Marnie Devereux was only 15 when she realised her real interest lay in people rather than equations.
With her aptitude for maths and science initially leading her to harbour ambitions of becoming an engineer, it only took five days to trigger a major site recalibration.
“I had a very clear vision of what I thought I wanted to do when I was at high school,” says Marnie, now the Head of Design and Project Management at industry giant Lendlease. “But after a week of work experience at an engineering firm, I quickly realised that working with people rather than numbers was what I really wanted to do. From that point, I wanted to be a project manager.”
After subsequently completing her building degree, Marnie commenced her long-running tenure with Lendlease in 1995, working on office, hospital, high-rise residential and shopping centre construction before moving into a project management role focusing on retail development. After leaving the company and spending a period in London as a management consultant and then infrastructure development, she returned to Australia to re-start her career with the construction powerhouse.
For Marnie, the attractions of construction remain as clearly defined as when she first entered the industry.
“Actually building something that’s so tangible and seeing the results of your labour is a very rewarding experience,” she says. “Then there’s the wonderful environment and teamwork that you experience on large construction sites, which is also quite amazing. I really like people. I like to work with people. I like to lead people and get the best out of teams.”
Crucially, it was her AGSM MBA (Executive) program that enabled her to realise the full extent of her people management abilities.
“It was a turning point for me because it enabled me to be confident about what I was doing and also helped me recognise my strengths,” she says. “I got an excellent mark in Managing People and Organisations, which I didn’t think I’d be good at.”
As a successful female in a male-dominated industry, Marnie also says she’s extremely mindful of the need to encourage and foster stronger participation in the field by women.
“I feel I’ve been on a bit of a journey to get to this point, and it’s not the end for me,” says the 41-year-old mother-of-two. “But we have a problem in our industry in that there aren’t many women at senior levels, so I feel a significant responsibility to raise the issue and draw attention to it. Trying to attract and retain a culturally and gender-diverse workforce is something I’m very conscious of trying to achieve.”