Engineering Connection | Averil Astall

News Image
Averil headshot

November 2021

Can you explain your current role working in construction as a graduate engineer at CPB?

It’s been a great opportunity to work in different areas! When I first started at CPB I was working on a water project within a relatively small team. I then spent a year in the precontracts team, which is the area of the business that writes and compiles tenders to win work. Here I gained a more in-depth understanding of how projects are staged and planned out, the numerous stakeholders involved and how a project budget is developed. I have now moved back onto a project working in the civil team on a large freeway project. Construction engineers work in a team to manage subcontractors whilst simultaneously ensuring the design and delivery meets the client’s expectations. This involves a lot of daily liaising with other teams, subcontractors, and client representatives.

Who and what do you learn the most from while in this position?

I learn a lot from being out on site. At university I felt that I often struggled to connect what I was learning with practical work applications. Visualising diagrams or connecting terms to an object or procedure was challenging to understand. Working in construction and physically being able to walk out on site brought this all together; I could look at the design drawings then go outside and see it happening. Aiding this was talking to all the subcontractors and supervisors that spend their days outside, asking them questions as I see things happening. This often led to a conversation about examples of this application on other jobs. Of course I also learn a lot from my immediate team and managers. Often they have faced the same challenges before, or can give suggestions to help me work through the next one. 

You have previously said you 'fell into engineering and then construction'. Can you explain how that happened?

Originally I left high school wanting to do architecture. I chose my undergraduate degree as it would give me the flexibility to do that or change pathways if I wanted to. Spending my first year doing design subjects I realised architecture wasn’t for me. I had a few engineers in my family and knowing that I still enjoyed the infrastructure and building industry engineering seemed to be a logical choice.

I got my position through networking with someone in construction. Further communication led to an interview, but I didn't realise what my day-to-day would involve until I arrived at the construction site. I feel that at university civil engineers weren’t exposed to the construction pathway until later in the degree, and I still have fellow engineering friends who are still learning about what my job consists of. Prior to working in construction, I had already spent time working for a water authority. Contrasting those experiences, I could see that as someone who loved spending time outside, talking to people and being part of a dynamic environment, I was better suited to the construction industry.

Can you explain more about volunteering with Engineers Without Borders and what you're exposed to?

I first got involved with Engineers without Borders at university, I soon released the organisation extended well beyond the university chapter. There is a lot going on at the local, national and international levels and it was exciting to meet EWB staff members and fellow volunteers to talk through this. EWB runs a Humanitarian Design Summit which aims to expose students to human centred design in partnership with real communities. Through that program I was able to travel to India and see this in action. I was also fortunate to attend EWB’s national council in Perth and Sydney, and attend school outreach workshops throughout regional Victoria with my university chapter.

What advice would you have for those in a similar position as you, working as a graduate engineer?

Have a go and see what else is there for the taking! Throughout my studies, volunteering and early career I’ve learnt that there’s so much to do—it’s a matter of finding what opportunities are open to you! Travel opportunities are one thing that I’ve actively sought out, especially in light of the pandemic I’m so thankful to have made the most of these when they were available.