World. How would you describe the role engineering plays in how we #shapetheworld, and how do you contribute?

Engineers can really make a huge difference on what the world will look like tomorrow, because good outcomes always start with good designs. My job is to provide an innovative environment where data related to different systems of a building can be shared and used for smart outcomes and useful insight. We can achieve big increases in building efficiency with just a little shrewdness.

Magdalini is the Sustainability Section Manager at Norman Disney & Young’s London office. Magdalini is a BREEAM Accredited Professional (AP), an experienced BREEAM Assessor and WELL AP. Magdalini has also experience in conducting environmental design, LEED assessments, energy modelling, building envelope optimisation, building regulations Part L compliance, daylight design, comfort analysis and post occupancy evaluation studies. She has experience in establishing holistic Sustainability Strategies and Sustainability Management Plans with the aim to establish and continuously monitor holistic sustainability targets including energy and CO2, whole building lifecycle assessments, water, sustainable transportation, sustainable and healthy materials, construction and operational waste management, pollution impacts reduction, ecological enhancement and community engagement.

What does career success look like to you, and what achievements or projects are you most proud of to date?

I am very goal oriented and have enjoyed the challenges of building a strong team and adapting to the current industry environment, with the view to being a high-impact team with strong industry partnerships. My rich academic and professional experience has helped me prepare for this goal, by introducing me to broad principles of sustainability and giving me a good alternative perspective that I can draw on when working for a building services firm. In general, I am proud of having managed to “cultivate” my overarching understanding of the numerous dimensions of environmental sustainability, both in the sustainability sector and across NDY. Eventually this unique appreciation of sustainable design and our bespoke overarching approach to projects has lead our local sustainability team (which I head) to win the Sustainability Champion Award in the BREEAM 2020 awards. I am extremely proud of my team and massively grateful for their unequivocal support!

What do you love about science?

Homo sapiens has creative curiosity, is ambitious and stretches himself to develop further. Science is an essential tool in this process. It has helped us tackle existential threats and by leveraging on that we shape our future. In a sense it’s the steam engine of progress, as it doesn’t only answer questions, but it also pushes our cognitive boundaries further out by making us ask even more. I find this truly fascinating. Advances are made by answering questions, discoveries by asking them. This is what keeps our world continuously developing. Since I was little my parents kept gently encouraging me to keep going by reminding me: “In a constantly moving world, if you take a moment to stand still you will be left behind! Don’t be afraid of failure, just keep going”. I can’t tell you how grateful for this advice I am now! As a naturally inquisitive individual I greatly enjoy working in teams and motivating others to develop their vision further while exploring novel areas to shed light upon. The work I do benefits the environment and the sustainability solutions that my research findings provide have given me long-term job satisfaction.

Tell me a little bit about your background

My career in engineering started with my studies in architectural engineering in the National Technical University of Athens in Greece. I moved to the UK when I chose to specialise in environmental design and engineering, through my master’s degree from University College London and doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge. During my time in academia, I have worked as a Research Associate in Carbon Counting with the Low Carbon Building Group (LCBG) of Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, and have undertaken a short-term lecturer appointment with the London South Bank University. Since then I have been working as sustainability engineer, leading teams and projects in three multi-disciplinary building services organisations including Norman Disney & Young. I was always keen to deepen my knowledge of environmental design and develop a skill set that would allow me to positively influence designs, make a meaningful contribution to the decision making of my clients and coordinate low environmental impact proposals for various disciplines and key stakeholders.

How would you describe your role?

As a team leader within Norman Disney & Young I have managed to grow and lead a multi-talented sustainability team. I do enjoy educating and supervising young(er) engineers and collaborating with various multi-disciplinary teams in integrating environmental sustainability in buildings throughout design, construction and operation. I am responsible for managing and participating in the production of assessments and reports. I also lead the development of NDY’s London sustainability business unit and work with new and existing clients, with a principal focus on work generation and client relationships. The technical aspects of my role include delivering projects that are timely, providing leadership, technical support and managing resources to ensure the delivery of projects within the agreed time scale and budget. I have been working on both UK and international projects and have spent the majority of my time within internal and external multi-disciplinary design teams at all design and construction stages. I have also been given the opportunity to develop my skills in wider areas by collaborating closely with our Tetra Tech partners in the USA and other Norman Disney & Young offices in Australia and Canada. Making a real contribution that many times has lead to a significant positive influence of decision makers, designs and implementation strategies is what excites me, whilst I love being the connection link between various teams in multi-disciplinary projects.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation of engineers?

I have been lucky and been mentored and trained by truly experienced leaders who have affected my leadership style. I believe leadership is all about attitude when one is faced with uncertainty and has to make tough decisions. What I would pass on to the next generation of engineers are the three quotes that describe my stance as a leader:

  • Be a true leader: “A boss knows everything. A leader admits mistakes. A boss criticises. A leader gives advice. A boss creates fear. A leader confidence. A boss deepens on hearsay. A leader investigates.”
  • Never let anyone say you have failed: “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
  • Always keep going: “It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome.”

The 2020 INWED theme is Shape the World. How would you describe the role engineering plays in how we #shapetheworld, and how do you contribute?

From the foundation of science and the industrial revolution to medicine and the conquer of space, progress has been achieved thanks to tools developed by engineers. Engineering is also instrumental in designing modern cities and transforming business. Close to our hearts, sustainability engineers make a unique contribution to how engineering can shape the world. Acting not only as technical experts in the field of sustainability, but also as communicators and integrators across various disciplines, can make a real difference to a project outcome. I think that a focus on interdisciplinary integration to decision making and innovation, coupled with whole life cycle assessments of both existing and new solutions, are the drivers of creating more practical, sustainable and economic designs and final products. In addition, a combined skillset of advising on mitigating external influences and practicing internal influences to achieve the concept of health and wellness in building design beyond regular compliance is very valuable. I believe that as designers of our built environment, we should be able to promote best practice measures to try to create indoor environments which enhance people’s wellbeing and eliminate any physical or psychological impacts to health, mood and productivity. I believe one of the positive influences I have made to both my company and the engineering industry is “cultivating” my overarching understanding of the numerous dimensions of environmental sustainability. Through a lot of work and dedication I have grown a team that takes part and influences environmental performance of buildings at the design, construction and operational phases of a project rather than checking compliance against regulatory requirements. I endeavour to provide “pastoral care” to the young engineers in my team with the aim to teach them about and ensure they are aware of the multi-dimensional challenges and opportunities of environmentally sustainable building design. As a sustainability team leader I do try to empower and encourage my team to be curious, research and innovate.

Michelle is part of NDY’s Digital team where she has worked on numerous projects across Australia and UK from concept through to detailed design, construction and contract administration phase for ICT projects including audio visual and security services.

What’s your earliest memory in your journey towards a STEM career, and what inspired you to become an engineer?

My earliest memory of my ambition to be an engineer was when I was around 8 years old. I’ve always been fascinated with building things such as Lego, solving puzzles or fixing one of my favourite Disney princess video cassette tapes when it was accidentally over-rewound. I was also exposed to the world of engineering by my dad who worked as a distributor for civil and mechanical services equipment. In fact, my dad gave me my very first hard hat when I was around 8 or 9 years old, which I would wear proudly at home whenever I could. This might sound cliché, but maths happened to be my strongest subject when I was in school, therefore my teachers and family encouraged me to pursue engineering as my career.

Every profession has its successes and challenges; what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an event or scenario that has helped shape your professional career?

Where I am today was based on a decision I made a few years ago, which was to relocate to London for a couple of years, starting from scratch as an ICT and security engineer. I initially started my career as an electrical engineer in Melbourne and worked as one for 2 years. An opportunity then arose within the company’s London office, but it was in ICT and security. It was a really tough decision for me – although travelling had always been one of my career goals, taking up the opportunity would mean starting from square one, moving into a different discipline. Despite that I took the leap of faith, and to date I believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for two reasons. Firstly, my manager then was an inspiring engineer who also happened to be a woman engineer. She was a role model to me and taught me the foundations of ICT, Smart Buildings, security and audio visual system design as well as consulting. Apart from that, London is one is the leading cities in terms of technology; and therefore, I had a tremendous amount of exposure to systems integration as well as the various types of solutions possible for the field that I’m in. I have not looked back since then and I find it more interesting to work in this digital and technology field.

How would you describe your role?

I would say that my role is a versatile one. I have worked on different types of projects such as education, commercial, data centres, residential, shopping centres, etc. Whilst the foundation in designing is similar, no two projects are the same for me. Therefore, I always work closely with my clients and project stakeholders to understand their requirements in order to provide the solution that meets their business requirements and project budget. There is always something new to learn every day and interesting people to meet – which to me is what makes my role interesting!

Tell us something about the industry that women mightn’t be aware of…or that you hadn’t considered prior to becoming an engineer

There is currently a lot of discussion around diversity in the industry, to which I would say kudos to the industry for trying to encourage this positive change and be more inclusive. I would say that as an engineer, it is important to focus and strive to be a capable and knowledgeable engineer first. As a woman engineer, I would add that one should be aware of the possible social challenges, be resilient and learn to adapt.

The 2020 INWED theme is Shape the World. How would you describe the role engineering plays in how we #shapetheworld, and how do you contribute?

It’s no secret that inevitable drivers of change are shaping the building industry. This unexpected time of COVID-19 has forced everyone to change their way of working, with working from home or remotely becoming more acceptable as an alternative norm. There is also an increasing demand for buildings to be more sustainable and efficient in response to climate change policies. The old ways of doing things are no longer acceptable as benchmarks. Therefore, companies will need to equip their offices with technologies that enable remote working and also provide data to analyse how their offices should operate. Buildings will need to be smarter, using sensors to detect and regulate the internal environment based on occupancy and the external environment, in order to optimise energy consumption while delivering the same level of service and comfort. As engineers we need to continue to learn, collaborate and share ideas as a collective group so we can come up with solutions that meet these change drivers.

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