Senior Electrical Engineer
Who do you work for?
I work for Entura, Hydro Tasmania, which provides engineering and environmental services in the areas of renewable energy, power engineering, environmental and catchment management locally within Tasmania, nationally throughout Australia and internationally around the world. This includes the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of a wide variety of major energy and water projects.
What does your job involve?
My role includes a range of duties mixing technical skills with sales and project delivery. I am involved in the development of innovative solutions to problems encountered in the electrical power industry, in a renewable energy environment – particularly in the fields of telemetry, protection and control within electrical power and substations. I work closely with our clients to turn solution proposals into projects, develop budgets and oversee project delivery within agreed schedules.
I spend some of my time in an office environment, at our offices in Tasmania, and embedded within clients environments around Australia. I also work in the field performing work directly on the power system equipment in the power and substations, and have performed this work within Tasmania and across Australia.
Why did you choose to be an electrical engineer?
I enjoyed subjects at school that involved problem-solving, such as Physics and Maths. I also was a big fan of movies and books set into the future and intrigued about how inventions would work. This led to my interest in electronics and computers. I like messing around with computers, which is why I chose to major in Computer Systems Engineering at university. Since spending time in the software development industry, I returned to university to study electrical power systems in 2005, completing additional undergraduate courses enabling me to branch into a career at in the electrical power industry at Hydro Tasmania, and mix my old skills with computers with new ones in electrical engineering to produce innovative solutions to problems in new ways.
What has been one of your recent achievements?
Designing and developing a large-scale data acquisition tool we called Ajenti. This collects data that is sent remotely by a large number of specially designed data-loggers. Currently Entura manages over 5000 of these telemetered data loggers across Australia in the water management fields.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It provides exciting opportunities to work with new technologies and to be involved in the areas of water and energy. It gives great satisfaction to see something you have designed being built and then going into operation. And there is always something new and interesting to learn. Also, because our expertise in renewable energy systems is in demand everywhere, I have had many opportunities for travel. This has included opportunities to attend conferences in Europe and to Sri Lanka after the tsunami.
What is the biggest problem you have to deal with over your career?
My biggest problem is sometimes having to say ‘No’ to new and exciting projects because I have too much on at the time. The best laid plans can fall apart quickly due to a range of factors on large scale complex projects, and for me this tends to end with everything due at the same time. However it has been a great opportunity to develop my negotiating skills which assist in reorganising things into what can be practically done.
What are some of the benefits that electrical engineers have in their jobs?
Besides job satisfaction, there are other benefits such as mobile phones, laptops, playing with cool equipment and attractive pay packages, mixing design work with practical hands on skills in the implementation. The typical salary range of senior electrical engineers, like other senior engineers, is $80 000 to $120 000 per year.
I travel regularly and have the opportunity to see lots of great remote places within Tasmania. As a consultant my project work constantly changes and provides new challenges in different places.
Opportunities for progression certainly exist, since joining the organisation in a graduate role in 2005 I have risen quickly to a senior position, with opportunities still existing to rise to specialist, then principle engineer in the technical fields, as well as chances to move into senior management positions.
What training did you have for this job?
In my senior years at secondary school, I studied English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science and Music. I then completed a double degree in Science and Engineering at the University of Tasmania, majoring in Mathematics and Computer Systems Engineering. The advantage of doing a double degree it that it only took 5 years to complete, whereas it would have taken 7 years to complete the degrees separately. I chose this double degree as I thought it would give me exposure to a wide range of fields, and hence keep my options open.
Since commencing work I have continued with tertiary study, firstly in electrical power systems at the University of Tasmania, and also recently completing a Diploma of Management with the Tasmanian Skills Institute. My employer provides me with the time to attend the course work, through study leave arrangements, and provides each employee with an ample training budget annually.
What is your advice to students?
Career choice to me is about ensuring you have all the bases covered – doing subjects you enjoy as well as the important staple ones. I don’t know anyone who really had an idea about what they wanted to do after school until they got there and worked out their own strengths and weaknesses.
There are a lot of opportunities for young talented engineers and scientists to get involved in our global community, now and in the future. Future challenges for scientists and engineers will involve managing the Earth’s finite resources – conservation and recycling. Climate change is an important area for everyone.