Rasha Al-Badry is a project design and procurement engineer from Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia. She migrated to Australia from Iraq with her young family as a skilled worker in 2000, overcoming the trauma of escaping a war zone and successfully navigating having her engineering qualifications recognised by Engineers Australia. In November 2021 she was awarded with the National Association of Women in Construction Queensland’s ‘Dial Before You Dig’ award for achievement in construction (civil works).
“As with many women in construction, I was hesitant to work in a male-dominated environment and culture. However, once I established myself as a valuable and professional member of the team, any hesitation I originally felt quickly diminished.”
From Iraq to Australia
I was born in Iraq and graduated from the University of Technology in Baghdad with a Bachelor of Science in Building and Construction in 1993. I migrated to Australia as a skilled worker in 2000.
I worked as a structural engineer for a consultancy, Osborn Lane Consulting Engineers, between 2001 and 2013, working on both domestic, commercial and heavy industrial projects. During this time, I also spent just over a year on secondment to another company, Alcan Engineering, also as a structural engineer.
In August 2013 I joined the Department of Transport and Main Roads in Queensland, as an asset engineer, working on bridge construction, maintenance and asset management.
I joined another consultancy, Milanovic Neale Consulting Engineers, in 2017, to work on domestic, commercial and light industrial buildings, collaborating with other professional firms such as architects, surveyors, geotechnical, builders, developers and civil engineers to meet the clients’ requirements, comply with relevant standards, achieve design coherence and a high-performance building.
In 2018 I went to work for VEC Civil Engineering (a subsidiary of my present employer, Downer) as a senior project engineer and procurement specialist, working on projects for my old employer, the Department of Transport and Main Roads and also for Queensland Rail, on multi-million-dollar projects.
I joined my current employer, Downer Group, a leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand, in January 2021, as project engineering and procurement manager. I relish the challenges it presents. I work with clients including Queensland Rail, Gladstone Regional Council and power companies including Powerlink, ElerctraNet, AusNet, Alinta and TransGrid.
My current role
Day-to-day I provide a critical interface between engineering and procurement at the front end of projects, as well as providing engineering support during delivery.
I’m involved during all project phases including the development of initial and ongoing strategies and review of designs. I add value by recommending improvements and providing value engineering as well as oversight and coordination of consultants during the design phase, thus ensuring documentation is completed to a high standard.
I also ensure project procurement is streamlined in such a way that supports value for money, governance and probity, whilst at the same time delivering upon social and sustainable procurement goals.
In my role as a project engineer, I assist the project manager in the planning, scoping and managing of projects by providing programme updates, establishing project structures, project reporting and plan development. In order to do this, I need to keep up to date and ensure I have sound knowledge of current project methodologies including risk management, project evaluation, cost measurement, as well as occupational health and safely.
Recognition from the National Association of Women in Construction in Queensland
It was an incredible honour to be awarded the National Association of Women in Construction in Queensland’s ‘Dial Before You Dig’ award because it recognises outstanding achievements by a woman who has contributed to civil works construction.
The judging criteria meant I had to demonstrate best practice through the following:
- An exceptional safety record and/or a harmonious industrial relations environment;
- Attention to the quality of final work and finishes;
- Cost-effectiveness and value for money represented by the final product;
- A project delivered ‘on time and within budget’;
- The successful management of complex components of the project.
I have been honoured and humbled to receive the award as it proves that my hard work and dedication have been rewarded and that my contribution over the years to the construction industry has been recognised and has paid off. It is also to give back to the community that gave me the chance in the first place to become an award-winning engineer.
Being welcomed to Australia
When I first arrived in Australia with my family (my husband and a one-year-old son), we were faced with insurmountable challenges, not only finding ways to cope with the trauma of escaping a war zone but also adapting to new surroundings and our way of life. Up until this point, I had not spoken English fluently before, so I took it upon myself to enrol in multiple English courses as well as technical and further education (TAFE) programmes to learn more about working and living in Australia.
Initially, I had been worried about being accepted at Downer, however after only working for a short time I realised that I was accepted into a professional team environment that constantly persevered to foster inclusion, diversity and authenticity. Once I settled into my new work family, I realised how I enjoy the workplace more when I embrace myself as an individual, taking pride in my identity, and acknowledging my diversity.
Diversity of thought in construction
As with many women in construction, I was hesitant to work in a male-dominated environment and culture. However, once I established myself as a valuable and professional member of the team, any hesitation I originally felt quickly diminished.
Now I am one of very few female engineers in the office or site working through day and night shifts during projects’ installation and shut down. A feat difficult for any woman to do, let alone someone with English as second language, where I wrestled with adapting to Australian culture and learning about compliance with Australian construction standards.
My advice to girls and other women who think they might like to work in construction is: Don’t be shy to let opportunities in, develop self-confidence, upskilling, be yourself and take pride in your values. The presence of women in construction creates a supportive and diversified environment.
The impacts of COVID-19 have been mixed for me. On the positive side it has meant I’ve been able to spend more time with family, working from home and increasing my physical activities in the beautiful Australian sunshine.
On the negative side, I was stood down for a period of time, so this had a financial impact, and from a social perspective, as being unable to visit family and friends overseas impacted on my mental health. The things COVID-19 has taught us all about are isolation, loss of income and fear.
The future is bright
My priorities moving forward are to progress further in my career, to a leadership position, and to keep giving back to the Australian community who have taken me to their hearts. I’m excited about the future and I can’t wait to find out where my career will take me.