Ella went to secondary school in Melbourne where she studied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, French, English and Geography.
I’ve always loved science and maths. I enjoy problem solving and thinking outside the box to find a solution.
Ella said that when she was a student she knew she wanted study maths and science further, but had no idea what she wanted to do.
I was always changing my mind. It is difficult to know what profession you wanted to be when you don’t have the experience.
She chose Engineering as a fluke. A careers counsellor recommended applying for engineering as it uses maths and science skills.
My mother has always inspired me as she’s hard working and a leader in her profession -
and she loves her job. My mother and my aunts all work in STEM professions and are driven to succeed. So I always knew I wanted to get a job that I loved.
University and first job
Ella completed a Batchelor of Science and Civil Engineering.
While she was studying she applied for an internship for work during the summer vacation at a company called GDH Consulting in traffic and transport engineering.
Ella said the experience of applying for an internship was very competitive. Hundreds of students applied for one vacation position and the process of questionnaires, group interviews and individual interviews was quite stressful but well worth it.
Unfortunately, I did not find traffic and transport engineering interesting and decided to change to water engineering when I applied for graduate positions. This shows you don’t always know what you like until you try it!
Ella found it very valuable to talk to people in the industry and learn from their experiences. She says it’s important to ask questions and that you don’t need to know all the answers, you need to be able to find the answers.
Ella found applying for graduate work difficult and she didn’t receive interviews for majority of the companies she applied for. She found it hard to keep applying and keep up the positivity but she overcame this with hard work and persistence.
Ella’s advice to students
Put your hand up for everything (such as extracurricular activities), you never know what opportunities it will bring.
Ella says that the key personal attributes and skills that have contributed to her success are:
- willingness to try new things
- problem solving
- good communication skills.
Ella encourages people starting out in a new job to take every opportunity they get, to ask for extra responsibilities and to take on new jobs.
Don’t be scared to do something that you know nothing about, I get really excited to begin something that I have to learn, you learn everything on the job so don't be afraid to dive in the deep end. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to do something you don't know much about.
Don’t be scared of failure. You learn the most when you make mistakes.
Everyone starts from scratch, so don’t worry if you don’t know something, that’s fine. You’ll learn.
Water is essential for living and I really found a purpose in designing water infrastructure.
It is important in the workplace to network and know people in the industry which helps you to hear about upcoming jobs and opportunities. Joining engineering associations and committees is a great way to meet people in your industry.
Ella’s current job
Ella designs water infrastructure (pipes, tanks and pumps) to transfer, store or direct drinking and recycled water. She also designs infrastructure to transfer, treat or dispose of waste-water and sewage. Once the design is finished, it is passed onto a contractor who builds what she has designed.
Her first project was a sewer network, 4km long 10m deep, removing waste for thousands of residents, she says that it is fantastic to see something that she designed now being built.
I went down to the site the other day and looked down a 10 m shaft and it's unreal.
Her role as a designer varies from day to day and project to project. Tasks may include calculations to select suitable sized pipes, going out on site to talk to contractors, checking up on progress of a project, communication and collaboration with people other areas such as ecologists or council planners, consulting with clients and report writing.
On a recent project, I designed sewer pipelines that connect customer’s toilets to the sewage network. These customers were treating their sewage with on-site septic systems that were polluting the local creek. The sewer pipelines I designed meant the septic systems weren't needed any more and the nearby creek was no longer being polluted.
Ella chose to work in this area because water is essential for the community to live, especially as Australia is a drought prone country. She says it is exciting to design infrastructure that helps the community and provides an essential service.
The best part is when you get great feedback from customers and residents as it improves their standard of living.
STEM at work
As a consultant, there is the opportunity to travel and work. The engineering skill set can be applied anywhere in the world. I use my mathematics and physics skills to design and size infrastructure. I model large sewage and water networks using modelling programs. I really enjoy the problem solving side, the nitty gritty maths calculations, making sure the structure actually works, understanding a complicated system.
I get a big kick out of that, I enjoy the finished product as well and being involved in a project over time and seeing it built is exciting.