At one point in Giovanni Rapana’s life, rugby league or concreting were the likely career options before him. But despite his obvious talent on the footy field and the stability of a family business to rely upon, the Gold Coast local knew there was more he could accomplish.
In 2013, Rapana began his Advanced Diploma of Engineering at TAFE and went on to complete a degree in Civil Engineering at Griffith University in 2017. And he did it all while working full time and with a young family of three at home.
“Nobody in my family went to university. My dad had a concreting business and it was either that or rugby league for me,” Rapana said, who has a brother and sister that play for National Rugby League teams.
“I finished high school and was labouring for a number of years, but I realised really quickly that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.
“So I went back to university after we had our first child, and I knew it was going to be hard but I wanted to get a degree under my belt because I felt that I was cheating myself. I knew I had more in me. If I can do an engineering degree with three kids and work full time, anybody can do it.”
Rapana also found time in between his studies and home duties to represent Australia in the Universities Rugby League World Cup in 2017, which he said was among his highlights while studying at Griffith.
The construction management skills he acquired during his years of labouring in the family business and other companies also came to the fore during another highlight, during his Work Integrated Learning placement in India, which was made possible thanks to a scholarship from Griffith.
After accepting an initial graduate position with a civil consulting company last year, Rapana has since taken up his new role with the City of Gold Coast (Council) as a Senior Project manager, where he works on a number of coastal infrastructure projects.
“One of the projects I’m currently working on is an underground Seawall in front of Kurrawa Park in Broadbeach, which acts as a protection to our coastline in our large storm events, and it’s been really interesting to me because I’ve never worked on coastal projects before,” Rapana said.
“The seawall is in the planning and design phase and they wanted someone with a construction engineering background to oversee it. Also in Palm Beach, our team will be upgrading the 21st and 11th Ave groynes, so our team is reviewing the structure to determine the project scope.”
With years of hard work juggling home life and work, his studies are now paying off, Rapana said his advice to future Griffith Engineering students is in the form of an old New Zealand saying: “Do the Mahi (Work) and get the treats.”
“I strongly believe that if there is a will there is a way,” he said.
“An engineering degree is relatively hard, but for anyone who knows me they would agree that if I can finish a degree, anyone can. Treat it like a full-time job and keep chipping away. If you can learn to manage your studies, it will pay off.”