From Engineer to Innovator: Michelle Lawrence’s Impact on BIM and Civil Engineering
In the dynamic realm of Building Information Modelling (BIM), where innovation and technology converge to shape the future of engineering and design, there shines a remarkable individual who stands as a pioneering force. Michelle Lawrence, a Civil Engineer with over eight years of experience, has consistently pushed the boundaries of BIM and technology, relentlessly seeking improved ways of working and delivering superior projects. Her journey serves as an exceptional inspiration to emerging female leaders not only in Civil Engineering but also within the expansive realm of BIM.
This is the reason why our Esteemed Judging Panel recommended that we add an additional category to the ‘Extraordinary Women in BIM’ nomination campaign, titled ‘Emerging Extraordinary Woman in BIM’, as the exceptional innovation, dedication and excellence that Michelle has displayed in her career is inspiring.
Read more about the ‘Extraordinary Woman in BIM’ Nomination Campaign here
The “Celebrating Women in BIM and the Digital Built Environment” campaign was established by Baker Baynes to honour individuals who embody the core attributes driving change and innovation in the field of BIM & Digital Construction, have walked their own BIM journey and are recognised for their success in pushing boundaries, overcoming obstacles and inspiring others to embrace, adopt and thrive in BIM.
Baker Baynes wants to celebrate these BIM Champions who are trailblazing and leading the charge with their visionary contributions.
The esteemed panel of judges, consisting of Anien Nauta – Senior BIM Model Coordination Manager at AECOM, Dr. Calayde Davey – BIM Visionary and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture at University of Pretoria, Jani Viljoen, BIM Counsellor and Professional Services Director at Baker Baynes and Lilanie Lotter, BIM Manager at CAPEX Projects, meticulously evaluated nominees based on their prowess in BIM and their ability to inspire. This is what our Judges had to say about Michelle’s nomination:
Anien Nauta: “Michelle is a pioneering Civil Engineer who consistently pushes the boundaries of BIM and technology, relentlessly seeking improved ways of working and delivering superior projects. Michelle serves as an outstanding inspiration to emerging female leaders in her field and within the realm of BIM.”
Dr. Calayde Davey: “It’s great to see someone from the Civil Engineering Profession leading the charge and pushing boundaries in BIM, showing that leadership and innovation can come from any professional discipline in the Built Environment and positively impact the entire professional ecosystem.”
Lilanie Lotter: “Michelle Lawrence is a beautiful example that BIM is not just buildings. She is a powerful force determined to raise the BIM tide in Civils. She is an exceptional inspiration to young female leaders in her discipline and BIM.”
Jani Viljoen: “It’s truly commendable to witness a woman excelling in the field of civil engineering while wholeheartedly embracing BIM and innovative workflows. Michelle serves as a staunch advocate for intelligent 3D modelling (BIM) workflows, and her commitment to working smarter, not harder, through the integration of automation with Dynamo Scripts is both inspiring and groundbreaking.”
A Journey of Innovation and Excellence
From a young age, Michelle’s interest in Architecture and Engineering as a potential career path was shaped by a speech that she had to research and prepare for.
Michelle applied for both Architecture and Civil Engineering to pursue her creativity and passion for Maths and Science. Her destiny was initiated into the world of Civil engineering when she was accepted Stellenbosch University. Equipped with a solid educational foundation, she embarked on her professional career, leaving an indelible mark on every project she undertook.
Her professional odyssey began at BVi Consulting Engineers – BVi Group, where she honed her skills as a Civil Engineer. During her four-year tenure there, she demonstrated her unwavering commitment to excellence in the field of civil engineering. Michelle found her voice and passion for BIM & collaboration in Civil Engineering and as her professional experience grew, so did her intrigue for finding more efficient ways of visualising designs using 3D Modelling, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as channels to identify ways to solve project challenges and identify improved design opportunities. Michelle quickly learnt the importance around the management and sharing of data between disciplines and started identifying possibilities for expanding intelligent workflows that would not only benefit her focus area of projects, but other disciplines as well. Her need to know more and continuously enhance her technology skills from Varsity days meant that most of what Michelle implemented was self-taught. Many personal hours sacrificed for the pursuit of excellence and innovation.
Hungry for growth and seeking a ‘playground’ that would nurture her desire to pioneer solutions that defied the norms in industry, In 2019, Michelle embarked on a new chapter in her career as she joined the prestigious AECOM, a global leader in infrastructure, environment, and engineering. Here, she became an integral part of the building civils team, contributing her expertise to large complex projects.
A Passion for Progress
Her journey into breaking BIM Boundaries began on an Airport Terminal project, which was predominantly in two dimensions while the rest of her team worked in Revit’s three-dimensional realm. Determined to bridge the gap, Michelle collaborated with a colleague to develop her first Dynamo scripts, leveraging 3D data to create Revit objects. This marked the beginning of her self-study journey, where she delved deep into Revit, Dynamo, and even explored the intricacies of APIs and coding. Michelle’s relentless pursuit of knowledge and innovation has been bolstered by her network of software engineer friends, including her husband, who have become invaluable sounding boards for her ideas and challenges.
What sets Michelle apart is her unbridled passion for progress. She firmly believes in working smarter, not harder. Michelle has embraced the power of Dynamo scripts for Revit and harnessed the capabilities of Python in Civil 3D to streamline her work processes.
In recognition of her dedication, innovation, and groundbreaking work in the realm of BIM, Michelle was revered as a finalist for ‘CESA Young Engineer of the year’. She also received an award in the Aecom Annual Awards in the category ‘Innovator of the Year’. This accolade serves as a testament to her relentless pursuit of excellence and her unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in civil engineering.
A Beacon of Inspiration
Michelle Lawrence’s remarkable journey is not just about her professional achievements but also about the inspiration she provides to others. She is a powerful force determined to elevate the role of BIM in civil engineering, demonstrating that BIM is not confined to buildings alone. Her pioneering spirit extends to the realm of civil engineering, where she continually raises the BIM tide.
Her journey serves as an exceptional source of inspiration, particularly future professionals who are charting their paths in the field of engineering and BIM. Michelle’s story exemplifies the impact that dedication, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence can have on an industry.
Richard Smedley-Williams, CEO at Baker Baynes, shares insights into Michelle’s remarkable impact. “Michelle’s journey reminds us that, in the world of BIM, there are no limits to what can be achieved with determination, resilience, and a commitment to innovation. Her journey is an inspiration to us all, and her impact on the field of civil engineering and BIM is nothing short of extraordinary.”
Shaping the Path Ahead
In the ever-evolving world of BIM and civil engineering, Michelle Lawrence stands as an ‘Emerging Extraordinary Woman in BIM’. This is a name to watch… It is clear that Michelle is far from done in terms of pioneering the ‘impossible’ in BIM, contributing to more efficient collaboration and project efficiencies.
Michelle’s journey in BIM offers valuable insights and guidance for current and future professionals venturing into this dynamic field. Her advice is not just rooted in technical prowess but also in a deep understanding of how embracing BIM can transform the landscape of civil engineering.
She shares her wisdom by saying, “Don’t be scared of Revit; it’s the first step to wading into the BIM waters.” Her encouragement to overcome initial hesitation resonates with those who might find this transition daunting.
Furthermore, Michelle emphasises the importance of approaching BIM as a problem-solving tool.
She asserts, “I can teach you Dynamo, but I want you to come to me with a problem, and I’ll show you how Dynamo can solve it.” Her pragmatic approach underscores that BIM is not just about adopting new technology; it’s about harnessing it to tackle real-world challenges effectively.
Embracing the Future
For future professionals looking to follow in her footsteps, Michelle Lawrence’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, curiosity, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in the world of BIM. As she continues to chart the course for her BIM future, what she has already achieved serves as an inspiration to all who seek to explore the boundless possibilities of BIM in every built environment discipline. Michelle Lawrence is a true visionary, an ‘Emerging Extraordinary Woman in BIM’, and her ongoing mission to transform the industry through innovation and collaboration is a journey we should all eagerly anticipate. Watch this space!