| 05 December 2022

Meet Shannon Kieran, graduate member and award-winning structural engineer

Shannon has been named the winner of the Young Designer Award at the Australian Steel Institute 2022 National Steel Excellence Awards. She talks to us about her career and her position on the Northern Committee. 

What inspired you to choose a career in structural engineering?  

I have always been interested in science, but I also had a strong practical and creative side and liked hands-on subjects such as art. I had many opportunities to explore the various science disciplines during school, including becoming the first Northern Territory student to be selected for the national Australian Biology Olympiads where I had the opportunity to meet real world scientists and researchers.  

I also participated in EarthWatch Institute environmental science research and data collection residential trips. However, through these experiences, I realised it was not science for science’s sake that inspired me, but rather the idea of learning how the world works and then implementing practical changes to create direct improvements to communities. This led me to pursue engineering. 

You have been working on the Charles Darwin University (CDU) Education and Community Precinct. Can you tell us about your involvement and what you have learnt along the way?   

I have been a key designer on all structural elements for the CDU Education and Community Precinct, from structural steelwork and reinforced concrete elements to the concept design phase and complex connection detailing.  

Where I have not directly designed an element, I have typically been involved in reviewing other engineers’ work. I have also assisted with managing the project, including filling the role of acting structural lead during two major milestone delivery dates. After the design phase, I have also been involved in site inspections and providing construction site support throughout the ongoing construction phase. 
This project has been a huge milestone for me. I have been exposed to many learning opportunities, both in terms of technical learning for the new types of design elements I have worked on, as well as through the leadership development opportunities. Although my local structural team is small, the project structural team included engineers and modellers across several of our national and international offices. Despite being one of the most junior engineers in this wide project team, I was able to manage and coordinate the design team to ensure we delivered our design documentations within the milestone deadline, while responding to architects and contractors, and completing my own design task responsibilities.  

What does it mean to you to win this award?   

Winning a national award is not something I expected, and it made me realise and appreciate how far I have come in a short space of time. I find it very easy to fall into the kind of thinking where I tell myself: ‘this is my normal day to day work, it’s nothing special’, but when I was nominated for the award, it made me take a step back and reflect on how much I have grown and managed to accomplish in the almost three years since I graduated. Especially as an emerging professional. Events like this are very important to provide encouragement and validation that we are on the right track with our development. 
How has being a part of Engineers Australia’s Northern Committee helped your career?    

It has allowed me to network with more senior engineers and gain a better understanding of the key issues affecting our industry, as well as have a direct influence on Engineers Australia’s strategic direction in the Northern Territory. I feel confident to step outside my comfort zone and further develop my interpersonal skills.  

My primary focus while on the committee is to support Engineers Australia’s activities related to STEM engagement in schools as well as tertiary engagement at CDU, with the goal of providing a better outcome for engineering graduates and increasing STEM uptake by school students.  
Why is it important to volunteer and give back to the profession?   

Engineering is a profession that relies on collaboration, and I believe volunteering is a logical extension to this mindset.  

My passion for promoting our profession to young upcoming professionals stems from my personal experiences. I believe exposing students to industry mentors and role models at both school and tertiary levels is critical for promoting the construction industry as a desirable career path. Our current labour shortages highlight how important it is to secure our talent pipeline for the future.