Stories are all around us, but not all of them are told correctly. And some of them get completely forgotten as we move along the journey of building.
“I don’t think we talk about the impact that we have on society and the impact we have on people in a way that really inspires other people“
Meg Panozzo is our guest this week and she strongly believes that the engineer’s story must be changed. It is lacking the connection to the why, the connection to be the people, society. The future is…
“our engineering teams are people working together to solve people problems”
Through telling stories on her own blog and coming onto our Podcast, Meg is encouraging engineers to remember their “why” in everything they create and to be brave in their universe and tell their stories from the people-perspective.
“if we talk about our engineering work more from the idea of purpose, I think that will have a better chance of bringing more talent into the industry”
Discussed during the episode
Meg is the driving force behind the blog Her Bold Universe
“was really important to start to put my voice out there and talk and write about all these topics, because basically, gender diversity in engineering is getting worse“
We recommended she check out Sydney’s 7 Bridges Walk which takes place in October and helps raise money for charity
About Meg Panozzo
Meg has a Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) in Civil Engineering from Monash Univerity and a Bachelor of Arts, Japanese Language also from Monash.
Over the years she has worked with Cardno and Arup helping to shape a better world through the delivery of some of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects such the Pacific Highway Upgrade.
Meg believes strongly in the vital role of engineering in the future of society and advocates for an industry where people, creativity and innovation are at the centre. As the author of blog Her Bold Universe she inspires and educates people to realise their potential in order to create and live their own success.
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during the Podcast, Season 2 Episode 9.
It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Meg Panozzo
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Hi, welcome to season two, episode nine of Engineering Heroes, a podcast that presents the incredible engineers that are shaping our society and battling out challenging issues. My name is Mel, my co host and our podcasts resident engineer speaking to us from the trenches is Dom. Our podcast tells stories. there are stories all around us.
As engineers we’re involved in some of the greatest creations in society, but we often lose track of the reason we are creating it in the first place. It’s not about the road, it’s about the safety of those travelling it. It’s not about the building, it’s about the lives and the experiences that people will have in them. Unfortunately, these stories are more often than not unheard, unspoken. And to some extent, they aren’t ever really considered again after the initial need for the project has been designed and the concrete is dried. And it’s the stories which highlight the life’s work of an engineer. Our guest tonight received a Bachelor of civil engineering with honours from Monash university. She’s already worked with great engineering firms, can you experience some of Australia’s pivotal infrastructure projects. Joining us tonight is Meg Panozzo
Meg got into engineering because she loved maths and physics.
I just was a very practical kind of person and that seemed to be a logical career choice but now moving, you know, 10 years on from that first decision point I start to see engineering more around what’s the societal impact and what’s the the people orientated kind of aspect of everything that we’re doing. So even though I started with maths as like the core origin point, I guess you could say I now talk more in a much broader aspect around engineering and the stuff we do
Did you know that engineering before you started thinking about becoming an engineer?
Yes and no. So my mum designs houses for a living so she runs her own little business designing houses, and my dad’s a math and physics teacher. So engineering was always an idea that I knew existed. But it wasn’t until I was probably 17 that actually took it seriously as an idea.
You’re a civil engineer, what made you decide to get into civil engineering
It started with mum and dad built houses as kind of the way that they brought in extra income for themselves. So I was always around construction and designing of structures and things like that. So my initial thought was always I would just go do civil engineering and be a structural engineer, and maybe one day follow in mum’s footsteps. But as I went through the course, and I was exposed to the whole breadth of engineering disciplines, I became really interested in more infrastructure and water and like water sensitive urban design and the environmental side of things as well, not just structural engineering
which is a massive, massive part of engineering these days, particularly sensitive urban design, and all the issues we have with drought. It’s a fascinating area to be in. So what was the first project you worked on? Once you got out of uni?
I grew up in Victoria and I studied at Monash University in Victoria. And then I started working with Cardno Melbourne, in a small infrastructure team there. My first ever project that I worked with the team, there was a small car park upgrade. And that was I don’t know, the fee was maybe in the order of about $2,000. It was very small. And then I’ve just found my way into the major infrastructure projects. And now I’m working on multi billion dollar projects, which is very interesting.
Althought those $2,000 jobs are always the hardest jobs I’ve found. They’re always the most demanding ones to the always seem to test you to sort of make everything fit. So with what sort of projects?
they need some help on to me light rail, which was a major project at the time. And so I was living in accomodation up in Sydney for about a year across when I was working on Sydney light rail, and then I moved over to the Pacific Highway upgrade, because those projects are so huge. They need resources from all over the country basically. So I kind of just stayed in Sydney, I’ve been here for four years
I know, working on the big projects
Mel De Gioia 4:37
So, whats the highlight that you’ve been on so far, what have you liked the most?
I think, definitely going up to the site, to the construction site, Pacific Highway. So it’s currently under construction at the moment. And I work as a design consultant to advise the site team during construction phase. So I go up to site and work face to face with the client and going for drives across the site and just seeing the huge cut-in or the huge bridges or the interchanges as they’re being built is just like this amazing feeling. So
Which section whereabouts on the Pacific Highway?
So I work on the Woolgoolga to Ballina
Oh, okay. Yeah.
So and then I work on 34 kilometres worth of that 155 kilometres. My portion is just north of the Devil’s Pulpit.
Okay. Wow, that’s huge road. That’s huge project that’s going up with all the sections that are going up and through and actually know a few people who are on the construction side. So in Yeah, that’ll keep you busy for quite a while.
What’s the timing for all that?
So the programme is due to be completed in 2020.
Mel De Gioia 5:46
Oh, that’s only next year.
yeah. Oh, yeah.
Mel De Gioia 5:52
For a while,
yes. It’s been a very massive. I think it’s Australia’s largest mega project, basically.
Mel De Gioia 6:01
So what is your exact role, like, what’s your role title on that one?
I’m the design manager for the joint venture for Pacific Complete who are our client. So I’m the design manager for that team. But I also do the project management before it as well for Arup.
Mel De Gioia 6:17
So is that the kind of the planning out this week? We’re doing that this week? We’re doing this, things like that?
Yeah, yeah. So basically, like a problem will come up on site or something that they need advice for. And then I will understand the problem and talk to the client, see what they need. And then I’ll go into our team and talk to like the road designers. The structural designers, pavement engineer, for instance, and figure out a solution and then I’ll take that solution back to the client . It’s more management on a design from a design perspective rather than a project management commercial perspective.
Mel De Gioia 6:54
When we come back… Meg will really get into what worries her about the enginering industry. But first I wanted to let you know a way you can learn more about our guest tonight. You see, Meg has a side hustle. She is more than just an awesome engineer! Meg has a blog called Her Bold Universe where she shares her experiences and aims to help motivate and inspire other career-driven women. Her mission is to encourage others to become more confident and ambitious, and to create their own bold universe. Go check Meg out at Her Bold Universe. There will be a link to it in our shownotes at www.engineeringheroes.com.au/s2e9… that’s for season 2 episode 9, where we are today. Meg enjoyed her time at university and was happy floating along, doing her thing. However, upon leaving university and entering the corporate world, Meg really started to feel how badly society needed gender diversity and that change needed to happen. So being the bold explorer she is, Meg decided to take matters into her own hands
Yes, so I wrote a blog. It’s called her bold universe. And the reason I started that was because when I moved from uni and into the workforce, I realised just how badly we need more gender diversity in engineering, I’d have conversations with women who would ask me what it’s like being a female engineer. And then I could just feel these self imposed barriers and a lot of fear around what you can and can’t do in career, it just kind of broke my heart a little bit. Because to me, my personality is, if I see something, I just go. And if I want to do it, I just go do it. So I wanted to write and help other people to do that for themselves as well. So that’s where the blog came from.
I find it interesting that you hadn’t picked up on that at university. And it was only when you started talking to people out in the real life that you noticed that they was a real issue with this sort of thing.
Yeah? It was it was at uni, I felt like it was a bit of a bubble. So I knew that there was obviously I knew that there weren’t very many women in the industry, but you don’t really see the impact of it between in the workforce, I think. And the workforce is so different to academia as well, in the way that success is measured and the way community and culture is built in the workforce is so different to university, that it just hit me when I left uni. So that was another reason as well, why I thought was really important to start to put my voice out there and talk and write about all these topics, because basically, gender diversity in engineering is getting worse as time goes on, which is pretty horrifying.
Mel De Gioia 9:47
Yes. We were talking to an engineer recently, Prasha, and she talks about the leaky pipe in engineering. Now. Yeah, the numbers are pretty dismal to start with, but they get worse as you go along the career path because you have a lot of a lot of dropouts. Yeah. A lot of dropoffs, you have a lot of dropoffs.
Yeah, that’s, that’s right. There’s attrition out of the out of every part of the career pipeline, which is why things like School Outreach, you know, in isolation won’t necessarily work, I think we need to look across the entire pipeline, and also target initiatives as well. So that it’s all what what is the reason for the dropout rates at a particular time in a female’s career and things like that.
Because as a career, it sounds like it’s a career you love so it’s not a it’s not as though going into engineering, you sort of getting into it, and then go, Why do I? Why have I done this? And that’s the really hard part as well, that sort of getting the word out there that these such an enjoyable career that you can then get more people into it, and particularly, to increase that diversity. So the females don’t shy away from it thinking, you know, once I get in there, it’s it’s not going to be enjoyable, so I just won’t bother in the first place.
That’s exactly right. I don’t think that engineers, and the engineering industry tells our story well enough, I don’t think we talk about the impact that we have on society and the impact we have on people in a way that really inspires other people. So I like to think about, for instance, a bridge, how that bridge is there to connect people and connect communities. Whereas we may of once upon a time thought of just the calculations and the difficult maths and the challenging technical problems that we solved to build that bridge. But at the end of the day, the purpose of the bridge is to help people. So if we talk about our engineering work more from the idea of purpose, I think that will have a better chance of bringing more talent into the industry, not just men, not just women, sorry, but men as well, because we basically, we need more people in engineering.
Yeah, it’s, um, I think we’re bad that we don’t take pride in our work, not that we don’t think that we do an awesome job. It’s just that we really probably should be kind of beating our chests a little bit more in relation to the things that we have done today, rather than just sort of going on. Yeah, you know, stay humble, self deprecating kind of personality of the engineer. That “look what you’ve done”
That’s exactly right. Yeah.
Mel De Gioia 12:19
It’s interesting because you can’t, you can’t get an engineer to shut up in front of their family.
What are you saying Mel?
The kids know exactly what you built, Oh, Daddy built that one. And so and there, it is very much a case of there is a sense of pride that I feel from all our conversations that engineers do have. But as what Dom was saying is like they.. or as you were saying.. the story. They don’t, they’re not telling the story they until a story to their, you know, the poor spouses and children say, Yes, I built this grand castle, or whatever it was. But yeah, so it’s interesting. Can you tell us a bit more about the whole side of the stories that you’re talking about? How, and how is that… How can we fix that?
I think, like, I, I’m never going to pretend that I have all the answers to these things. Because I actually think it’s a industry wide issue that we need to have everybody on board with addressing if we want to make some real change here. But I think if we just start to encourage stories, like these kind of podcasts, they’re just brilliant, because it’s making this kind of information so much more accessible to everybody to start to think about the work they do in a little bit of a different light. If every time I speak to somebody about well, what’s the real purpose behind this work you’re doing and you can kind of see a little bit of a light bulb go off. That’s really inspiring to see that. So if we can just get that happening across organisations and in projects and, and like everywhere, I think we’ll be on the right track.
Mel De Gioia 13:54
I like that. What is the real purpose of that? So you’re talking about how you were building your building the Pacific Highway, you’re upgrading that a bit. But in a way, you know, why are you upgrading it and you’re making it safer for people so they can get from A to B in a safer way and less accidents. So that’s, in a way that’s the story.
That’s exactly right. Yeah. So the intent for the highway is that it will save lives.
Mel De Gioia 14:19
And is your blog very much aligned to that.
I’ve heard have got some posts on there about diversity and women in engineering and things, but it’s more geared around career and self development advice. Broader than just engineering, I think because, for me, the future of work, not just engineering is around self development, self education, and the ability to connect people. So if we can learn self awareness and learn how to develop ourselves and pursue careers of passion and purpose, I think that will be in a very good place for being relevant in the future of work.
So we’ve jumped straight to the solution. Because the stories are very much the solution of how we’re going to encourage more people into the industry.
Yeah, I think so, yeah,
Are you seeing other people presenting stories in this way, is this a communication piece?
I think that they are… so, the Pretengineers, for example, are a duo of the two guys who are engineers, based in Queensland. And they have a podcast dedicated to helping students and young professionals through the career transitions in engineering. And their goal is to also create community and tell stories, so I think they’re using LinkedIn as well as a great platform to connect and engage with people. So if we can harness social media to keep telling stories, I think that that will be a great starting point. And I’m hoping that more podcasts and more blogs and more books and conversations like this start to appear as we see more of it.
Yeah, I’m hoping as well. Because I know that I’m a bit a junkie when it comes to things like the seven engineering wonders of the world, like those sorts of programmes where, they’re things that you see on a daily basis (but you and) you know, they, they look great, and they’re wonderful, and they’re practical and what have you. But it’s not until you actually really assess them that you take a step back and then realise what went into creating it, I think the more of those things that we can sort of do. And I know that’s the sort of stuff that Rob Bell’s doing as well with the the work that he’s been doing.
Because I wanted to know, what’s the future going to be like? What is this.. So there’s a lot of mass communication. Yeah, we’ve mentioned podcasts and blogs and social media. How do you see the future coming about?
I think it’s all about people. So the podcasts and the blogs, and all the social media. If you take that one layer deeper that sole people connecting to people, I think our engineering teams of people working together to solve people problems. So if we can truly learn how to connect to each other, which I think we do, but I think if we really harness the power of connection, we’ll be able to move through the digital transformation. In a way, that means that we can work with all of the automation that we’re seeing and the digital transformation that we’re seeing, but also using our human strengths as well. To build a better world.
We need, we need engineers taking a step back from doing the day to day engineering and working on engineering as a whole, let’s face it, engineers engineering engineering,
It’s almost like redefining what engineering might be a little bit too. Using technical skills to be able to solve people-centred problems, you know,
because I think it is, and it’s come up a few times, with the people’s we’ve spoken to. It’s very much those soft skills, that are going to be the most important asset that you have going forward as well in the industry. So it’s, it’s not just about the formulas anymore. It’s about the interaction of, of the clients and the the engineers and the end users and what it is that we’re really trying to achieve.
Yeah, definitely. And, again, understanding the purpose of what you’re trying to build, because everything will be all interconnected as well. We were saying roads that will be connected into city planning, and things like that. So understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing, create better products and create better solutions for people.
What would you be saying to engineers who are just starting out?
So I think, for me, a big one is to stay curious. Stay curious. Yeah, and learn how to learn. So I used to think that when I was studying and at school and uni, that when I finished that I would never be learning again. And that’s like the every single day, I’m learning now. And when I can learn, effectively, I make everything better for myself. And it’s just much more interesting when you’re curious, I think. And the other thing is to always be a mentor, and always have a mentor. So I think mentoring is hugely important.
No matter how old you are, you can always be mental. Even if you feel like you’re one day out of uni, you can be a mentor to a student.
And because I know that I had mentors, but I didn’t. There wasn’t really ever a mentor, mentee relationship. I never really there was, but it wasn’t till you get through further through your career and you sort of take a step back and go, Wow, they really … look at it…. I’m amazed at how much I learned. And there’s a couple of people that I could rattle off who just taught me different things, but taught me so much that it really got me where I was today. And yeah, I would never have gotten here without them. That’s for sure.
But I like what you were saying. It’s it’s not just about having a mentor. It’s also being a mentor. I imagine you learn something more about yourself by the act of passing on your knowledge.
Yeah. I think it’s the act of teaching, you learn more, but then I also feel this kind of duty. But I think it’s very important that as you learn and grow and and challenge yourself, that what you learn, you pass on to someone else. So you’re always walking with a hand behind you to help people coming up behind you. So I think that we should just all be looking to help each other.
Yeah, because the scary part is if we don’t, the knowledge dies too like it just disappears from … that knowledge that’s there, it’s gone forever. And it’s hard, because you’re trying to get people to impart that knowledge, there’s, there’s a combination of trying to get that knowledge out. And also then having the people who can take on that knowledge as well. So but it’s so important, because even with when we even when it engineering evolves and there’s new technology, you still need to know all those fundamentals and all that that past history in order to sort of take that and then run with it.
Just to wrap up, is there a piece of engineering that impresses you?
So I will have to go with the expected answer. I think I just I love bridges.
Not a problem with that. I absolutely, completely understand.
I now understand, we have a T shirt that I’ve done up recently of the Forth Bridge. And just looking at that and getting it designed up. It’s like, this is a really beautiful bridge.
They’re really beautiful structures aren’t they. I did the Sydney Blackmore’s half marathon the other day, and that crosses the bridge and I was just so it’s just amazing that they shut off the road and you can run across the bridge. So I was in my element. That’s a great bridge
Yeah, the Harbour Bridge is an awesome one. We’ve got a tshirt on that one as well actually! Is there a standout bridge you like?
well, I mean, I live in Sydney. So I love seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, obviously. But I could be a massive nerd and say that I’d love to do a holiday around the world to go and see all the famous bridges
Mel De Gioia 22:33
that like if you could travel and would you… There’s actually an engineering couple we’ve spoken to they totally got their engineering nerd on when they were travelling. And they went.. I think they said they went to dams and aqueducts and bridges. And they just stopped at all the engineering curiosities around Europe.
We should totally lean into that.
We should be proud of the stuff we do. Like I think engineers have massive impact to this society. So we should celebrate that a bit more, I think.
Mel De Gioia 23:02
Yeah, having a bridge tour
it’s always the thing that… I mean we have a tendency to do it, obviously. Because of my background and to the dragging the kids along, but I love seeing all this other stuff. Just particularly lighthouses and you know, but the snowy hydro plant and whenever you go somewhere if there’s something that’s around, yeah we always take a bit of a trip. We did Warragamba Dam not too long ago and the kids loved it. Really, really loved it.
I just thought this is something that you need to add onto your list. It’s like a half marathon but you walk it. It’s in Sydney called the Seven Bridges walk. You actually walk 22 kilometres around Sydney, and you cover Seven Bridges. So it’s like the Harbour bridge. The ANZAC Bridge. Iron Cove. Gladesville. Tarman Creek bridge. So great. Yeah. Yeah. And then Roseville? Yeah, so there’s other bridges, I get lost around that bit. But yes, it’s 22km, it’s usually a really nice walk. And you just see people you can start anywhere along the track and you just do a big circle and you get like little passport stamps along the way. It’s a really good Sydney activity to do I find and if you like your bridges…
It ticks the box perfectly
added to the list.
And just to finish up, do you have an engineer that you admire?
Oh, it’s a tough one. Actually. I’ve got … so I work at Arup. And there’s so many brilliant engineers there that inspire me all the time. I’ve got the book by Peter Rice on my bookshelf called “An Engineer Imagines”. And I just haven’t read it in full yet. But I find it really inspiring that these men who are brilliant can still also think of the total design of engineering that they’re doing. So I’m looking forward to getting stuck stuck into his book and thinking about what I can imagine as well.
Mel De Gioia 25:01
That’s excellent. So Peter Rice, was it? Yeah, Are we going to hear book about you? From you one day.
I hope so.
I hope so too! I can just picture the stories “Her Bold Universe” the book.
There we go. The title, done!
Mel De Gioia 25:21
already there. Anyway. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Yeah. Thanks for that was great.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been heaps fun talking to you.
I love hearing stories and I love hearing your story and … how stories are going to change society.
I think so. I think so.
And thank you for tuning into episode nine of Engineering Heroes. If you want to know more about our podcast, your best point of call will always be our website, visit www.engineeringheroes.com.au and take some time to check out what we have going on. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen today. If you really enjoyed our show. The best way to show your support is to go and tell someone, seriously it’s that easy. Go tell people you know all about our podcast Engineering Heroes. We look forward to you and your friends joining us next week when we bring you another interview with one of our engineering champions.