By Emma Xerri
Now approaching the completion of her latest project, senior project manager Angela Vorng is excited to add the Hall Road Upgrade to the list of things she can point out to her kids on their daily drives to school.
Born in Cambodia, where she grew up surrounded by devastation of the civil war, Ms Vorng and her family fled the country to start a new life in Australia at the age of 13.
It was only two years later that Angela, despite the difficulties of attending a school in a new language, happened upon her dream career.
“A female engineer from Monash came to my school in year 9 or 10, and it was at that moment that I thought, ‘I would like to wear that hard hat’,” Ms Vorng said.
“So I was pretty focused after that session on my goal to become an engineer.”
But the Monash University alum admits the course had its challenges.
“First year was pretty hard. I actually failed two subjects, which goes to show that it’s okay to fail sometimes. But I managed to do really well in my second and third year.
“After I graduated I worked in the private sector, specialising in high rise buildings and bridges.
“But I realised I didn’t want to just sit behind a screen and do calculations, so I decided to begin navigating work across different councils, from Dandenong to Cardinia and then Knox.
“I spent nearly 10 years in local government but it wasn’t enough of a challenge, so I moved to the rail sector, where I worked for seven years.
“And recently I thought, I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do in rail, so let’s go back to roads, and that’s how I landed my current Senior Project Manager role at Major Road Projects Victoria.”
With the Hall Road upgrade now approaching completion, Ms Vorng is able to reflect on the success of the project, and acknowledge the importance of her own part in the project, a certain leadership that has not always been afforded to women in the industry.
“I feel really connected to the project. I started my work on Hall Road in 2019, so I’ve been involved at a business, budgeting and federal funding level,” she added.
“To see this huge milestone finally achieved is a big relief, and I’m really excited.
“Each time I drive past I’ll be able to tell my kids ‘Mummy was involved in this,’ so it’s a legacy.
“And it’s a completely different industry from when I started. When I was moving from company to company, I was probably the only female there.
“There were times when my managers on site wouldn’t listen to me because I was a female, and I would have to stand my ground. But now there are women in leadership roles and working on site in things like traffic control. Even our female cadets are fantastic.
“Having women in the interview process is also so important. I will always make sure that, as well as skillset, we are looking at attitude and mindset, and giving young girls the opportunity to do the same work as their male counterparts.
And for Ms Vorng, who claims she has never been good at maths or science, this type of support is crucial.
“I think lots of girls fear STEM careers because it means they need to be good at maths and science, but honestly, I still don’t know my times tables and my kids always laugh at me.
“Of course, there are still times when I doubt myself, especially because I’m not a native speaker. So I always feel like I need to do more to showcase myself.
“But the things I have gone through have made me more resilient.”
Between her career success and the masterful way she manages the busyness of her personal life, Ms Vorng is an example of what women can achieve when they set their mind to it, engineering or otherwise.
“My home life is hectic. I have four kids who are in school and play sports. My husband also works in the construction industry and has early starts, so my mornings are filled with making lunches and their favourite fried rice for afterschool snacks, before hopping on virtual meetings. So by 10am, I have already done half a day’s work.
“A lot of the time your mindset is the key drive, especially for women who are often made to feel that you can’t have a successful career while being a wife and a mum.
“But we underestimate our power as females.
“We can do just as much as our male counterparts.”