Meet Alissa Colafella
Structural engineer, Alissa Colafella, is right where she wants to be - working on amazing projects for Northrop, balancing work and home life while enjoying her family, and helping to carve an easier path for future women engineers.
The youngest of five children, Alissa grew up in Glen Waverley in Melbourne and was an active kid, dancing, skiing and playing netball. Having a structural engineer for a dad and spending a lot of time in his office, it's no surprise Alissa ultimately found herself on the same career path.
After completing a civil engineering degree at Monash University, Alissa's first role as a structural engineer was working on projects such as hospitals, train stations, wharfs, laboratories and offices.
Six years into her career and now with Northrop, Alissa values the people and culture. “We have such a fun and clever team in Melbourne, who are committed to their work" Alissa said.
“I get to work on diverse and challenging projects, and I really enjoy the collaborative team effort encouraged at Northrop – not just internally, but with our clients.”
“I also like that Northrop delivers on its promise to support and nurture you while giving you the freedom and autonomy to establish yourself.”
Looking to the future, Alissa has her sights set on being involved in large-scale projects and co-ordinating different disciplines to "produce exceptional buildings". This includes embracing the technological advancements that have developed in engineering and "using these to produce better, rather than what has always been".
Alissa also wants to lead projects where teams think across disciplines rather than being self-contained, which is something that can have major cost-saving implications during construction.
While Northrop recognises the importance of greater diversity, making it a priority to support and develop women, challenges remain within the industry.
Having no female toilets on construction sites, receiving emails that start with "Gents", and the assumption that Alissa is a junior when she goes on site with any male, is all in a day's work for this structural engineer.
"When I’m introduced as the structural engineer in meetings, I often get the response 'but you're a girl', which is embarrassing and disheartening," Alissa revealed.
"This is partly because at 31, with a child, I feel like I have made the jump to 'woman' as opposed to 'girl', but also because I fail to see how my gender is relevant to the client or their building."
Alissa is hoping the sector will continue to move in a positive direction when it comes to diversity and that ultimately, people's perception of 'normal' is changing.
"It just takes time and people willing to do something about it - and at Northrop I am so pleased to see that it's a priority," she said.
Alissa's ongoing focus is promoting women in engineering and construction and making sure those already in the industry feel empowered and that they're not alone.