Niki Robinson is an Environmental Engineer who is the Manager of Water and Sewerage Infrastructure Regulation for the South Australian Government.
Niki says that she always had a love of the environment so she always thought she would like to do something environmentally based.
She studied Physics, Mathematics 1, Mathematics 2, Chemistry, English in year 12. She also participated in lots of sport.
I was always good at maths and science, it wasn't a piece of cake but I worked hard at it. Maths and science came a lot more easily to me than English. I had lots or assistance from my friends to get through English.
Niki says her father and grandfather were always a great support to her.
One teacher said to me and my parents that I would never do anything related to science. Usually when someone tells me that I can’t do something it gives me the incentive to want to do it so it made me dig my heels in and think ‘Well, I'll show you’.
University and first job
At university, Niki studied a double degree that comprised a Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) and Bachelor of Science (Chemistry).
Her first job in the water industry was with a small wastewater treatment company that designed, built, installed and serviced on-site domestic wastewater treatment plants for households that were not connected to a sewerage system.
I chose water, I really loved the purpose, its an essential service, the diversity of my work.
Niki’s advice to students
Niki says if you are passionate about science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or even just solving problems, follow your love, learn more about it and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something – always believe in yourself.
Find yourself a champion. A champion is your supporter, they take you under their wing, they will look out for you they will put your name forward and they will provide advice.
I found a champion who really gave me the strength and confidence to move forward. A great advantage of STEM opportunities will be that more and more work will be done virtually in diverse global teams, communication skills and channels will be critical. This will also allow for flexible work arrangements where performance is outcome based.
Niki says that the key personal attributes and skills that have contributed to her success are:
- problem solving
- big picture thinking
- communication and networking.
Find where your passion is and follow that passion.
Ask people about their role to understand the diversity of businesses that utilise STEM skills.
Niki’s current job
At the Office of the Technical regulator, Niki works to ensure that South Australian (SA) public have access to safe and reliable water and sewage services, which ultimately means that they will have clean and safe water to drink and they can flush their toilets.
SA is the driest state in Australia, everyone is always trying to produce drinking water and waste services at a lower cost and looking for opportunities to make improvements.
In her job, Niki works with many different types of water businesses. She gets to learn about how water engineering, technology and innovations are being implemented throughout the world.
Part of Niki’s job is to work with the Emergency Services. She is on call during floods to assist with managing the water level in dams and minimising damage to property.
Six years ago Niki set herself the goal to become the first female president of Engineers Australia for South Australia and she achieved it.
I had a major fear of failure, I felt I couldn't take the risks. It’s the first time I did something for myself. I learned it's ok to fail.
STEM at work
STEM is the foundation of everything that I do, from understanding water chemistry through to exploring new and old technologies to understanding and designing infrastructure to completing calculations. Without STEM, my role wouldn’t exist, in fact our whole world as we know it wouldn’t exist. I think that the future young people in STEM have the ability to change this and turn it around so that society will celebrate the great work that STEM professionals do.