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Meet The Team – Cindy Thomas

Cindy Thomas is one of life’s natural communicators, who has brought her impressive communication and stakeholder engagement skills to infrastructure projects across Australia. Cindy is currently a core part of our communications team, working on Bruce Highway Upgrade – Cooroy to Curra project Section D, Contract 1 and ensuring our project is connected with our client, partners and stakeholders in the local community.

We caught up with Cindy to find out more about overcoming her fear of public speaking and her love of working in infrastructure.

Why did you become a communications professional?

I am somewhat intrinsically a communicator, and most roles in my working life have involved an element of communications and engagement. I joined the industry with Abigroup on the Bonville Upgrade project over 14 years ago, and project life and stakeholder engagement was where I really found my niche.  I became a professional because I believe stakeholder management is important, and that doing it well makes a difference.

What do you love about our industry?

It’s unpredictable, challenging, frustrating, rarely boring, and exceptionally rewarding in so many ways. I love the people, the camaraderie, and the feeling of being a part of something that changes lives.

What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on the Bruce Highway Upgrade – Cooroy to Curra project Section D, Contract 1.

What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?

Stand out achievement is being promoted after only two years in the industry into a manager role in recognition of my leadership skills; and being awarded the NAWIC Award in 2011 for Excellence in Marketing and Community Engagement, but by far my greatest achievement was overcoming a debilitating fear of public speaking.

What’s the best project you have worked on?

The most special would be the Bonville Upgrade near Coffs Harbour in NSW as this was my first project in 2006, with an insanely good group of people.  I have worked on eight projects over the past 14 years, and they have all been the ‘best’ for different reasons. The C2CD project team make it a joy to come to work every day so it’s the best right now.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?

Learning to be brave and speak up – it turns out most people are thinking the same thing; believing in myself and that if I have a seat at the table, it’s for good reason; and most importantly, kindness always prevails.

What would your last meal be?

A very memorable seafood pasta I enjoyed in Monterosso Cinque Terre Italy, or a reverse seared tomahawk steak cooked by my husband.

What is the last movie you watched or series you binged?

The Tomorrow War.

What excites you about the future of infrastructure?

Sustainable social, environmental and economical innovation, greater industry support for raising awareness about mental health and well-being, diversity and inclusion on projects, and equal pay.

If you could have worked on any major project from history, what would it have been?

The Colosseum in Rome.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Entertaining friends and family on our property, music festivals, live music, travelling, reading.

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Ipswich Motorway Upgrade: Rocklea to Darra – Stage 1 – Project Wrap-Up

From April 2017 to April 2021, the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade: Rocklea to Darra Stage 1 played a central role in the lives of motorists, residents and businesses as works to upgrade the highway and create a more efficient and safer road network were undertaken.

For several members of the Bielby Team, the project has been a significant part of their working lives as they worked collaboratively with our team, stakeholders and partners to deliver a world-class infrastructure solution for one of the State’s busiest arterials.

Following project completion, we caught up with three key team members and asked them to share their experiences delivering a $400 million project comprising 3km of highway upgrades and seven new bridges across a flood-plain.

Andrew Howgate – Project Director

What did you enjoy most about the project?

The project has been twenty per cent of my career.

Looking back at the challenge of the complexity of raising and lowering the busy motorway while contending with safety, environmental, community and design issues, not to mention the day to day challenge of managing people, gives a great sense of accomplishment.

The job also had several firsts for me, an archaeological find in timber bridges, a collaborative contract as project manager, incorporation of numerous new computer-based company systems and tools and every conceivable Public Utility Plant challenge.

What was the project’s biggest challenge?

Managing an ever-changing throng of people; people coming, people going, people getting promoted, people having good times and bad, all of which are a natural part of a multi-year major project.

What about the completion of the project makes you most proud?

The project has no outstanding disputes or issues. The knowledge I was part of a team including the client, designers, contractors, subcontractors, and the community who have left an infrastructure legacy and strong relationships are something we should all be proud of.

How does it feel to have delivered a major piece of infrastructure for Queensland?

I always look forward to telling my kids I was part of building this.  They’re indifferent now, but one day I’m sure they’ll tell the “grandkids”.

What is the next project you will be helping Bielby to deliver?

I’m helping deliver numerous recent project wins as Project Director.  Watland Street to Sports Drive, Cooroy to Curra D1, and Northern Transitway are all in my remit.

Kylie May – Stakeholder Engagement Manager

What did you enjoy most about the project?

I loved working with the team. We created an exceptional culture and a tight-knit, collaborative environment that enabled us to meet our targets, operate efficiently and deliver the project to the satisfaction of everyone involved. It was also fantastic to be able to work on-site.

What was the project’s biggest challenge?

Working within a live motorway whilst proactively engaging with stakeholders, particularly during changes to construction methodology from unpredictable circumstances such as weather and construction conditions.

What about the completion of the project makes you most proud?

It was a privilege to work with some engaging local stakeholders and to help address their needs and concerns as we delivered the project. I also appreciated the project’s size and scale, including the seven bridges, and was fortunate to have seen the pitching and piling process within a live motorway.

How does it feel to have delivered a major piece of infrastructure for Queensland?

I feel proud to be a part of such a successful upgrade, which has significant improvements for the area. I hope to be back there one day if the next stage comes to fruition!

What is the next project you will be helping Bielby to deliver?

I’ll be working to support the delivery of the Northern Transitway in Brisbane. The project will provide a high-quality public transport corridor and will see 2.3km of dedicated northbound and southbound bus lanes constructed between Kedron and Chermside along Gympie Road.

Kane Clarke – Project Manager

What did you enjoy most about the project?

The working culture for R2D was superior; everyone came to work with a great attitude.  The ability of the R2D team to work towards a common goal whilst still being able to have a laugh made for a well-organised and effective environment.

What was the project’s biggest challenge?

The motorway traffic switches were perhaps our biggest challenge. Due to the narrow road corridor, the project had over seven major stages.  The preparation works would start months in advance, with the team focused on achieving the switch dates.  Once that date arrived, the entire R2D team worked tirelessly around the clock to ensure the motorway was open for traffic.

What about the completion of the project makes you most proud?

I was one of the first guys on the ground in 2017, so to see the project evolving was extremely rewarding and satisfying. It was also great to see that everyone who worked on R2D were equally proud of our combined efforts.

How does it feel to have delivered a major piece of infrastructure for Queensland?

It gives me immense satisfaction to drive through this section of the motorway and know I had a hand in its creation.  It’s something we worked really hard to deliver and should be proud of!

What is the next project you will be helping Bielby to deliver?

Topping the fantastic work culture in this project is going to be hard to beat, but I’m hoping to transfer some of our great learnings from this project to the next. We are still wrapping up the final tasks for R2D, and post that, I will have a better idea of what comes next.

About the Project

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The $400 million project was jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments, each committing $200 million. The project covers a 3km section of the Ipswich Motorway between Granard Road, Rocklea to the east of Oxley Road, Oxley and included seven new bridges.

In April 2017, TMR appointed Bielby Hull Albem Joint Venture (BHA JV), a Queensland-owned joint venture, as the contractor for the upgrade.

Learn more about the project HERE

Bielby Welcomes Yvonne Hartnell to Critical New Role

Bielby Holdings is delighted to announce the appointment of Yvonne Hartnell as Planning Manager. Yvonne joins Bielby following a 25+ year career supporting the end-to-end delivery of Australian and international infrastructure projects for major contractors, including Downer, Lendlease, Laing O’Rourke and Thiess.

In her role, Yvonne will bring her exceptional knowledge and experience of planning and project controls strategy, advice and implementation to all current and future projects.

Managing Director Adam Edwards welcomed Yvonne to the team. “I am delighted that Yvonne has joined Bielby, and I look forward to the significant contribution she will make to our team and to the projects that we are privileged to deliver for our clients.”

Yvonne will be based at Bielby’s head office in Milton and is excited to join our growing organisation, “I am thrilled to join Bielby and to be part of their continued growth. I look forward to meeting the team, becoming embedded in projects and supporting the work we do to deliver major infrastructure across Australia in the civil, transport, resources and energy sectors,” said Yvonne.

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Everton Park Link Road Completed

Bielby Holdings is delighted to announce the completion of Everton Park Link Road, a vital congestion easing project, connecting South Pine Road, north of the Kedron Brook Creek, to Stafford Road, east of Mountridge Street in Brisbane’s inner North-West.

The completed project will reduce traffic congestion at the Stafford Road and South Pine Road intersection and improve connectivity for cyclists with dedicated facilities linking into the ever-popular Kedron Brook Bikeway.

We caught up with Joe Damen, Project Manager, who oversaw the project, ensuring its smooth progress from site mobilisation to completion.

What did you enjoy most about the project?

I liked the size of the project, as it allowed me to get to know all our staff and workers and create a cohesive team dedicated to delivering a successful project.

The project had plenty of opportunities for professional development and growth for all our staff and workers. It included plenty of technical aspects of road construction throughout the project.

What was the projects biggest technical challenge?

The project included a major reinforced concrete box culvert structure for stormwater drainage.

The structure is 60m long on a 40 degree skew at the base of a creek bed with difficult ground conditions. Comprised of 208 precast elements weighing between 6 tonnes and 12 tonnes, it was a logistical challenge to transport the materials to the site, ensuring that we worked within the boundaries of traffic curfews.

Working in a tight urban environment also posed some challenges. Each precast element had to be delivered and unloaded into a narrow corridor between the work area and Stafford Rd without causing traffic congestion on the local road network. We then had to store precast elements on their side and a dual crane lift undertaken to install them below the new road.

What about the completion of the project makes you most proud?

This is my first project as a Project Manager, and I am very proud to have led a safe and successful project on time. I’d like to thank every team member for their commitment to ensuring that we delivered another outstanding piece of infrastructure for our clients.

I look forward to seeing the project benefit the local community and businesses while reducing congestion for road users and improving access for pedestrians and cyclists.

What is the next project you will be helping Bielby to deliver?

I’ll be working with the estimating team on upcoming projects in the road and rail sectors.

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Bielby Undergraduates Complete Constructionarium Australia Program

For the past eight days, Bielby Holdings, Elian Ware, and Jayden Smith joined 14 other undergraduate and early-stage career professionals as part of the latest Constructionarium Australia cohort undertaking an intensive theory and practical training program.

The program takes participants through a complete project build from tender to completion, as they work as a team to deliver a replica 30m long, 4-tonne Story Bridge at The Construction Training Centre in Salisbury.

We caught up with Elian and Jayden to find out more about their participation and how they enjoyed their time with Constructionarium Australia.

Elian Ware

Elian Ware is an Undergraduate Site Engineer who has spent the last eight months working on the Everton Park Link Road Project, where he is working towards project completion in the coming months.

What did you enjoy most about Constructionarium Australia?

Constructionarium really gave me a broader picture of the construction industry. Having only experienced the day to day life of a site, I wasn’t aware of the community interlinking the industry where various companies, although fighting for the same jobs and projects, have to work together to maintain sustainable businesses. Seeing and talking to all these industry professionals at the QMCA awards, at the BBQ on Wednesday, and also the panel on Friday made me feel a part of this community. It inspired me as to what I could become in the future.

What challenged you most about Constructionarium Australia?

Being pushed into the deep end and out of my comfort zone. I was appointed the project manager for the Thursday (the 3rd day of construction) and was in charge of ensuring that we had completed the job, ready for the handover on Friday. We managed to complete the job on time; however, it was a challenge. Also, being introduced to so many industry professionals and learning to network with them, I found quite a new experience and was like nothing I’d ever done before.

What help do you think Constructionarium Australia participation will be in your career/studies?

The main component I will take away from this experience is the emphasis on using soft skills in the industry and how much I developed them in those eight days. Talking to subcontractors/clients to maintain relationships is almost more important than hard skills, and I will use this knowledge in my ongoing career.

Would you recommend taking part in a build to other students/professionals?

Absolutely, meeting all these different people from different companies with all sorts of different experience gave a taste of the industry and the group I worked with got along very well. You learn a lot during the eight days of taking a project from inception through to handover.

Networking is also a huge component of this build and is very nicely integrated into the eight-day schedule; you will meet a wide range of people who are eager to talk to young professionals regardless of their high positions in the industry and busy schedules.

Harry, Jason, and Alex, and all the individuals for lunch & learns were all very inclusive and very passionate about the whole build and always ready to take questions and give advice. Harry was great at pushing us all out of our comfort zones and put us in positions where we would learn the most.

Jayden Smith

Jayden Smith has spent the last ten months with Bielby as he completes four years of Civil Engineering studies at QUT. Currently embedded at head office, he works with the precontracts team on bids for projects across Queensland.

What did you enjoy most about Constructionarium Australia?

The aspect I enjoyed the most was learning the full cycle of how a project comes to fruition. Seeing the Story Bridge build start as a bundle of drawings with a team of people who had never met, to completing the project under time and under budget was definitely a highlight to me.

What challenged you most about Constructionarium Australia?

The most challenging part of Constructionarium was being delegated the role of Project Manager on the first day of construction. At this point, the team was still unsure about each other, and from the very start, the holes in our tender began to show. Our tendered efficiencies and the use of assumptions throughout the tender caused many problems for me as the project manager. For example, due to a short two-day tendering time, our lift plan hadn’t considered in which order the prefabricated panels were placed on top of one another.

The fact that this had not been considered during the tender phase caused mass downtime for the crane crew, costing us valuable time and money whilst a new strategy was developed. However, I feel like I learnt the most through these challenges; it highlighted to me the importance of the tender phase and the level of detail that is required on-site to ensure a project runs smoothly.

What help do you think Constructionarium Australia participation will be in your career/studies?

Constructionarium has allowed me to build a variety of new skills. As part of the tendering team for Bielby, it has given me a new perspective for the level of detail required on-site from a cost and program point of view. It has also allowed me to network with peers at the same stage in our careers as well as people at the top of the industry. Being given the opportunity to attend a QMCA event was a highlight and allowed me to develop the ‘soft skills’ of networking by talking to industry professionals.

Something that I have come across through my time at Bielby is the involvement of Indigenous Companies in tenders, which was also a topic covered throughout Constructionarium. Alex Ibarra gave a presentation on Indigenous Culture and was incredibly moving for me.

Until now, I had never fully understood the importance or role it had in our society, but Alex explained it in a way that made sense, and he was also extremely open to further discussion. Having someone you could ask at any time, any question without judgement, was extremely helpful, allowing me to grasp the concepts he presented. We even had a one-on-one chat whilst I was doing Traffic Control on-site for a length of time, and I found that I learnt the most from him in that environment. The inclusion of Indigenous Culture is something that is still very new in the Construction Industry, and I believe in the next 5 years, it will become more prevalent. I am grateful that I have been exposed to it now throughout the duration of the Constructionarium course to prepare me for the future.

Lastly, the Lunch and Learns (which run at lunch all eight days by professionals) have taught me the importance of developing myself professionally as well as ensuring that I look after myself mentally and enjoy what I do as an Engineer. This is not something that I would usually consider at work, but Constructionarium has taught me that it should be at the top of my priorities.

Would you recommend taking part in a build to other students/professionals?

Definitely. No matter what stage you are at in your career, I can guarantee that Constructionarium will teach at least one aspect that will make it worthwhile.

The group of 16 that went through this course at the same time as I were not just Undergraduates.

The team ranged in experience from students to older professionals with up to 20 years of experience who were further developing their skills or taking on a new role. Every participant mentioned they had gained a plethora of new knowledge in their respective fields. This course doesn’t just cover the technical skills required by an engineer. It also teaches the ‘Soft Skills’ that are far more important when working towards a Project Management position or beyond. All in all, this course has definitely opened my eyes to what skills I need to work on to progress my career to where I want to be, and I believe it will for others too.

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25 Year Milestone for Bielby Project Manager

Bielby’s Andrew Howgate racked up an impressive milestone with the company in May, passing 25 years as a Bielby employee. We caught up with Andrew and asked him to cast his mind back to 1st May 1995 when he became a Site Engineer working with the team delivering the Deagon Deviation Upgrade to the Gateway Motorway.

What was your first impression of Bielby?
That’s a long time ago now but possibly the competency of the management and the ease at how things happened.

And it is impossible to overlook the generosity of being handed my first phone – a secondhand Nokia!

What project have you most enjoyed working on?
There are quite a few to choose from, in 25 years I’ve been lucky to work on a range of projects but Bruce Highway Upgrade – Cooroy to Curra Section A, Package 2 is my favourite.

It was a project that was complex and highly involved with the construction of 8km of highway, six bridges and major earthworks involving cuts and fill up to 40m deep.

What are the 3 major projects that stand out for you in your time at Bielby?
In addition to Cooroy to Curra Section A Package 2, I’d have to say my current project – Ipswich Motorway Upgrade; Rocklea to Darra and The Gladstone Rail Link; Aldoga to East End Line. Each project that I have worked on has its unique qualities and challenges, and that means that there is a lot of variety in the roles and projects I have undertaken.

From major highway upgrades and managing millions of vehicle movements to constructing a rail line to aid the resources sector, I’ve been lucky to have worked on some of the company’s flagship projects.

What has been the biggest change in Bielby over the last 25 years?
Besides the obvious – faster computers and mobile phones and tablets, it was the decision to move from roundabout and widening projects to the larger scale infrastructure which necessitated bigger teams and stronger systems.

What is the best thing about life at Bielby?
Being part of a team with the same goals and knowing everyone from the owner to the leading hand.

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Meet The Team – Joe Damen

Working on the Ipswich Motorway upgrade and specialising in civil road construction, Senior Project Engineer, Joe Damen, is leading the Boundary Road Connection construction team. We caught up with Joe to find out a little bit more about his career and projects.

Why did you become an engineer?

As a kid, I loved building stuff with Lego and playing with dump trucks in the sandpit. Throughout school, maths, science, and problem solving were my interests and strengths, English was neither a strength nor an interest. I always had a keen interest in buildings and bridges; therefore, the obvious pathway was to study to be a Civil Engineer at University.

What do you love about our industry?

The best thing about construction is that at the end of each week, month, year, and finally completion of the project, you can see your work come to fruition. It is great to see the benefit that the end-user gets out of the project. What is even better is driving on the road every day that you had a part in building.

In the construction of brownfield projects, every day is different – one day there may be earthworks, the next a concrete pour, or asphalt. You are not stuck at a desk all day; it is very rewarding!

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on the Boundary Road Connection. It is part of the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade; Rocklea to Darra and is a service road linking Boundary Road at Rocklea through the Oxley Creek flood plain to Boundary/Blunder Road Intersection at Oxley.

It will benefit the local community by reducing congestion at the Oxley Rd Roundabout over the Ipswich Motorway, Oxley McDonalds, and Oxley Bunnings.

What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?

I believe every project I have been a part of has been a great achievement. Each one has different challenges, dollar values, and prestige.

In my career, I have worked on flat long roads in the middle of nowhere, steep, narrow roads in the hinterland, and major arterial highways and I have learnt plenty from each project and value each one as being important to my career to date.

What’s the best project you have worked on?

I have not decided on a favourite yet. It’s a decision between my first project, Port of Brisbane Motorway – Gateway Motorway to Pritchard Street (2011-2013), or my current project, Ipswich Motorway Rocklea to Darra (2017 to Present). It’s a hard choice.

I was given a fantastic opportunity while the industry was booming in 2011 to work on a $200M BMD Seymour Whyte JV straight out of uni. The project was part greenfield and part brownfield to provide a better link for industry between the Gateway Motorway and Port of Brisbane, taking the majority of traffic off Lytton Road. The project had challenges including soft soils, acid sulphate soils, marine plants, major bridge structures, retaining walls, intersection upgrades, and traffic switches.  I learnt so much on my first project as a Graduate Engineer and got a good taste of construction.

I am currently working on the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade; Rocklea to Darra. For the last two years, I have been managing significant construction areas on the project. These areas have challenges including; a narrow work area within a road corridor catering for 70,000 vehicles per day, numerous traffic switches, interfaces between crews constructing retaining walls, large RCBC structures, and civil works. The work has included significant upgrades to the adjacent service roads including management of service relocations, construction of shared user footpaths and exclusively separated cycleway. I have recently started overseeing the Boundary Road connection which also has challenges including; services relocations, major RCBC construction, and two intersection upgrades. As we head towards a strong finish to the project, the Ipswich Motorway may well become my favourite.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?

Field experience is priceless. You can spend all the time at university or training, but there is so much to learn about construction from those in the field and being in the field. There are people out on-site that have been in the construction industry longer than I have been alive.

If I am not sure on a build strategy, they are usually my go-to because they have seen it, done it and can pass on their expertise and advice.

What would your last meal be?

A steak from the Meringandan Hotel.

What is the last movie you watched or series you binged?

I saw “Knives Out” at the movies recently. Wasn’t expecting much but it was a brilliant murder mystery comedy.

Who’s the greatest engineer of all time and why?

John Roebling – Lead Engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge is so impressive considering it was constructed in the 1880s.

What excites you about the future of infrastructure?

The urban sprawl is growing in South East QLD, and I think the industry has exciting times ahead with many underground road/ rail tunnels required, high rise, and no doubt arterial road upgrades. Hopefully, South East Queensland wins the 2032 Olympics as there may be the opportunity once in a lifetime Olympic infrastructure.

If you could have worked on any major project from history, what would it have been?

Locally I would pick the Story Bridge as it is a part of Brisbane’s skyline.

Globally I think it is hard to beat the Golden Gate Bridge. Well worth a visit if travelling to the USA.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work I play cricket in the warehouse competition every Saturday afternoon and glued to the TV when the Australians are playing test cricket (I’m a bit of a tragic). I also go cycling on weekends and ride to an from work when the weather is kind. When I have the time to get to the beach, I am pretty keen on bodyboarding and am slowly picking up surfing.

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Celebrating 20 Years!

Bielby stalwart Sam Bates ticked over a major milestone with the company celebrating his 20-year anniversary with Bielby; two decades in which Sam has been instrumental in the delivery of projects across Queensland.

“When I first arrived at Bielby, at the original office on Bielby Rd in Kenmore, the first person I met was Andrew Howgate, who said “Mate, you don’t know how lucky you are to get a job with this company”, recalls Sam.

“I could have taken that a couple of ways, but it was pretty clear from early on that this was a unique construction company with a great culture and I began to understand what Andrew truly meant. The fact that I am here 20 years later proves that Bielby is a great place to work and build a career.”

Sam, who heads up Bielby’s pre-contracts team originally joined Bielby as a Site Engineer on the SET 1B Extension Project,  becoming involved in more and more aspects of contract management, negotiation and estimating as time progressed and his experience grew. In his two decades with Bielby Sam has worked on the Houghton Highway Duplication and Approaches, Samford / Wardell Intersection Upgrade, Acacia Ridge Open Level Crossing Upgrade, Centenary Link Alliance, Bruce Highway Upgrade – Dohles Rocks Rd to Boundary Rd, Gatton Bypass Duplication and many more.

‘I think the biggest compliment that I can give to Bielby is that it hasn’t felt like 20 years. We are a very tight-knit team and many of us have been here for similar amounts of time, so we have a great culture, trust and respect for each other which means that we get the job done and enjoy working together.”

Managing Director Adam Edwards paid tribute to Sam’s time with Bielby “Sam is a fantastic asset to Bielby and lives our values every day. He is always willing to help, to go the extra mile and to ensure that we deliver for our clients with the highest levels of professionalism and quality. Sam is to be congratulated for everything that he has achieved and will achieve as we continue to secure projects and deliver vital infrastructure.”