Be a cheerleader to yourself

WGA AU | Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec - Photo: Be a cheerleader to yourself

What do you enjoy most about working in the engineering industry?

It is so hard to pick a particular area of what I do as I find joy in almost everything I do as part of the engineering industry.

Delivering a project is akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle—getting your team to work together and coming up with the design that addresses the objectives is challenging but once done it feels so rewarding.

Meeting new people, hearing their stories and learning along the way. I am always curious and the culture in WGA allows me to do that, and I feel like I have been given time in a sandbox.

How could the industry attract and retain more women?

Providing a safe space for women to share their stories, to have visible role models. You cannot be what you cannot see. For me, when I was with my previous company, having a female section manager showed me, yeah if she can do it, I can do it.

The other one is, to provide a culture that empowers women to bring their whole selves to work. When I was new to this field, working as a junior engineer in the Philippines, I felt the pressure to conform to what I perceive was the acceptable norm— to dress and communicate in a certain way. An unconscious inclination to fit within a male-dominated industry. But as I mature, I realised that I bring more to the table by being myself.

Create targets. I have taken advantage of this personally. In the past, I sometimes joke to myself asking why was I chosen, was it because I tick all the boxes in the agenda? But who cares, I am given an opportunity and I take it.  I think it’s not that the decision makers are not intentionally picking women, but they are not intentionally looking because they just go through the usual pool of resources. Most women don’t usually volunteer. We have our own challenges internally, therefore creating targets helps the decision makers to consciously look for those who might not usually volunteer.

What’s your top career achievement?

Probably my greatest achievement in terms of work is where I am in my career now. If we look back, I came from a small (Barangay) village in the southern area of the Philippines. I went to public school and had to work through university. I feel joy and a sense of achievement in being able to practice my profession here in Australia, having been awarded Chartership/Fellowship by Engineers Australia, and now here at WGA leading projects, and leading teams.

What’s the one piece of advice that you would give the budding new engineers?   

Find your passion and take the time to do it. Because as a young engineer, you are basically given the licence to try your hand at everything. As a Graduate Engineer, you are allowed and encouraged even to do it.

Also, for women joining the profession after a career break, you may be someone who was on the cusp of taking a leadership position but had to go on extended maternity leave or maybe you had to migrate and had to restart your career as an engineer, you may think of giving up your career level, or forego your career altogether due to financial stress. I encourage you to not take that route, hard as it may be. Try to get back to the career level that you believe you deserve by not underselling yourself and building your network.

What do you think of work-life balance and how do you manage it?

I attended a panel discussion and one of the speakers, Georgina Mahony was asked the same question. She answered that one has to decide which area of their life to prioritise and do it, and I believe the same.

Years ago, with the support of my husband, I made a conscious decision to prioritise my engineering career over some aspects of our family life. I may not be the primary carer of my kids but by taking advantage of the flexible working arrangements offered by my workplace, I get to be with my kids/family during important milestones in their lives.

What is something no one knows about you?

I like to engage with people, and I find joy in it. But at the same time, I enjoy solitude. I like going to the movies alone or just immersing myself in a good book.

I like to create accessories using different mediums–crystals, beads, and semi-precious gemstones. I used to even join bazaars when I was in the Middle East. These days I do them as gifts for my friends or when I am being commissioned by my 6-year-old daughter Eli to make bracelets for her friends.