Engineering Connection | Deepika Phadke

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You were previously working on the Future Submarine Project before the contract ended. It's a tough situation, but what advice would you give people who find themselves in a similar position?

Sometimes the best laid plans don't work out. I definitely don't regret joining the program, because I've had the chance to work with a fantastic Franco-Australian team on engineering topics that I like. I'd recommend always picking a big headline research or acquisition project for your job, because then even if it all comes to an end, it'll do so with lots of publicity and you won't struggle to find a new job afterwards. 

Alternatively, get a permanent contract with a long-standing consultancy with a good culture and you'll never be out of work, because they're always in demand.

How did you find out about the project, and what avenues do you use when searching for roles?

Make use of the information out there! 

For me, I'm always on the lookout for a technical role, but of course, I want to earn good money and move into a leadership position in the years to come. So, if this is your plan too, then you need to be smart about what jobs you take and what roles you pick within the various companies. If the company sees that you have an understanding of economic or technology strategy, then you'll likely be given different types of opportunities to other engineers. Also, it's a bit tricky to find really cool long-term engineering opportunities in Australia, so you need to do a bit of digging. 

Our government publishes a few documents which I find really helpful for finding out about the key players and growing industries in Australia. I found out about the Future Submarine Program by reading the Defence Industry Policy Statement and the Defence Strategic Update.

Obviously it was on the news too and my colleagues would talk about it all the time. But it's better to read the big documents like these because they provide good case studies of the type of work being conducted and detailed information on which companies are currently doing what major pieces of work. From this, you can work out which projects sound interesting to you.

More importantly, in my opinion, you can also find out what stage the projects are at. This allows you to determine if they're currently doing the sort of work you're interested in. For example, you might want to get testing experience, but if the project has only just started, there may be no point working on it just yet. Documents like this will give you an idea of the timeframes for each project and then you can match these up with your plans.

Before I decided to work on submarines, I was also interested in working in the energy industry. The Australian Energy Regulator's report, State of the Energy Market, describes the market structure and is very helpful for planning a direction to take in the energy market. 

I also find it useful to look up government and large company innovation awards recipients. From this you can find out the small, up-and-coming companies and apply to them for the more niche and highly technical roles. 

Why would you recommend searching for jobs overseas or even interstate?

In order to make good decisions and become more open minded, you've got to take a chance and get out of your comfort zone. The first couple of months is always a bit hard, but the friends I've made and the jobs I've been able to secure interstate and overseas were well worth it. Also (and this is a bit annoying, but mostly true) in my experience it's easier to get a better job back home once you've gone away and come back. 

You've worked on a lot of interesting projects including European wind turbine design projects and the engineering aspect of the Australian space and weapons testing policy. What fascinates you most with jobs like these?

I studied engineering at university because I wanted to create, make and fix things. That's why I'm always picking and pushing to work on design, analysis and research projects. It was also easy to see how these projects were useful to my community, so that was extra incentive to work on them.