Eliane Elbassar

Inspiring Engineer

Eliane never had a Plan B, she always knew she wanted to be an engineer. Now that she is one, she loves her job with a passion. But of course, that doesn’t mean it was always easy. Originally from Lebanon, she studied and worked while she was pregnant, all in a new country.

This is her inspiring story.

What do you do?

I’m a full-time civil and structural engineer, I design and build houses, residential or commercial buildings and I also deliver road and infrastructure projects. If you’re in the car and you find the road has been widened and there’s new concrete or asphalt pavement with new line marking, that means I might have been part of the team that delivered this project. I also design the structural elements of houses and buildings from their footings to their columns, walls, slabs, stairs, swimming pool etc. A structural engineer will do the design and calculations as per the agreed specifications and codes to make sure the building is structurally stable to withstand any forces and loads that act upon it. Next time you are at your home and you feel safe and protected remember these four walls and the roof above your head was designed by a structural engineer.

Did you always know what you wanted to do?

I was lucky, I knew I wanted to be an engineer since I was in school, I loved physics and math, and somehow I was always certain I would become an engineer. My father is a builder, so I grew up around construction sites and a big part of my childhood memory is watching my dad come home from work covered in concrete slurry, his hands rough from working with reinforcement bars, timber beams and bricks, and I would be so happy to see him. Somehow the smell of freshly poured concrete always made me feel at peace. I was also fascinated with the fact that my childhood home was built by my father and grandfather and a part of me always knew that I would be in the same field as them.

How did you get started?

There was an incident on site and my father and was severely injured. For 5 years he was in a wheelchair from one operation to another, from one surgery to another, at some point he had to go to site with both his legs in cast to carry on with the work, it was heartbreaking seeing him in pain and still working. It was around the same time I was going to apply for universities, and without any hesitation I chose the Lebanese university faculty of engineering. With all the risks and safety concerns that come with working in the field of construction, I was not discouraged, I had my family’s support and I applied only for this university. No plan B for me, I was determined to become an engineer.

What do you love about what you do?

The thing that gives me joy the most is how engineers and builders transform an abandoned land to a family home. Sometimes when I’m in the car with my friends or family I would go: “oh look at this house, I designed it” or I would say “hey guys look, I’ve done this building or road”. It makes me feel like I helped create something out of nothing. When I graduated my mom invited everyone for a celebration and she had these souvenir engravings that said “We dream of great things, but Engineers build them” and I think of that all the time. what do you want your children?

Do you have any advice for young girls considering engineering as a career?

If you choose a career doing something you like, it comes naturally. I don’t have to force myself to show up at work, I actually can’t wait when it’s Monday and I get to be in the office or on site. It has become a part of my identity and not just a job with a salary. I can’t imagine being anything else and I don’t regret I chose engineering. I guess that’s why I feel confident, because I know where I belong. I know there might always be something that I don’t know but I confident I will learn it and will master to it with the right time and training.

What are you most proud of in your working life?

I have a picture at home that I really love, it’s me at my master’s graduation with a huge belly in front of me, I was pregnant with my daughter and was also holding my one year old son. Looking back I remember how difficult it was and sometimes still is, coming to a new country at the age 29 to start everything again from zero. I went back to university, studied and worked while I was pregnant and now working full-time while raising two toddlers. How can something be so difficult yet so easy at the same time. I’m glad I did not give up and it’s true what they say, anything is possible if you put the work to it.

What would you like your children to learn from you about the world of work?

That’s a good question. Although I have two young children, I choose to challenge the stereotype that women in engineering should sacrifice their career. By working full-time in engineering, I want to show my daughter that she can have any career she wants and nothing should stop her from following her dreams. I want my son to grow and learn to support women in the path they choose.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

My parents and my siblings were with me every step of the way. I remember when I was in university, every time I had a big test and I was worried, my mom would drive all the way to come and encourage me. Her pep talks and words of wisdom are still with me to this day. I was blessed to have incredible work colleagues and bosses who have encouraged me and acknowledged me. But I could not have carried on without my husband’s support, whenever I feel down or tired, he reminds me that everything is going to be okay and that tomorrow is a new day, he would look after the kids so I can study and work, he has been a tremendous help to me. And today my kids are the reason behind my strength, I want them to grow up and say with pride: “my mom is an engineer.”

Did you have any setbacks in your study or career?

I talked about how I always wanted to be an engineer and how I knew it was meant for me, but do you want to hear a funny story? I actually failed my first semester at uni. My dad was injured at work, I was young, in a new environment, away from home and living in a dorm, and I actually thought I was too smart and didn’t need to study, I got distracted and I failed. It broke my heart, I was disappointed with myself, and was so embarrassed to face my parents. But they didn’t give up on me, and I didn’t give up on myself, I did it again, passed and graduated from two universities and with distinction.

Do you have any advice for girls thinking about a career in your industry?

If you love studying, love math and physics and you don’t mind pulling all-nighters wrecking your brain to solve equations, you’re going to love engineering. But it doesn’t stop there, you will still need to learn, even after you graduate, every day on the job you will learn something new and you will need to remember it for the next job. It will get tough but if you are tougher and put all your effort into it, you’ll be fine. 􏰀

What are your thoughts about the future of work in your industry?

It will always be needed, it might change with time, building codes, specifications and requirements might change but the physics underneath it will still be the same. The world will always need engineers.

I would love to design and build my dream house. Unfortunately for engineers, it might take us a few months to design a castle, 1 year to build it but it will take us a lifetime to afford it.


Job: Civil Engineer
Industry: Engineering, Construction