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Part 2: 3 designers, 3 continents, much in common

To celebrate the year of the designer, we talked to professionals located in three corners of the world – Denmark, Australia, and the USA. 

We wanted to know what makes them tick. How they ended up in structural design and what inspires them? What makes them get out of bed every day? What are their goals? Even though the continents and business environments vary, there were many common denominators. See if you can spot them.


Nerisa Balliu: Pursuer of Lifelong Knowledge

Nerisa Balliu is a Structural Engineer at Calibre Group, Brisbane, Australia. When not reading or going for family walks on the beach, she plays with Legos or builds long train tracks with her 6 and 2 year old children (who keep her on her toes all day).

“If the right people are working together, anything can be achieved. The team I belong to is truly inspiring. This urges me to learn, grow and give the best I can every day.”

“I grew up in a family where I was always told there were no limits to be what I wanted to be, as long as I worked hard to achieve my goals. My parents were both teachers and they instilled in me the desire to learn and do well at school.

First, I wanted to be an architect, but to enter the University of Architecture in Albania you had to do a test where you’d literally sit outside with other students and draw buildings. If you were good at drawing it would actually be fun, but I quickly realized I would never pass that test – even though I took a few drawing lessons beforehand. But I was good at math in high school and loved technical drawing, so the civil engineering profession seemed the best bet.”

With the right people, you can achieve anything

“After my undergraduate studies, I had the choice to specialize in structural engineering. I thought why not – I wanted to be the one to design and bring to life the work of an architect. I had always thought that it must be quite fulfilling to stand in front of a building structure that you have designed together with the team and be proud of your achievements.

I have been lucky enough to be part of the team which have achieved some great results. I’m particularly proud of The Drapery, a 21-storey residential tower in Brisbane with 4 levels of car park and a commercial space at the ground level. It has 2,000 m2 (2,400 sq yd) post-tensioned floor plates, reinforced concrete cores, and a piled substructure. The structural design allowed us to build over an existing heritage brick drain and the overland flow path. It was a challenge, but the end result is amazing. I also was involved in the Flagstone Shopping Centre project where I used the DELTABEAM® and Peikko’s bolted connections for the first time. These solutions significantly sped up the construction – also the design was very straightforward.”

Passion for lifelong learning

“The work requires critical thinking skills and a strong grasp of engineering fundamentals. The objective – I believe for every engineer – is to produce safe and efficient solutions that withstand different load combinations, while taking into consideration social, economic, and environmental factors.

Currently I’m working towards becoming a Chartered Member of Engineers Australia. Obtaining this credential is important as it means getting recognized for all the hard work. And as a structural engineer, you need to embrace a passion for lifelong learning.

In the future, I’d like to see more women in engineering. It is perceived as a male-dominated industry, but things have changed and continue to change. Most of the companies already have or are adopting strategies to attract, retain, and support women.

So, follow your dreams and never give up. You hear this almost everywhere, but I can’t express it enough how true this is. As a structural engineer, you could encounter a number of challenges, but with the right mindset, knowledge, tools, and collaboration you can achieve great outcomes.”


 Read part 1: Riccardo Pedroni.

This article has been published originally at Connections 1/2020 magazine.