Yusuf and Mia at the VBA project office

Attending an open day at the University of NSW turned out to be a pivotal moment for Mia Kornfeld, as it was when she made the decision to undertake an engineering degree. 

Mia joined Ventia's VBA team in our Transport business in September 2020 as an undergraduate engineer, and over the past seven months has had the opportunity to put her university studies into practice on project sites across Sydney's south. 

Mia completes her double degree in Civil Engineering and Commerce from UNSW in August 2021 and says that both degrees have been crucial to helping her understand what's needed when it comes to working on a project in the real world.

"You can't scope a project unless you understand the financials," Mia says. "Having the commerce background helps you plan and understand the requirements and costs involved."

Other learnings from her time in Project Engineer Yusuf Abdullahi's team include how to build strong, trusting relationships with stakeholders and the importance of teamwork.

"Everyone needs to take accountability for their part in a project," Mia says. "You don't learn at university how much you rely on your colleagues in safety and quality, environment and community engagement to get the job done. It's teamwork that delivers a project." 

Yusuf says he really appreciates Mia's "can-do attitude" and considers her a real asset to the team.

Pictured above: Project Engineer Yusuf Abdullahi with Mia Kornfield at the VBA site.


Closing the gender gap  

It was no surprise to Mia when she joined the VBA team that she was the only female engineer, as she notes her university class was less than 50% female and she didn't have any female engineering lecturers during her five years of study. 

She says she knows businesses will get there eventually, and that it's important that they do.

"I know I bring a different perspective to the conversation than my male colleagues," Mia explains. 

SHEQ and P&C Manager Natalie Knep (Nat) says that she and Program Director James Bennett were keen to bring engineering graduates or undergraduates into the team, a female one if possible. 

"I reached out into my network to see who may have been interested in an opportunity with Ventia," Nat says. "I was connected with Mia via email, as at the time she was on a student exchange in Israel. She was really excited at the opportunity, given her final subjects involved transport problem solving for engineers, and her thesis is on pavement design."

Nat says that from a leadership perspective, she and James wanted to ensure Mia would gain exposure to all facets of project management and civil engineering in the transport sector, but also give the more senior members of the team the opportunity to mentor her and learn from that.  
"So far, Mia has certainly demonstrated that she's a hardworking, motivated undergraduate who will have such an incredible experience on the project. I hope she'll continue her career in the transport sector," Nat says.

Mia says one way to get more women into engineering is to catch them young. 

"I hope one day to go back to schools and talk to female students about studying engineering," Mia explains. "When I was at school, no one ever really told me what it could be like, and I think that could make a big difference in building up female participation in the industry."

It will be no surprise to anyone that knows Mia when she achieves her goal of enlightening young women about the opportunities a career in engineering might bring. She's someone to watch out for. 

Mia is a Civil Engineering Graduate at VBA

Pictured above:Mia joined Ventia's VBA team in our Transport business in September 2020.