Interview with an Engineer: Giana Morini

December 13, 2016

Giana Morini has, in the first 10 years of her career, worked on eight projects, from those touching U.S. national security to the biggest investment Australia has ever seen with the Curtis Island LNG Projects, and leading the large-scale volunteer work of the Engineers Without Borders’ water storage system in Maejanoi, Thailand.

The only task that seems to give the 32-year-old Ironman triathlete difficulty is choosing her favorite project. Giana, who had fashion design as a fallback plan, also rates field engineering among her favorite roles because it lets her get a little dirty. 

Now, she is part of a swat team working to meld big data with advanced modeling. The team is working to replace the miles of paper plans and records it takes to build a power plant or hydroelectric dam with computer models that not only represent a structure, but also forecast and adapt as a project evolves. The ultimate objective is to transform the way megaprojects are managed and save customers buckets of money. 

What inspired you to become an engineer?
I don’t know if I can point to one specific thing, although my dad has definitely been an influence. He worked in construction, so I grew up knowing construction and being exposed to engineering. He always said, “If you want to make a difference, become a good engineer.” Construction and engineering don’t always see eye to eye. 

But it does seem like it was always part of my plan. My mom recently found some books from second grade, one of those exercises where you say what you want to be when you grow up. Seven-year old me: Structural engineer. I crack up because I don’t remember it, but it was a goal, and I got it. 

Fashion? Really?
 Fashion is very design-driven and challenging and not many people do it. One way or another I was going to be in design. 

What’s your favorite misconception of engineering? 
Maybe people think we’re boring. We’re not boring.

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on?
The interesting pieces of an engineering life come with the opportunities to take your technical knowledge and background and apply them to challenges or positions far outside your comfort zone. 

The first position I took that wasn’t exactly engineering was as a marine warranty coordinator on the Australia Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas project. The engineering phase was near completion and they needed somebody to coordinate engineering, traffic and logistics, rigging and hauling, naval architecture, the client, and an outside marine warranty service. It was the first time I was exposed to all these different organizations and saw first-hand the impact engineering has on downstream stakeholders and how much more than engineering goes into project success.

It was a year of coordinating 30-day voyages from Indonesia to Australia, moving 2,000-ton structures containing millions of dollars of piping and equipment, crossing oceans in rough weather, and the cargo had to arrive on-time and undamaged. Hearing that a shipment left on time and 30 days later successfully arrived, was off-loaded, and set in place was very satisfying. 

Who has been a role model?
I don’t have one person. I have worked with hundreds of people. I’ve had dozens of supervisors. I look at the softer skills – the personality traits of people I want to emulate. What can I take from their style and incorporate into my own? A lot of times when I’m faced with a challenging event, I channel. I go to certain people in my head and say, how would they handle this, what would they do, how would they react. I think that’s how I classify my mentors. 

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