Selected among the WES Top 50 Women in Engineering in 2023
Leading the protective design team in Arup's Resilience Security and Risk team in London
Becoming professionally qualified with the Register of Security Engineers and Specialists
A day in my life
Most of the days I commute on my Vespa moped to the Arup office in Fitzrovia.
A couple of days per week I work from home, especially if I have lots of Teams meetings.
When the day starts, I go through my to do list, then check emails and deal with urgent tasks.
At 10am, I like to have my quick cappuccino break as this gives me a boost for the morning. I like drinking cappuccino with my colleagues if I can, as it’s a way to catch up on projects or anything else that comes to mind.
I particularly enjoy the social aspect of working in a team, being back in the office, and being connected.
As I lead the protective design team and I also do project-related work, it can be tricky to find the balance.
Nonetheless I love the technical and people management aspects of my day.
As my kids are older, I have a little more time for myself and after work, I like spending time playing tennis.
[Civil engineering] keeps the mind agile by the continuous application of key principles to an endless variety of design problems.
Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?
Those who had the biggest impact on me as an individual, so my father for the ambition and my mother for the persistence.
We asked Mariella…
I would recommend a career in civil engineering because...
It’s a career that’s about problem solving and innovation. It has a social purpose, and it’s very pragmatic with measurable outcomes.
It also keeps the mind agile by the continuous application of key principles to an endless variety of design problems.
It can be very satisfying to see the finished product - this could be a building or even a calculation!
One other aspect is that civil engineering forges a mindset that can allow different career paths.
What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?
I belong to a generation when the Barbie doll was the classic gift for girls so I only had a tiny Lego set (most likely a recycled gift) that only allowed me to build a small house in about five minutes, with little room for grand designs!
At a later age, when my kids were given lots of Lego sets, I became less fond of them as the pieces were getting tinier and tinier or were big enough to impale my feet while walking barefoot.
Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also…
a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and a tennis player.
What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?
That there’s always something new to learn, and that projects and tasks are all different almost every day.
What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?
The holistic approach to the design and the need to manage multidisciplinary requirements coming from the various disciplines.
Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.
That most civil engineers like playing with Lego during childhood. I actually found playing with Lego very frustrating as the model had to be unassembled to start another one.
There are lots of civil engineers that would pick Barbie over Lego. Hands down!
Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal hurdles/difficulties?
It provided me with the opportunity to work with diverse teams and people, managing multiple tasks and deadlines.
This allowed me to be more effective outside work by learning to prioritise, managing conflict and focus on the things that matter and being outcome driven.
As a side note, I graduated from the Academy of Music in violin after playing for 13 years. Nothing to do with engineering but it does help to build resilience, self-discipline and commitment.
Some of my hobbies include tennis, travel and buying pre-loved items to help the environment.
Also, I don’t like Lego.
Mariella's career path
I studied building engineering, which sits between civil engineering and architecture. This provided me with a good structural understanding which allowed me to specialise in structural engineering.
After that, I started to work on projects where structural engineering was applied to bomb blast design, so high dynamic loads.
With time and after many projects, the role become more strategic up to the point of delivering protective design strategies which are developed with input from other disciplines as well.
I was so fortunate to have access to European Union funding for the Erasmus and the Leonardo Da Vinci programme which gave me the opportunity to learn two more languages and explore more cultures, while getting financial support.