Luisa

Senior Project Manager
Civil and Architectural Engineer

What are some of the coolest things you like about working in your industry?

By far the coolest thing about working in construction is being able to physically see and use what I have built. From 2018 to 2020, I was the Lead Site Engineer on The Metropolitan Program of Works, which involved the construction of twenty intersection upgrades across Adelaide. Every time I visit Adelaide, I drive through at least one of those intersections and feel proud to have contributed to a safer and more efficient road network.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do?

There are so many aspects of my job that I enjoy. In my current role, I am Arup’s Delivery Lead for their Technical Advisor Contract with Major Road Projects Victoria. I am leading a team of nine Project Managers across forty projects that are in construction. Each project is different which means that no two days at work are the same. As the Delivery Lead, I also get to attend meetings with the Client, Construction Contractors, Subcontractors and Stakeholders daily, meaning that I get to meet and work with a large variety of people.

How did you get started in your career pathway and what helped you along your career journey?

I was fortunate to start my career in construction prior to graduating as I was offered an Undergraduate Civil Engineer role with BMD Group at the end of my third year of university. Throughout the final year of my degree, I worked on site three days per week and learnt so much about construction from the Foreman, Leading Hands and Trades. This hands-on experience kick started my career and gave me a greater understanding of the civil construction industry.

What or who has influenced your career pathway?

I attended a primary school that was conveniently located across the road from my grandparent’s house. I vividly remember going to their house after school and spending a significant amount of time with my Nonno from the age of five years old. Despite not having the opportunity to get a proper education in Italy or Australia, my Nonno was passionate about maths and science, with a strong desire to understand how things worked.  He had the largest collection of encyclopedias and I remember sitting around the dining room table with my older sister Carmela and younger cousin Adrian reading through the science and maths  encyclopedias. We would each read our allocated section before heading outside to the basketball ring that my Nonno built us and play a game which involved answering section specific questions and shooting hoops.

Today, Carmela is a qualified Telecommunications Engineer, Adrian is a qualified Electrical Engineer, and I am qualified Civil and Architectural Engineer. This is a testament to my Nonno who did not stereotype based on gender and gave his grandchildren an equal opportunity to love maths and science.

In school what subjects did you enjoy most or were good at?

My favourite subjects in primary school were maths, science, and art. In secondary (high) school I selected four different maths subjects in Year 11 – Maths A, B, C and D! Some days I had four lessons of maths in a row which I really enjoyed because I loved being challenged and feeling proud when I was able to solve difficult problems.

What did you want to be or do when you left school.

When I was in secondary (high) school, I knew that I wanted a career in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). In my university preference list, medicine was my first preference, however, I did not do well enough in the Undergraduate Medical Admission Test (UMAT). I remember feeling very disheartened at the time and decided that I would start engineering but resit the UMAT and transfer into medicine. Once I started studying engineering, it felt like I was meant to be there and so I never resat the UMAT.

Are you able to provide information about your qualifications, this helps others seeking
information about careers in your industry.

I graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Civil and Architectural). Typically, a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) is a four-year degree, and in the last year of the degree you complete a group research project on a topic of your choice that is related to your chosen field of engineering. My group’s topic was ‘The Design and Analysis of Sustainable Refugee Housing’. We analysed three types of existing refugee accommodation (tents, shipping containers and the UNHCR’s ‘better shelter’ unit) in Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES), which is a program that allows you to model a structure and assess its thermal performance in different locations around the world. After analysing the existing accommodation, we designed prototype housing with a greater thermal performance in three different climates. In the end, our project was featured on ABC News and won two university awards.

What advice would you give to others (girls/women) about following careers in non-traditional industries?

Traditionally, construction has always been, and still is, a male dominated industry. As a woman engineer in construction, I have had some challenging experiences, however the positive experiences have outweighed the negative experiences. The biggest piece of advice that I could give to a girl or woman looking to pursue a career in engineering and/or construction is to always back yourself and your ability. Also, find allies and mentors within the industry. While the industry is currently predominately male, it is slowly but surely changing and there are lots of great women and gender diverse people within the industry who will support you. I would consider myself one of them, and I am always happy to be contacted via LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/luisapanuccio/) or
Instagram (@theengineerinheels) for a virtual or in-person mentor session.

How are you making your own mark?

At only 26 years old, I am making my mark as a qualified Civil and Architectural Engineer, Senior Project Manager, Delivery Lead for major projects and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM. I have always said yes to opportunities that align with my goal to disrupt gender stereotypes and change the face of STEM. As a result, I have a LinkedIn platform that reaches between 40,000 and 200,000 people per post which I use to promote engineering and encourage other women to pursue a career in the Australian construction industry.

Hear from other role models making their mark

Steph

National Decarbonisation & Energy Transition Senior Manager
Energy, Mining and Property