Emma Challands



Bachelor of Construction Management (Hons)

Graduation year



Geelong Waterfront

Current position

General Manager (Vic) at Cerno Management


Emma discovered her passion for project management by chance, and her determination has fuelled her incredible success in construction project management.

Interview with Emma

Can you tell us about your time at Deakin? 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Deakin University. I came into my Bachelor of Construction Management as a wide-eyed student with a passion for the property industry and left an astute graduate who felt confident to take my knowledge into the working world.

What has been your journey since finishing your course? Briefly outline your career path prior to your current role.

I started my career in a graduate program with the Queensland Government in Rockhampton. I was exposed to health projects early on in my career assisting with Yeppoon Hospital and Gladstone Oral Health and immediately knew I had found my calling.

Following this, I took on a role as a project engineer with Johnstaff, where I worked for four years gaining invaluable experience on hospital and education projects such as The VCCC North Side Facility at The Royal Melbourne Hospital ($100M). I continued my industry experience with roles at Root Partnerships and APP before finally taking a position at Cerno Management to launch their Melbourne office.

What has been the biggest influence on your career?

Great mentorship has played an extremely important role in my growth and success in this industry. Like in most arenas, getting the fundamentals right early on is paramount. I was very lucky I had someone to help me lay a strong foundation on which to build my career, and from there someone who was able to teach me the importance and value of networking and building strong relationships.

Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of career you have embarked on?

I have had many career aspirations over the course of my life, as most people do, and I found project management mostly by accident. I had a passion for building and real estate but didn’t want a technical role such as an engineer or architect. Through a lot of investigation and googling into the industry I came across The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). They introduced me to the idea of project management and the rest as they say, is history.

What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar profession?

It’s a cliché, but you must have a passion for this industry to succeed. It can be very demanding on your time and energy. You also need to know how to network, and learn to love it. It is one thing to be a great project manager, but if you want to move up the corporate ladder you need to know how to gain work and build a business. This is something you invariably never get told until much later in your career – the sooner you start the easier it gets.

What are your passions outside your work?

I love to travel and get outdoors. I’m a mad Mixed Martial Arts fan and can be found at the local pub enjoying the UFC on Pay-Per-View Sundays.

How would someone describe you?

I am relentless in the pursuit of what makes me happy.

What are you most proud of in your career journey?

Not giving up. There have been times in my career where I have been burnt out and exhausted beyond measure, but I have never thrown in the towel. I came out the other side stronger than I could have ever imagined and with opportunities I could have only dreamed of. You must never give up.