From a very young age, Kalana Guscic knew she had a strong interest in civil design, which later influenced her decision to pursue a career in engineering.
After leaving Melbourne Girls Grammar, Kalana completed a Bachelor of Commerce, Civil Engineering and Finance (General), and a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at Monash University.
Her time at Monash also included a year studying abroad in Denmark at Technical University of Denmark (DTU), a trip she describes as “eye-opening”.
After graduating from university, Kalana joined AECOM, an American multinational engineering firm, as a Graduate Structural Engineer in 2020. She is now a full-time employee with the company and works as a Professional Civil Structural Engineer on projects across Victoria.
Kalana currently works as an OHLE Structures Designer on the Rail Infrastructure Alliance project in Victoria’s Big Build.
In this edition of Alumnae Spotlight, Kalana talks about her career inspirations, what she loves about her job, her Denmark trip, and gives some advice.
When did you know that you wanted to have a career in engineering?
Throughout my childhood, I always had a strong interest in civil design, namely bridges. I was lucky enough to have travelled the world throughout my childhood and lived in major cities such as London, Tokyo, Jakarta and Sydney. All hosts to many iconic structures, I always found the civil environment the most compelling aspect of travelling.
I always found the civil environment the most compelling aspect of travelling.
My admiration of structural design then shifted to a desire to pursue a career in engineering in Year 12 physics when we undertook a unit touching on structural engineering. This solidified my career path in engineering.
What do you love most about what you do?
Since starting my career, I have had the opportunity to work on several major projects across Victoria, all within the transport sector. I have worked on projects including Melbourne Metro Tunnel, The West Gate Bridge and Web Dock. The impact these projects have on the everyday Victorian is extraordinary, and it feels great to be a part of something that really makes an impact. I also enjoy interacting with clients, the fast-paced environment, constantly meeting new people and solving the challenging problems we face. No two days are the same. Also, being an avid traveller, I love the opportunity for travel that the job presents.
Tell us about your experience completing a Study Abroad program in Denmark. Do you recommend others to take the leap and travel on exchange?
Studying abroad in Denmark was a very eye-opening experience. As mentioned previously, I have had a very diverse upbringing, living and travelling through many different cities worldwide. I thought I had garnered the skills to be able to adapt to pretty much any environment. The cold dark winters of Denmark, however, was not something I was prepared for. Having, on average, only 5 hours of daylight was very challenging and having to bicycle everywhere in the blistering cold winds was not exactly my idea of a good time. However, I would recommend taking the leap and going on exchange.
Studying abroad subjected me to challenges I wouldn’t have faced living here in Australia, which, in turn, has enabled me to excel in my career and life in general.
Plus, having Copenhagen as my launch pad to explore the rest of Scandinavia on weekends was also amazing. I had the opportunity to visit places such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Estonia, especially since I don’t do cold weather well. I was able to visit places I never thought I would have visited, but extremely glad I did.
How did you find juggling part-time work, private tutoring and studying at university? Do you have any tips on time management?
At university, juggling studying, tutoring and part-time work was very challenging, especially during the exam period. I found that I was able to manage all this by writing to-do lists. This would include writing everything and anything I had to do — from eating breakfast and making my bed in the morning to 30 minutes of TV time or going for a walk when I needed a break. I would schedule in the things I HAD to do and then rank the things that I wanted to do to weigh up what was a priority and what I could give a miss. Having everything clearly mapped out with the inclusion of many breaks made it easy to be efficient and not waste valuable time stressing about not getting things done. Like all good engineers do, I had already planned for worst-case scenarios and minimised the likelihood of ‘it all falling apart’.
What advice do you have for alumnae or students working towards a future career in engineering?
Engineers are some of the most stereotyped people. Just know that engineering isn’t always people crunching numbers all day in silence. The work is also very team focused and requires a lot of liaising with clients. There are also so many different streams of engineering and jobs within a certain stream you can go into. So, don’t be deterred if you don’t consider yourself a ‘Maths God’.
And for those that are, there are so many complex problems out there that need to be solved, and it would be great to have more females helping to solve them!
What do you know now that you wish you knew during your time at MGGS?
Your value as a person is not defined by your scores. There will be plenty of opportunities to do amazing things outside of school. Your life is only just beginning, so be kind to yourself and don’t stress the small stuff.
What is something you have learnt at MGGS that still sticks with you in your career now?
If you work hard, you will always do well. Effort = Reward.
What are your goals for the future?
In the near future, I aspire to continue working on more major roads/rail projects around Australia to expand my skill set and hopefully get chartered. I would then hope to be able to move internationally, ideally to New York, to design impactful, iconic civil structures.