Engineering a route to success

Engineering a route to success When it comes to kicking goals, Paula Williams knows a thing or two. The senior precinct manager working on the Metro Tunnel’s new Anzac Station at Domain has defied the odds to rise to the top of her game, in an industry that at times seemed stacked against her. Growing up in Ringwood with an Italian father and Italian-Maltese mother, Paula was the first of her extended family to go to university. “Most of them didn’t go to school beyond grade five in Italy,” she said. When she enrolled in a double degree in engineering and business, Paula was the only woman in the course. Employment prospects were tricky, too – she remembers companies arguing they couldn’t possibly hire women engineers because they didn’t have women’s toilets. Other places were progressive, like the entity that became Melbourne Water, which took her on as one of six female cadets. “It was a bit of affirmative action at the time, and it was really helpful,” Paula said. “People say you can’t be it if you can’t see it. I didn’t know a lot of female engineers, but through that program I was exposed to a few more stories.” Experience at VicRoads and a stint in New Zealand broadened her range – including specialising in roadworks and pavements, working in structures and improvement projects, and gaining leadership and management experience. When a VicRoads boss talked about how exciting the Metro Tunnel was going to be, simply because it would take cars off the roads, Paula knew she wanted to work on the project. “I liked the idea of a city-changing public infrastructure project that was more sustainable than just building a new road,” she said. The challenges of building Anzac Station – sitting beneath a heritage boulevard and the busiest tram corridor in the world, next to the Shrine of Remembrance – also appealed. “I’m just pulling the pieces together,” she said. “I’m not the expert in a lot of these things. It’s about making sure the right experts are in the room to share their expertise and get the outcome that we all want.” “We’ve got such an engaged community. We have reference group meetings every six weeks. The people who live there know this is going to be a city-shaping project, on their doorstep, that will change the way they live.” Paula is proud of her team and believes we will emerge from the pandemic with new outlooks. “How will people travel? How will people work?” she said. “The uncertainty at the moment suggests we will have more choices – how we interact with others, how we work, how we move around.” “That’s what I like about the Metro Tunnel – it will give people opportunities.” •

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