Meisha is an Acoustic Project Engineer. She started her career in the music industry due to her love of sound, but realised she could make a bigger difference on the quality of sound by designing the spaces from the “ground up” rather than trying to fix them. She went back to uni to study her Masters in Audio and Acoustics and moved into the construction industry. She has some great advice .. study hard, dive in and saturate yourself in opportunity, put your hand up for everything, take pride in your work and be tough (particularly when you are working in a male dominated industry). Sage advice!!! Meisha believes this is an incredible time of change with gender diversity and there’s no better time than now to embark on a career in the engineering and construction industries! #womeninstem #womeninconstruction
Introducing .. Meisha
Name : Meisha Stevens
Role : Acoustic Project Engineer
Who do you work for and what does your role entail :
I work for Wood and Grieve Engineers, now a part of Stantec. I am an Acoustic Project Engineer, a cultural, technical and strategic leader in the Acoustics section. Representing Wood and Grieve Engineers to external clients and managing those relationships. I’m responsible for the successful engagement of acoustic services on projects through to technical delivery. Managing and supporting staff working on my project as well as reporting and invoicing associated with projects booked under me.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I love creating technical solutions to complex problems. The building industry has lots of them, and particularly in acoustics as we cannot see sound. It’s difficult to explain to our multiple stakeholders, but an important part of any project. Creating and communicating these solutions is very rewarding when it all comes together, and you have a fantastic building in the end.
How did you get into engineering and construction? How did you learn your skills? :
I actually started out in the music industry, simply for my love of sound and being a big nerd. I did my undergrad in music and sound production and worked in the live and recording sector of sound for 7 years. In 2012 during a presentation by the late Bob Hawke at the Brisbane G20, I was blown away by the quality of sound in the auditorium simply by the design. I realised then I could be making a much bigger difference on how sound is heard by actually designing these spaces from the ground up rather than trying to fix them with lots of fancy buttons and knobs. I took the plunge and went back to uni to do my masters in audio and acoustics which was all the physics and algorithms and nerdy stuff I was missing in the entertainment industry. It was hard work, but the satisfaction of processing some nice data, or solving a complex problem was very addictive, and inspired me to fast track my career in the building industry. I worked around roadies and some pretty rough guys in the music industry, so being on site or lifting heavy gear didn’t phase me, it’s something that my boss was always impressed with when I first started and definitely a skill that has helped me in a very male dominated industry.
Have you won any awards? :
Last year I won the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Future Leader award. It was a big surprise and a very humbling experience. Since crossing over to the building industry, I have been a really big advocate for women, and have pushed to change the ‘gents’ culture that had somehow become the norm every where I looked. Joining some influential committees, surrounding myself with inspirational male and female leaders, and implementing some change into my own organisation were some of the ways I have been able to stay so excited and inspired to be part of the industry. I can’t say exactly why I won the award, but I like to think it’s being I am here to shake things up, so watch this space!
What advice would you give to other women looking for a career in engineering or construction? :
I would say firstly you need to study hard. Being an engineer of any type is a highly technical job, so you need to master that first. If you are still keen after completing your studies, my advise is to dive in and saturate yourself if opportunity. So much of what I have learnt to date has been via the sink or swim method
Put your hand up to everything and take pride in your work. Quality work, particularly in engineering is so important, and it will get you noticed.
Finally, you need to be tough enough to realise this is still a very male dominated industry. Being precious will not serve you; but having some dignity and a taking a very focused stand will. It’s an incredible time of change in diversity awareness, that now is a better time than ever to embark on a career in the construction or engineering industries. The opportunity is endless and there is a social awareness for inclusiveness like never before. I say, take advantage of the appetite for more women in the industry, get in, learn your trade, and benefit from the rewarding career.
Do you have a favourite saying or quote?
I do! “Nevertheless, she persisted” it’s a classic. I start every Women in Engineering Workshop I do with this, and I even wear it engraved in a bangle on my wrist. It’s the perfect reminder for days when you want to drop the ball, move to Tahiti and live our days in water bungalow. Persist.
Tell us about an amusing experience you’ve had :
We do a lot of late night commissioning in my role. To get a quiet background noise this often means skulking around work sites or buildings till 3am. I generally turn lights on as I need them on a room by room basis, particularly in a very large building. One night my colleague and I were doing some testing in an old heritage building which from the get go had some seriously haunted vibes going on. Add darkness, the dead quiet of the night and a very jumpy new graduate (me), it was bound to trigger some spooky encounters in one way or another.
I walked along a long dimly lit corridor, all rooms coming off of it with no lights. I got to the end and turned the light on in the room I was testing, took my test, left and turned the light off after me. On my way back down the corridor I saw a light on in another room. I had just walked past moments earlier and can distinctly recall no other lights on. Spooked out, I slowed down as a walked past the room only to see a pair of perfectly places shoes bang in the middle of the now lit room. Empty shoes, as if they belonged to a ghost, or somebody had vanished straight out of them. I couldn’t help it, upon seeing this I gasped and embarrassingly screamed. I ran as fast as I could past the creepy room. My colleague was very confused as he took no notice of this room, the light or the shoes. I tried to rationalise and walked back over to the door and this time peered inside a little further half expecting to see the girl from the ring in the corner, when what I actually saw the lovely security guard from the building in prayer. Seeing a person there I was not expecting also made me jump and gasp again and I quickly ran away in embarrassment, hoping I had not destroyed his prayer time completely.
A while later in the night he caught up to us and apologised for scaring me, to which I profusely apologised in return for gasping and screaming during his prayer. Needless to say I have never lived this one down, and the story is told to any new graduate taken out for their first late night testing experience. The old ‘Meisha saw a ghost’ story has become a benchmark of crazy things you can expect on site.