Mary-Louise Noruka, Julieth Jiap and Finkewe Zurecnuoc wheel over three office chairs still wrapped in plastic cover and settle in to them opposite me. We’re on the second floor of a new building, which apart from the ladies in protective shirts, trousers and safety boots, now seated across the desk from me for this interview, is empty.
In about a month’s time though, the floor we’re on and the others in this three level office complex, will be fully manned and a bustling hub as the Bank South Pacific (BSP) Waigani Head Office, overseeing the bank’s operations in the region.
Workstations on one of the floors of the building
Mary-Louise, Julieth and ‘Finkee’, are part of the Kramer Ausenco consulting engineers team, responsible for the engineering design, documentation and quality assurance of the project which consists of a data recovery centre, cafeteria, over 500 workstations and additional car parking space on the ground level. On an earlier tour, I got to see all this plus the two standby generators that power up the building during outages. The building structure and services also accommodated for seismic movement within the complex, and ancillary buildings include a transformer substation and two guard houses.
For Finkee, the standout on this job is that this structure is right on Waigani Drive in Port Moresby, passed daily by thousands of people, and its importance to the bank’s functions Pacific-wide. As Papua New Guinea’s first female engineer, and an industry veteran, the BSP Waigani Head Office is one more to add to her long list of successful assignments.
Finkee’s young charges’ lists are understandably shorter, but significant. My last interview with Julieth was over the refurbished Sir Manasupe Haus, also in the nation’s capital. Formerly known as the Marea Haus and fondly referred to as the “pineapple building” because of its oval to cylindrical shape, Julieth strengthened her knowledge and skills working on the air-conditioning, fire, and hydraulics systems on this project, and used that education on the BSP job. She impressed her company colleagues and senior engineers, and will be working more independently in the future.
Julieth is a mechanical engineer, and picks up a lot from Finkee-known to be a hard taskmaster-on building services and project management. For Mary-Louise, who graduated in electrical engineering, the same field as Finkee, the learning environment is perfect. Both graduates are former students of Finkee at the University of Technology in Lae, Morobe Province, where Finkee also studied.
Mary-Louise developed an interest in electrical engineering because of an uncle in the communications branch of the field. Julieth had a friend, mentor and also a mechanical engineer, now working with Rio Tinto in Darwin, who was the motivation behind her decision to take up engineering.
(l-r) Mary-Louise, Finkee and Julieth outside the new building
“While in school, I didn’t know that as a mechanical engineer I could work on buildings. I thought I’d be in a workshop fixing cars. And then Finkee comes along and changes that thinking,” Julieth says.
I turn my attention to Finkee who is now swivelling a little restlessly in her chair. I’ve caught them during the final commissioning stage of the project and have probably overstayed my welcome. But I can’t resist asking Finkee why she took up engineering. I’m met with a curt “Why not?” For someone who “…just wanted to try something else...” she has made a pretty decent 30 year career of it.
It’s a journey Mary-Louise and Julieth have but started on, and at the moment, I’m delaying their trip. I thank them for their time, stand up, roll the plastic-covered office chair I was on back under the desk, and walk out of the room. I take one more look back at the three women, in their protective shirts, trousers and safety boots, huddled over a drawing of some part of the office complex, going through the process of assuring that all systems and components of the building achieve the owner’s requirements, and I am inclined to agree with Finkee-“Why not?”
-William Natera, Public Relations Manager-Kramer Ausenco (PNG) Ltd
Banner Image: The new BSP Waigani Head Office