Sheena grew up in Perth, where she studied Physics, Applicable Maths, English Literature, Art, Music and Calculus in Year 12. As a student, she enjoyed STEM subjects as well as the Arts.
Her father is an engineer so she realised that she would follow a STEM career early on.
I must admit, that despite being on the apparently unshakeable STEM path, a moment of wild inspiration led me to drop Chemistry after year 11 and select Art instead; as a future engineer, this may seem to fly in the face of reason, but looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Art is still as much a part of my life as is my engineering identity.
Her first job was a part-time job during school holidays. She had to put small rubber feet onto plastic boxes in a gadget that was being prototyped by the Western Australian Telecommunications Research Industry.
My dad did play a strong positive role in developing my interests and abilities. He is a great source of inspiration because he is the most humble, diligent and technically competent engineer I know. I was incredibly fortunate to have a supportive family and a friendship circle that valued STEM.
University and first job
At university, Sheena studied a double degree, combining a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Philosophy.
During her time at university, Sheena undertook two internships. Her internship with WorleyParsons placed her in the mechanical engineering team of the Yarnima Power Station Project in northern WA, which affirmed her interest in electricity generation and the field of power/energy.
The next year, she had an internship with Energetics allowed her to pursue a growing interest in the renewable energy sector.
Her first position was as a Graduate Engineer with Enigin, a small energy efficiency and renewable energy consultancy in Perth.
Sheena’s advice to students
Sheena believes we should all be aiming for a future where science and humanism are closely linked. She is optimistic that this can be achieved.
Nowadays, most students have support and resources at hand: from peers to teachers, the library to the internet, study clubs to tutors… so it is possible to flourish in the STEM world, no matter what your background.
After she graduated in 2013, Sheena took a brief tangent from ‘sensible life’ to produce a crowd-funded documentary and explore the idea of humanitarian engineering. This project was triggered by her ongoing volunteering involvement with Engineers Without Borders (EWB).
I believe that everyone is capable of understanding science and that almost everyone is interested to do so, if encouraged in a way that resonates.
Sheena’s current job
Sheena is a Graduate Engineer at Ekistica, an engineering firm that specialises in remote area renewable energy and infrastructure. Ekistica is fully owned by the Aboriginal organisation CAT (Centre for Appropriate Technology) and provides consulting, project management and engineering services to a range of clients, both locally and overseas. She has had the opportunity to work across the range of projects, mainly in supporting roles but also taking on some leadership and management tasks.
My day-to-day role mainly involves working in a team to deliver ongoing operation and maintenance (O&M) of the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre (DKASC). I am helping to write a handbook that aims to break down knowledge barriers and foster uptake of hybrid/renewable energy at off-grid mines in Australia, a recent initiative of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Sheena chose to work in this area because it marries together her two main interests; renewable energy engineering and social justice – also with the extra field of infrastructure development which is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the sustainable development of regional, remote and marginal communities.
STEM at work
I believe that the principles of science and their realisation in engineering can be masterfully, creatively and responsibly applied by humans to benefit each other’s lives and to achieve greater social justice.
I would also like to see the bridge between those in the STEM field and wider society strengthened by mutual trust, understanding and appreciation.