Melbourne team spotlight - Empowering the next generation of leaders

Walking into our Melbourne office, there is a definite buzz in the air. At a time when many businesses are struggling to get their people back to the office, it’s exciting to see a team that wants to be there.

And this is due, in large part, to the region’s leadership team; James Sutherland, Jamie Shelton, Rob Winbank and Chris Buntine who have worked tirelessly to build an enviable workplace culture of empowerment and support, whilst fostering business growth to facilitate meaningful opportunities for our people.

Within this environment, the next generation of management are stepping up, passionate about what they do and bringing with them fresh ideas. They are inspired by their leaders, and in turn, are inspiring those that follow.

We sat down with three of the team; Dardan Ukiqi, Annika Sutherland and Pamela Chacon to chat about why 96%* of our Melbourne team would recommend Northrop as a great place to work.

An exciting time to be in our Melbourne office

“We’re going through an exciting period of growth here in Melbourne,” says Dardan, Senior Structural Engineer and Group Manager.

“The team has doubled in size since I joined Northrop in June 2022, and this is backed by the projects that we’ve won and a strong pipeline.”

Annika, Northrop Associate and Structural Group Manager agrees.

“The team’s working on some cool projects right now. We’re working with the people we want to work with and we’ve got the right people to deliver those projects.”

“After some ups and downs in Melbourne over the last few years, the team is in a really good spot. We have fun, we work hard, and everybody has got each other’s back.”

Leadership that empowers

“Having a background in health projects, I joined Rob’s team when I came to Northrop,” said Dardan.

“Rob and I have since developed a strong level of trust where, even on bigger jobs, he can stay in the background and let me run the project.”   

“It’s empowering being the point of contact and true project lead, and it’s been good for my own development too, learning more about client engagement.”

“Mid-level people are encouraged to get involved, own the project, attend project meetings and work with senior engineers on deliverables,” said Annika. “It’s a much higher-level involvement earlier in your career, which is really fun!”

Flexibility when you need it most

While 96%* of our Melbourne team feel that the office is an enjoyable place to work, they are given the flexibility to work wherever they work best.

“I live in Geelong about an hour away from the Melbourne office,” said Dardan. “I’ve been building a house over the last three months, so have worked from home two to three days a week and this hasn’t been an issue at all.”

“I’ve got the kids Mondays and Tuesdays, so I’ll get out what I need to do, but would rarely work full days,” said Annika. “Wednesdays and Thursdays are my big days and then I’ll balance what I need to do on Fridays. It’s great to be able to fit work around family commitments, and it works because those around me trust that I will get it done.”

A diverse range of projects

“There’s always a variety of exciting projects that you can get involved with here in Melbourne. Today you may be working on domestic residential style detailing, and tomorrow, it might be a 25-storey student accommodation,” said Annika.

Our people are encouraged to follow their passion and work on projects that are meaningful to them.

“Coming to Northrop, I was looking to work on projects with ambitious sustainability goals, and on precincts and large-scale developments,” says Pamala, a Senior Sustainability Consultant from our Integrated Buildings Team.

“The isolation many of us felt during the pandemic drove home to me the importance of being connected. So, it was important to me to design spaces that connected people. I wanted to have a real impact by steering clients towards great outcomes and to be able to say that I made that happen!”

“Joining Chris’ team, I’ve been given the opportunity to work on lots of interesting projects including being the lead for The Yards - the first industrial precinct in Australia to achieve a 6-star Green Star Communities rating!”

“We’re currently working on a number of student accommodation buildings; one being built directly over Melbourne train station targeting a Green Star rating.”

“We’ve also just completed a residential development called The Avenue, helping to develop their sustainability strategy with an integrated design aligned with passive house.”

“The team is also working on Chris’ own house targeting the Living Building Challenge - a world changing philosophy that poses the question what if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?”

“As a team we’re keen to do more on climate action and Northrop is taking real steps to tackle this challenge,” said Annika.

In addition to making climate commitments, Northrop has built a highly experienced, inhouse sustainability team that provides our clients with a market-leading service.

“A lot of the new ideas and thought leadership is being driven by our team right here in Melbourne. And having these consultants readily available to work on our projects is exciting.”

“Internally, our sustainability team are running regular educational sessions to upskill the rest of us so in the future, we will feel confident to have these conversations ourselves, making an even greater impact.”

“Of course, it’s a journey and we have a long way to go, but it’s great to see a business that is investing in something this important.”

Your development taken seriously

Whether it’s learning more about sustainability or any other topic, professional and technical development is readily available.

“We have regular inhouse training sessions or workshops, and industry partners also come in to talk about their products. They have offered to send me to a new leadership management course which I’m looking forward to taking up,” said Dardan.

“Really it’s just a matter of putting your hand up for development opportunities. As long there is a justifiable reason - XYZ will help with my group management skills, then it’s like yes absolutely,” said Annika.

“We’re really lucky that Rob, Jamie, James and Chris are always very willing to provide help and guidance whenever we need it. All four are very curious and considerate people who do their dam best to help those around them grow. Sometimes that is well you need to go and figure that one out, but it’s always with the best interest of those around them.”

While we work hard, it’s also a lot of fun

“We get together often for activities like minigolf, go carting or lawn bowls followed by dinner and drinks. And our office size is perfect in that we can all celebrate together as one group,” said Dardan.

“People’s achievements both professionally and personally are celebrated. I always feel seen, recognised, and appreciated, which I haven’t always had in other roles,” said Pamela.

“For me, what it comes down to is that I really like the people we work with. I’m not sure how they got the culture just right here in the Melbourne office, but they certainly did,” finished Annika.

We’re always on the look-out for talented professionals looking to take the next step in their career. If this sounds like you, please contact us here


*Statistics from Northrop’s Employee Engagement Survey August 2023. Culture Amp manage this survey independently from Northrop and all answers are anonymous.

Associate | Group Manager | Structural Engineer
Group Manager | Senior Structural Engineer
Senior Sustainability Consultant
Principal | Senior Civil Section Manager | Melbourne Leader
Principal | Senior Structural Engineer
Principal | Melbourne Structural Section Manager
Annika SutherlandDardan UkiqiPamela ChaconJames SutherlandJamie SheltonRobert Winbank

Want to keep in touch? Sign up