[Pictured: Lute Mundia]
Chartered professional engineer of over 30 years and award-winning leader, Melissa Jovic, has been mentoring Samoan Australia Award scholar, Lute Mundia, to take on the transport engineering sector through the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).
Alumni of the WLI Leadership & Mentoring program, Lute, and her mentor, Melissa, have been working together to identify and tackle specific areas and goals needed for Lute’s personal and professional development, from technical upskilling to building self-confidence.
Recent Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering) graduate, Lute credits Melissa with challenging her to meet her goals, including to undertake a training course that would ultimately lead Lute to find her career path in transport engineering.
Melissa describes Lute as a “rising star” who has gone from strength to strength.
Lute and Melissa first connected in late 2020 while Lute was in Sydney undertaking her Bachelors degree at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
At this time, Lute was an active member of the Women in Engineering Society and a peer mentor to first-year women engineering students at UNSW, while Melissa held the role of Technical Director, Customer, Strategy and Technology Division at Transport for New South Wales.
Despite never meeting face-to-face, due to Lute returning home to Samoa in January 2021 to fulfil her scholarship, Melissa explains that from their first encounter, the pair felt they had found “a good mentor-mentee match”.
The two share a desire to see more women pursuing technical engineering roles and “being part of the decision-making in their workplace”.
Thriving on a structural mentoring process with a clearly defined learning and development approach and a focus on pathways and capacity-building towards implementation, Lute explains, “our focus was on professional and personal development as a graduate civil engineer navigating the industry”.
Having always been interested in the transport sector, Lute knew she wanted to connect with someone with a background in the field.
“Melissa was able to provide that with her extensive experience in rail and infrastructure whilst also being a passionate representative of Women in Engineering in Australia.
“Our main topics of discussion included identifying my strengths and weaknesses, developing new skills and goal setting,” adds Lute.
One of the specific goals that Melissa encouraged Lute to tackle was to build her technical proficiency, including inroad design and hydraulic modelling.
“This prompted me to take short courses, such as the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) Road Design 101 course and the TUFLOW training course,” says Lute.
As a WLI Leadership & Mentoring participant, Lute was eligible to undertake supported professional development relating to her industry and career goals.
“Currently working in the government sector, I decided to choose a course offered by the ARRB as our projects are often governed by a mixture of Australian, New Zealand and local guidelines and standards in terms of the design and construction of roads,” says Lute.
She explains that the ARRB works closely with road agencies by providing consulting and research services, which is relevant to her current permanent role as Graduate Civil Engineer at Samoa’s Land Transport Authority.
“The [Road Design 101] course further refined my knowledge of road design and made me realise that this was the area of interest within the transport sector that I eventually want to specialise in.
“I was also able to appreciate the course content a lot more than I would have at university due to the self-paced nature of the course,” explains Lute.
Melissa insists that since meeting Lute, her mentee has gone from strength to strength, proving herself to be highly capable, positive, and adaptable.
“I’m very proud of Lute’s progress and her overall rising confidence and leadership."
“For example, Lute did a project presentation on behalf of the Land Authority, gaining more confidence in public speaking and professional presence in her organisation,” explains Melissa.
And despite the many challenges arising due to COVID-19, Melissa says, “Lute always has shown an optimistic attitude to work and life in general.
"I’ve been the most impressed with Lute’s growth as a professional and as a person. She has really shown a new 21st century holistic approach to engineering at large.”
Melissa explains that the engineering body of knowledge is shifting towards a holistic understanding of a project’s lifecycle, and therefore, “Lute is perfectly fitting in”.
For Lute, Melissa’s “enthusiasm for sharing her insights and expertise” has been “incredibly valuable” throughout such a pivotal period in her life.
"Melissa’s guidance challenged me to work out how to reach certain goals by exploring different resources and allowed me to reflect on my choices with constructive feedback," says Lute.
“Overall, the WLI program was a fantastic experience and I was lucky to have a mentor who was more than willing to provide guidance over the duration of our mentorship. It has left me with an ambition to carry this forward and be a mentor myself in the future."
“I believe everyone has a personal definition of leadership, and for emerging women leaders, mentoring is one of the best ways to gain encouragement and support from like-minded people that help you work towards your ambitions,” adds Lute.
Lute and Melissa are alumni of the Women’s Leadership Initiative 2020 Leadership & Mentoring Program.
For more information on the program and to learn more about other thriving partnerships, visit: Women's Developmental Leadership Program (wliprogram.org)