Allyson Lawless, structural engineer, researcher and businesswoman has enjoyed a full and colourful career spanning some forty years.

Consulting Career

Allyson’s career started in consulting where she learnt to apply her theoretical knowledge in South West Africa, South Africa and the UK.

Engineering Software Pioneer

Due to her interest in computer programming she moved on to develop and market civil engineering software and introduced low cost design, CAD and GIS solutions to the South African market. As a result of her marketing efforts her name has become synonymous with civil engineering and she was named IT personality of the Civil Engineering Century when the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) celebrated its centenary in 2003. Although she has sold most of her software interests, AllyCAD is still widely used in South Africa and further afield.

Skills Development

As a result of her interaction with students and young graduates she became aware of the lack support for workplace training and predicted looming skills shortages as South Africa geared up to develop substantial infrastructure for the Soccer World Cup, and to address economic growth. She has researched and published two books and many papers on the skills challenges and has led many capacity building initiatives to rebuild skills in the public sector, including the innovative use of retired engineers to coach and mentor young graduates.

Voluntary and Advisory Roles

She has held senior office in local and international engineering institutions and has scored several firsts for women or people from small business. She was the first female to graduate from the civil engineering department of the University of Natal since the Second World War, and became the first female president of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering in the year 2000. She has served on many ministerial advisory panels associated with innovation, education, skills development and service delivery and is currently advising on the development of the Skills Plan associated with an ambitious upgrade to South Africa’s economic infrastructure.


Allyson was declared the Shoprite Checkers/SABC 2 Woman of the Year in Science and Technology in 2007, was recognised by NSTF for her ‘Contribution to Scientific, Engineering and the Technological Development’ in 2008, and was awarded an honorary doctorate (DEng) by the University of Stellenbosch in 2009. She has been made a Fellow by many institutions including the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.