Meet The Team – Katie Sommerfeld

Civil Project Partners’ resident adventurer, Katie Sommerfeld, has a passion for travel, enjoys Fijian food, and is inspired by people overcoming adversity. With a career in infrastructure for clients and contractors, Katie has been involved in major projects across Australia and overseas. In our latest meet the team feature we caught up with Katie to find out more about her.

Why did you become a civil engineer?

At school, I had a natural interest in maths and science. I considered studying straight science or pharmacy before a last-minute preference change to engineering realising that I would enjoy the practical and field-based options that engineering could bring.

I studied engineering at the University of Queensland, where the first year was common to all disciplines.  By the end of the first year, I had narrowed down my favourites to civil and mechanical engineering.  My father, a mechanical engineer, advised that civil engineering would have more opportunities and a scholarship from the Department of Main Roads in Civil Engineering cemented the decision.

What do you love about working as a civil engineer?

Civil engineering includes a vast amount of different areas and roles that you can work in.  I have touched on only some of them, and just in my field of expertise road engineering, I love that opportunities are available in all phases of a project’s life cycle.  This gives the flexibility to choose an area that might suit your current commitments outside of work and also enables diversity in experience and involvement in new things.

What are you working on at the moment?

The last project I worked on was an intersection upgrade in Townsville.

What’s the best project you have worked on?

Two projects stand out for me in my career.

Firstly the Landsborough-Maleny Road Upgrade when I was a graduate and worked as the Project Engineer and Quality Representative.  It was a major slope stability project with extensive soil nailing and general road reconstruction & drainage improvements.  I worked under a great Project Manager, and with a terrific site team, it piqued my interest further into geotechnical engineering, which lead to my master’s studies.

Secondly, the Old North Road / Samsonvale Road / Youngs Crossing Road upgrade on Brisbane’s north, as it was the first significant project I undertook the Project Manager role.  The project was complex on many fronts, and my project team and crew were such a talented group of guys with a large set of complementary skills that we were able to tackle challenges as they arose and successfully complete the project.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?

Everybody on a project or a team brings a different perspective, experience and insight to solving a problem or getting a task done.  For this reason, a better solution can be formed using input from all levels.

Being a leader of a team doesn’t mean you are better at or can even do the job of everyone in your team, it just means you have the job of facilitating and providing direction so that everybody’s efforts achieve a common objective.

What would your last meal be?

A Fijian Lovo with all my family and friends in one of my favourite Fijian spots.

A lovo is the term used for the underground oven used to cook a traditional Fijian feast and is similar to the Mouri Hangi and Torres Strait Islander Kup-Murri.  A pit is dug into the ground and ingredients are wrapped in foil (or traditionally leaves) and placed on rocks and coals in the pit. The pit is covered in banana leaves, sometimes potato sacks and soil to trap the smoke and slow cook the food for several hours –  it is well worth the wait.

What is the last movie you watched or series you binged?

The ethical dilemma TV series “Your Honor”. Centred on a judge whose son is involved in a car accident, the show looks at the moral dilemma of protecting a family member who has committed a crime and its repercussions for everyone involved.

Who’s inspires you and why?

In general, people who face extenuating circumstances and rise to a challenge. There is always something special in seeing people overcome challenges and go on to succeed; it is inspiring and reminds us to keep going no matter what the world throws at you.  Over the years I’ve found inspiration reading mountaineering books and stories from those who survive missions behind enemy lines.

What excites you about the future of infrastructure?

I enjoy going to technical seminars, attending presentations on Australian infrastructure flagship projects and watching documentaries on Mega Projects.  Given I was studying for my undergraduate degree twenty years ago, some things haven’t but a lot has changed and it’s a thrill when I learn of solutions to problems and technological advancement which overcome those impediments in existence when studying or as faced in my career.  These solutions create more possibilities for optimised design and construction and hopefully, I can be a part of this in some way in the future.

What would be your dream project to work on from history?

The Snowy Mountains Scheme; dams, tunnels, rugged and remote terrain in breathtaking scenery.  When you think about the challenge of constructing a major power plant in a remote national park, it is all the more exciting because it has the combination of every engineering discipline working together to create an amazing piece of infrastructure.  However, the safety standards of historical projects such as this, aren’t fathomable to what we expect today.

What piece of advice would you give to someone about to start a career in infrastructure?

Get field experience and varied experience in your years as a graduate, so you gain a practical understanding of how things work and provide yourself with the best chance to discover an area you want to focus on. There are so many opportunities in our industry that it is ok to try a number of disciplines before deciding on a specialty.

What do you do outside work for fun?

I am kept quite busy with a one-year-old daughter and watching her grow up, but when I get the chance, I like to do Pilates and Yoga classes and hope to one day get back into rock climbing.

I’m also an avid traveller and can’t wait for the world to reopen so I can head overseas and experience some more far-flung corners of the globe or even just New Zealand so that my daughter can meet her Kiwi relatives and family friends.

If you could attend any event or concert from the past, what would it be?

I would have liked to see the Berlin Wall come down. Seeing a country reunified and a barrier that divided families across Germany, but particularly in Berlin would have been amazing. The jubilation of friends and families being reunited would have been something special to see.


Not for me, but I make an exception for Cheesybite.

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