Bachelor of Engineering 2002
Where are you from?
I grew up in Launceston, Tasmania.
What did you study and why?
I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Tasmania’s Sandy Bay Campus.
After completing Grade 12 at St Patrick’s College I moved to Hobart to begin a combined Science/Law degree, but midway through the year I decided this career path wasn’t for me.
I thought I was more aligned to a maths-science degree, so I changed to engineering.
In Year 10, a school maths tutor had actually suggested I should consider engineering as a career path, it wasn’t until I was at university I considered this as a real option.
What memories do you have of studying?
My memories of university include moving across to engineering and not realising it was a male-dominated field.
Our maths and sciences classes at school had been relatively evenly balanced, so the thought of gender imbalance had not crossed my mind.
I should have realised this in my first lecture, which was attended by nine female students and approximately 100 male students.
But it wasn’t until much later in the year when a male student who I thought I had never seen before came up to me and started asking about an assignment, and if I had started!
I was slowly beginning to learn what being in a minority group feels like, including most of the students recognising and knowing who I was, I didn’t just blend into the crowd anymore.
As an introvert, blending in suits me much better, so this was a very new experience for me.
What has been your career path, was it a conscience decision to work in the field of renewable energy?
My career path started as a building services engineer in a small consulting firm in Launceston.
About four years into my career I applied for a job with a multinational company called SKM. My first project with SKM was the Gold Coast Desalination project. This project changed my career path by introducing me to the world of major projects, and was the first time I had lived out of Tasmania.
SKM gave me my first opportunity to work in the renewable energy space on the Waterloo Wind Farm. Since then I have worked on many wind farm projects across Australia including a 12-month, onsite owner’s representative role on the Boco Rock Wind Farm.
Today I as I write this, on World Environment Day, I am onsite managing the commissioning of a 100 MW solar farm. Our solar farm has 396,000 panels and will provide a source of renewable energy to North Queensland.
My current role is the Network Connections Manager at Pacific Hydro, in this role I manage the technical and commercial agreements with AEMO and TNSPS for our solar and wind farm assets.
What has been one of the most challenging engineering projects that you have been involved with?
As an engineer our role is to problem-solve, and this means that all projects come with their unique challenges and learning experiences.
One of the main reasons I enjoy my job is the wide variety of interesting projects I get to work on.
Where do you see engineering taking us into the future?
Engineering touches most things in life, from the power in your home to the trays your meat comes on.
I therefore hope as an industry we have a positive, long-lasting impact on all everything we work on.
Do you still have strong connections to Tasmania?
For the last four years I have lived on the mainland, but whenever anyone asks where home is I say Launceston Tasmania.
I maintain very strong connections with Tasmania, including my family and friends who I come home and visit at least once a quarter.
In 2013 I completed the Tasmanian Leaders program, and throughout that year I made many lifelong friends.
Tasmanian Leaders holds many events and forums that connect professional Tasmanians. In 2017 I returned to Tasmania to participate in a Thinkbank, delivered by the Tasmanian Leaders in partnership with the University of Tasmania, to consider the future of work in Tasmania.
I am always looking for ways to connect back in with Tasmania and hopefully provide a meaningful contribution back to my home state.
What or who inspires you?
I feel very lucky to have had many inspirational people in life who have helped develop and shape the person and professional I am today. In particular, my mum.
I will always remember her working full-time, studying for her Masters and raising four children.
I would often find her up in the middle of the night writing her thesis. She has taught me to believe that I can do anything I put my mind to.
What is your best career or personal advice?
The best career advice I have received was about six years into my career. I was really insistent on having a career plan, my then boss and now mentor said: “Rach, sometime careers just happen, don’t make the plan so structured you miss out on opportunities. Make the most of every opportunity even if it isn’t quite to plan”.
This advice has stayed with me and although not always on the plan, I have taken many great opportunities including putting my fear of heights to one side and climbing 100m-high wind turbines to complete mechanical inspections.
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