Why you should choose an engineering career | Address to Honeywell Engineering Summer School
I’ve been an engineer for almost 40 years, and I’ve got to say, it’s been an amazing experience.
In your life, as high school students, have you ever wondered… “Why is it this way?” “How does it work?” “What would happen if…” I do, all the time.
I’m endlessly curious, and one thing I can tell you is that an engineering career is an interesting career because we engineers never stop learning and making progress, building on what’s gone before. I’m like a lot of engineers in that I love that “a-ha” moment when you solve a problem. It takes creativity.
Looking back to when I was in Year 12, why did I choose engineering?
I grew up in a heavy industrial district in Dapto, in Wollongong, so engineering was really visible. My brother was studying engineering and, if he could do it, so could I! I was good at maths and science, and had some good teachers who encouraged me.
A guy I was interested in was going to study engineering – spoiler alert, he’s now my husband!
I wasn’t interested in the stereotypical career options for girls, I wanted to break free of that.
I was one of seven children and, as you can imagine, there wasn’t a lot of money. I was determined that I was not going to be poor, and I understood that an engineering career would give me a good lifestyle.
So, what has engineering given me, apart from a pay check and a good lifestyle?
Heaps of interesting jobs! I’ve worked in power generation and distribution, in steel production and mill maintenance, in engineering education and research when I did my PhD, medical device design and manufacturing at Cochlear, being the CEO of Standards Australia and managing a team spread across Asia when working with GE Healthcare – a job that saw me travelling regularly to Japan, China, India, Korea, New Zealand and South East Asia.
Engineers who study at Australian universities are eligible to work around the world, and engineering is becoming an increasingly global profession. Engineers are more likely to get a full-time job on graduation than people from other courses.
Right now, I’m the CEO of Engineers Australia, which is the peak body for the engineering profession. We’ve got 100,000 members, and the reason we exist is simple: “to advance the science and practice of engineering for the benefit of the community”.
I’m far from the only engineer who’s a leader. A quarter of the CEO’s of Australia’s biggest listed companies are engineers too! Engineering gives you really strong critical thinking skills and analytical skills.
Engineers Australia is celebrating its Centenary this year – it’s our 100th birthday! But that’s not the only birthday we can talk about tonight – it’s also Honeywell’s 21st year of sponsoring the Honeywell Engineering Summer School, so thank you Honeywell and happy 21st.
This summer school only works because of our amazing partnerships with academia and industry, so thank you also to the NSW Government, Rotary International, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Wollongong Australia – where I studied – the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, BlueScope Steel, the Royal Australian Air Force, Cochlear and Thales.
One of the things we do at Engineers Australia is to create tomorrow’s engineers through programs like the one you’re currently completing.
We know that engineering touches almost every aspect of modern life, and is going to be critical in creating better energy solutions, cities that function more effectively and communities that are sustainable, secure, healthy, just and prosperous.
Almost every industry has engineers in it, so no matter what you’re interested in, there’s likely an engineering component – that’s true of professional sport, it’s true of music, it’s true of clean energy, it’s true of so many areas.
Congratulations to you on being selected to be part of this program – or for putting yourselves forward.
The world is your oyster – and we hope engineering will be the tool you use to crack the future wide open.