Kelly Stallwood Civil Engineer Geschke Group  / 
Adventure is Out There

story / Interview / June 26, 2017

I grew up in north Yorkshire, England. I went to University in Edinburgh and studied civil engineering. During my summers I interned with a civil contractor in my home town. I don’t have much of an accent anymore. Most people tell me nowadays that I sound ‘posh’ Australian.

Everyone told me, ‘You’re good at maths and science, you should do engineering.’ I went to an all girl’s school. I was super shy back then. I did an internship before my first year of University, when I was eighteen. Back then people would just have to look at me and I would blush. People don’t believe me when I tell them I used to be shy, because I’m so not now. You can’t be shy in this industry. Slowly year by year during my internship the blushing faded, until the last year I don’t think I blushed at all.

After I graduated I worked for the same contractor, in a contractor-consultant joint venture. They designed and constructed wastewater infrastructure for the local water authority. I enjoyed it but I’ve always wanted to work abroad and I wanted some site experience, out of the office. I was two years out of university and felt like it was the right time. I went and asked if they could send me to Australia, but unfortunately they couldn’t. So I decided to go anyway. I was only meant to stay one year on my working holiday visa, but I ended up finding Geschke and I’ve stayed here ever since. Four years now!

My role at Geschke is primarily to coordinate the construction projects in support of the supervisor and facilitate the link between the builder and the foreman. To ensure the foreman can focus on the plumbing. I have a good understanding of what the plumbers do (now – and continually learning!), but I’m predominantly that communication channel. I primarily coordinate all the documentation with the builders and day to day activities with the men. As a company we are involved in a diverse range of construction projects, so every day is never the same as the day before.

I really love the company. They’re a family company and they’ve been around for sixty five years. It’s no corporate giant and I enjoy that, it’s great because it has allowed me to grow, probably more quickly than I would be able to in a more hierarchical company. I’ve always been driven to learn and develop. I enjoy my job because it gives me the continued opportunity to do just that every day. There’s always a new problem that needs to be solved. Or a procedure that needs to be streamlined if we’re ever to get everything done.

I have my permanent residency now, so I’m free to roam in Australia. My partner is Australian and we’ve been together for a few years now. I love my home and I do miss it, but all my close friends moved away. We’re all quite driven I think and have gone in completely different directions. It’s a small town, so everyone does kind of do that. I love the place, but I can’t quite imagine living there anymore. Melbourne has really become my second home.

My Dad has always pushed me. He’s the reason I am the way I am. I’ve always said I wanted to come and live in Australia, so there’s been no surprises. I have no idea why really. I’ve just always said it. And it’s nothing like I imagined! I thought it would be all red dust and kangaroos hopping down the street! How wrong I was when I first came to Melbourne!

My modus is to maintain calm. To not let anyone see that they are getting under your skin. Because as soon as you’ve lost that, you’ve lost the argument. Take the moral high ground. Even if you’re wrong or you haven’t got to that task yet, just say ‘Yep, no worries, I’ll get back to you.’ Then reprioritise! Everything we do, there’s always different problems. You just have to solve them. Getting angry or worried doesn’t solve anything. Just calmly reprioritise and solve the next problem.

A year or two ago, I was beginning to get anxious about a lot of things. But I’ve learnt, it’s all about how you action things. If it makes you feel anxious, you don’t have to action it straight away. If you get a blunt email, don’t respond while you’re feeling emotional about it. There’s nothing that is ever that critical. Be positive. I always try to go into every situation with a smile on my face. If you can maintain positivity throughout all your life it benefits everyone, most importantly yourself.

I have so many things to do some days. You’ve just got to keep chipping away and you’ll get there. Be enthusiastic. The industry is so diverse. You have to love it. Get stuck in and treat people how you want to be treated. I try not to be intimidated, but I also try not to be too much either. As a woman in a male dominated environment we stand out enough, so it’s a continual balance to make sure we make an impact by working hard and earning that respect through hard work.

My father always told me just to be driven. To always push forward. He was the one that used to drag me up mountains at home in Yorkshire (from when I was seven years old and crying). But I love that now. He has always been a great foundation for me. I’ve always been pretty self-driven, but he’s always been encouraging. There’s a reason I can be here in Australia, its because of the support from him. He encouraged me to go to Edinburgh to study, which was four hours away from home. I studied abroad in Iowa (USA) and he encouraged me to do that too. He’s always supported me and full of silly encouraging sayings to match. Our favourite is ‘Adventure is out there.’ It’s from Up, one of our favourite movies. Other great sayings include ‘’dig in’’ and ‘’never back down’’, and a classic ‘’pick up your man bag’’. Such great inspiration!

 

Kelly has a gorgeous personality. She quietly spoken and charming, warm and down to earth. We both immediately connected with her whilst working on different projects together over the last year. Not to mention our excitement at seeing another woman in the weekly services meetings! It’s a rarity in the construction industry, that you find someone who reflects your nature, which is so refreshing in what can be such a rigorously tough environment, amongst the daily grind. To think Kelly just picked up her bags, deciding on Australia as her new home, and is now making her mark within the industry, is such an inspiration. Kelly is so focused and driven.  She’s passionate about the increased representation of the women in the industry and it’s not hard to see that without a doubt, she’s going to take it to the next level. Thank you Kelly for agreeing to interview with us! It was awfully fun to catch up and share stories. All the best with your endeavours J&D x 

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