“Don’t let stereotypes hold you back”

Jul 01, 2024

Trenchless Australasia sat down with Rob Carr project manager Marie Piette to discuss her career and work at the microtunnelling contracting company.

From Norway to Cambodia and now Perth, Western Australia, Marie Piette’s career within the trenchless industry has taken her across the globe, and she’s not letting stereotypes stop her. For her, the passion begins and ends with working in tandem with the environment. “With underground construction, I feel like I’m working with the elements by building assets that are integrating into the ground,” Piette said. “It almost feels like teamwork with the ground.” First studying Earth Sciences and Geotechnics at university, Piette then began her career working on the construction of a new subway in Paris. “At that time, I had the chance to work with some very inspiring people,” she said.

“They really were pioneers and leaders in their fields, so it gave me the passion for the profession.” She then moved to work in various roles in different countries for eight years before joining Rob Carr in April 2023. Working as Project Manager, Piette’s primary responsibility is to ensure projects are delivered on time, safely, on budget and environmentally friendly. It also involves many aspects of scheduling, team management and contracting budget forecasts. “Essentially, each project I am involved with is similar to a small-scale company,” Piette said. “As manager, we pretty much fit in all the positions within that.” Specifically working for Rob Carr, she enjoys the technical aspect of microtunnelling.

Piette said there is a very interesting technical component as well because in microtunnelling, you often have to deal and manage many unknowns. “So, as manager, it’s very thrilling to have the opportunity to optimise everything,” she said. Currently, Piette is managing works for the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, part of WA’s METRONET, the single largest investment in public transport for Perth.

The Thornlie-Cockburn Link will be Perth’s first east to west cross line connection, which will make travel more flexible for commuters. The link will close a 14.5km gap in the eastern rail corridor by connecting the Mandurah and Armadale-Thornlie lines, as well as catering for growth across the south-eastern suburbs.

“A few years ago, Rob Carr was assigned to relocate various water mains under the existing railway and to date, we have done seven microtunnels of various diameter,” Piette said. “This project is for the NEWest Alliance and the collaboration has been very rewarding and productive throughout the duration.”

Despite joining the project once it had already begun and managing the challenges that comes with this, Piette has found the project rewarding. “It’s a very culturally dense project and there’s a lot of different perspectives with that, but it has been a very rewarding project for me,” she said.

When giving advice for other women within the trenchless industry, Piette said it simply and encouraged others to “go for it”. “Don’t let stereotypes hold you back,” she said. “The construction and trenchless industries have countless opportunities so, it’s a field where we never get bored.” Piette also recognised the challenges with this and acknowledged that the path may not be linear. “We have to be realistic about the reality of the industry as well,” she said. “So, there are challenges but the more women within the industry, the better it’s going to be as well.”


Trenchless Australasia

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