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Joanna Ly

from Supermarket Cashier to Project Engineer
I build roads by organising people and materials on site and in the office
Construction and infrastructure
Job Level
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Ask me about

  • How my choice to change careers helped me find my passion
  • Working on site when almost everyone else is a man
  • How I made the choice to switch from client to contractor

About me

  • Regional Background

During the final years of school I wanted to be a financial lawyer. But an honest conversation with my biology teacher about my strengths in math and science opened my eyes to engineering. I lo oked up engineering courses during the change in preference window and swapped to a double degree of Environmental Engineering and Science at Monash University.

After university I worked in sustainability, but after two years found I needed something different. I applied to 15 different companies who were looking for a “Graduate Environmental Engineer”. It was disheartening to receive 14 rejection letters, but I was eventually successful with VicRoads to deliver a road project in metro Melbourne and regional Victoria on behalf of the State Government. During this time, I was lucky to work with some great contractors who got me thinking, “Can I do what you do?”. And with their support, the answer became yes when I joined BMD!

About my role

  • Personable
  • Practical
  • Principled
  • Trusting

A Project Engineer works as part of a site-based team to plan, coordinate and manage all the bits and pieces that make up a road. They will read and understand drawings, along with the long list of requirements (usually from the person paying for it) to make sure it is built to how they need. At the same time, they will need to build it safely, correctly and within budget. There will be many times when things won’t go to plan. That’s when a Project Engineer will need assess the problem, talk with experienced people, come up with a solution and then go to fix the problem to try and keep its impact to the rest of the project as small as possible.

Students Book Here Educators Book Here


  • High School Certificate
  • Bachelor of Environmental Engineering
  • Bachelor of Science (Mathematics)


  • Biology
  • Mathematical Methods (Maths B)
  • Physics
  • Specialist Mathematics (Maths C)


  • Faculty of Engineering Dean's Honour List
  • First Class Honours


  • Beach adventures
  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Seeing family and friends
  • Yoga

15 year old me!!

“Don’t let yourself (or anyone else) limit you. You can achieve much more than what you think you deserve. So, stop hiding away and get out there!”

My career journey

Curious to know how I got here? Here’s a snapshot of my career pathway.
  1. Got into university
  2. Navigated personal and family difficulties
  3. Worked on myself mentally and physically
  4. Realised sustainability wasn't for me
  5. Switched from client to contractor

My employer

BMD is a national group of companies engaged in engineering design, construction and land development for clients and partners in the urban development, transport infrastructure and resources and energy sectors. Since 1979, BMD has employed a relationship based business model founded on certainty, collaboration and performance. With approximately 1700 staff throughout Australia, BMD has the resources and experience to deliver projects ranging in size from $1 million to over $1 billion.