Alexandria Sonego: It’s all about the people

The constant excitement of working in rail for Alex Sonego is all about the people you work with, and the lasting legacy for our communities, achieved together.

“Rail is fast paced, dynamic and always challenging. It attracts an amazing array of people from across the globe because projects are so diverse and intricate,” Alex says.

“Critical thinking paired with diversity of thought provides the knowledge required in order to solve the issues at hand and provide the best results for both the community and the project.

“When you complete a project after working through all the wicked problems collectively as a team – there is no better feeling of satisfaction!”

As Senior Project Engineer with ARTC Inland Rail, collaboration is front and centre, with Alex’s team working alongside the project’s contractor, BHQ JV.

“It’s a non-traditional, collaborative framework where everyone is accountable, and we are positioned to best inform the contractor throughout planning, design and construction.”

Originally intending to be a pilot and flying at school as part of the Air Force Cadets, Alex switched her sights to engineering, a profession championed by an inspiring high school teacher.

“He was a former electrical engineer and recognised my passion for maths and science and encouraged me to pursue engineering,” she says.

“When studying civil engineering at QUT, I was fortunate to have a number of excellent undergraduate experiences and one of those was with WSP within their transport planning team. Upon graduating, I joined GHD’s Transport Infrastructure Team and landed within the Rail Team specifically.

“Honestly working in the rail industry wasn’t something I had envisaged for myself. It landed in my lap but since then, I haven’t looked back.

“GHD’s breadth of rail work included projects like Gold Coast Light Rail Stage Two – independent verification, owner’s engineer roles for Queensland Rail & Carmichael Rail, Level Crossing assessments and Cross River Rail – rail integration and systems tender which as a young engineer provided the foundation for design which has guided my career.”

With predominantly design experience, Alex felt she needed further construction experience and joined Laing O’Rourke in Victoria working on the Level Crossing Removal Project in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The project remained operable through successive lockdowns (six lockdowns, a total 246 days) and Alex delivered the rail corridor civil infrastructure associated with the Maroondah Highway Level Crossing Removing Project in Lilydale, while retaining live train services throughout the works.

Looking to return to her hometown of Brisbane and round out her client-side experience, Alex was keen to join the ARTC Inland Rail team, recognising the incredible opportunity to work on a nation-building project which will transform how goods are moved around Australia.

“My team is responsible for the delivery of the Northern Civils Program, from Whetstone to Gowrie, just north of the Queensland border. A typical day for me involves design, cost and schedule review, scope and contract document development, as well as consultation and coordination with our Contractor. It’s an amazing project,” she says.

As she builds her career in rail, Alex is committed to helping others forge their pathway in the industry and describes the ARA mentoring program as “phenomenal”.

“The matching was on point and the experience was beyond rewarding.”

Alex’s mentee didn’t come from a traditional engineering background but related with the rail industry and was very focused and motivated regarding her professional and personal development.

“My mentee was incredibly driven with the tenacity needed to succeed in our industry. She took every opportunity to learn and apply what she could in her day-to-day work.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have had an opportunity to learn from my mentee and I feel reassured in the difference she will make as a champion of change to those coming through the industry in the next 10, 20 years; she will be a terrific role model.”

Alex believes great project and community outcomes happen when traditional mindsets are challenged, norms questioned, and diverse skillsets and experiences are brought to a project.

“Working to attract and retain diverse and talented people across the rail industry is imperative.”