Observed for over a century and recognised by the UN in 1975, International Women’s Day has a dual purpose. Firstly, it’s a day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. But beyond the celebration, it serves as a worldwide call to action.
Marked annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day is a reminder to keep pushing towards a gender equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. At Aliaxis, we believe this is a goal best achieved by working together – men and women.
To honor the spirit of IWD, we’ve sat down with a handful of our Aliaxis team to get to know them a bit better, explore their journeys and learn from their unique experiences.
Here’s some highlights from our recent chat with Vanessa Lanegra, Aliaxis National Technical Manager for New Zealand.
Interview with Vanessa Lanegra, Aliaxis National Technical Manager for New Zealand.
How long have you been at Aliaxis and what’s your current role?
I came onboard 14 months ago, in December 2021. As the National Technical Manager for Aliaxis, my focus is at least 90% on Marley but I have crossover into the other companies.
In my role I actually manage information as opposed to personnel. I interpret and funnel information to the right people and answer questions as needed. I support our service team and product managers by keeping them aware of technical information as well as changes to government standards and regulations. My task is to ensure we’re all consistent, accurate and up to date.
For you, what’s the most rewarding part of the job?
Helping people! I love to share knowledge. It means much more to me to teach someone than to just give them the answer. When they really understand something, they can teach others which adds value.
“It means more to me to teach someone than to just give them the answer.”
How does Aliaxis fulfill their promise to support work-life balance?
For me it comes down to open and direct communication. If I’m overloaded, I can speak up and I know I will be supported. My manager will help me prioritise my workload to avoid burnout. And the company is very reasonable with requests for flexibility.
Drawing on your entire career in construction and manufacturing — a sector not normally associated with women — do you feel you’ve had to defy stereotypes or expectations?
There have been times I’ve given presentations to audiences of 80% men. Many of these guys have been in the industry forever, and there’s some big egos to navigate. It’s not uncommon for someone to second-guess my expertise. In my case, it’s not only being a woman, it’s also having an accent. I’ve been challenged plenty of times – but I am always very sure of what I’m saying and that has the power to change perception.
“I am always very sure of what I’m saying and that has the power to change perception.”
These experiences have made me more resilient, and I’ve learned that it’s how you say things as much as what you say that makes an impression on people – you must project confidence with your voice, your body and your presence.
Have you had any female mentors?
I was lucky enough to encounter two women earlier in my career who were passionate about female leadership in construction. One was my manager and another one I met through an associate. Their attitude was “Don’t let anyone get in your way”.
Like me, they were both mums, which was really reassuring. Their kids were older than mine and they were ahead of me in their careers. They said, “Look, this is going to be tough for a while. But it will get easier” and they both told me to make sure to keep on enjoying my kids because they will grow up fast.
Do you find yourself naturally networking with other women in the construction field?
There aren’t many of us to be honest with you, but yes, we keep in touch. We don’t do formal catch ups, but there are always trade shows or events where we will see each other – and then it’s great just to sit down and have a chat. Sometimes you just need to share.
You are undoubtedly busy; how do you take care of yourself and maintain wellness?
It helps that I love what I do. I enjoy being at work. But of course, I love my family, so I have to keep the balance. And I do it by keeping organised, focused, and productive. How do I say this? When you know that you need to pick your kids up at 5:01, you learn to stay focused and productive every minute of your workday so you can close your computer at 5:00!
I relax by going on walks and simple outings with my family. During the week, everything is scheduled. On the weekends I say, “let’s do nothing, if we’re all together it’s quality time.”
Do you have any advice for young women pursuing their dream career?
Follow your passion, it won’t be easy, but little by little you will find your way.
Whatever your goal, you will only get there if you learn to work well as part of a team. You will have challenges and require their support.
Lead from your heart, be sincere. When you’re starting out, it’s easy to fear that your sincerity will be mistaken for naivete.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Nobody knows everything! The biggest experts got where they are by asking the right questions.