Project Development Engineer
Who do you work for?
I work for the Pacific Hydro, a company that builds and operates renewable energy projects. It already has established more than 1,800 MW of hydroelectric and wind farm projects at varying stages of development, construction and operation across Australia, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America including Chile.
What does your job involve?
My main job is to assess new wind farm sites and to manage the company’s Geographic Information System. I have an input at every stage of wind farm development, from feasibility studies to construction and operation. At any one time I am working on a number of projects, including international sites.
Why did you choose to work in the renewable energy industry?
I always was interested in the environment. I didn’t know what to do when I finished high school, but chose science at university because I got a high enough score to do it. But after I started it and chose environmental subjects I realised I was really enjoying it. When I learned about climate change and renewable energy solutions I knew this was an area I wanted to be involved in.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I know that what I am doing is helping the environment. I also enjoy all the travel involved and the other opportunities that come with the job, such as learning Spanish, going to conferences, our social activities, including corporate triathlons and basketball, and the chance to work in other Pacific Hydro offices.
What has been one of your recent achievements?
My proudest achievement has been creating our in-house Geographic Information System.
What do you hope to do in the future?
I hope to manage my own team in wind farm development.
What are some of the benefits that project development engineers have in their job?
Benefits can include travel and opportunities for extra learning, such as courses at Universities and other institutions. The typical salary range for people in my profession is $55 000 to $75 000 per year.
What training did you have to become a project development engineer?
I attended high school in Canberra and studied English, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Drama and Art in my senior years. I then went on to study a Bachelor of Science (Environmental) and Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) at the University of Melbourne. This took six years to complete.
What is your advice to students?
Many students start an engineering degree not knowing what to expect. While there are a lot of different types of engineering degrees, the students who succeed in engineering are those who are inquisitive and enjoy problem-solving and thinking ‘outside the box’. So, if you love to know how things work and took things apart as a child to see how they work, then you would be suited for a career in engineering.
Engineering gives you the tools to solve problems using your knowledge of science and maths. In addition, you need to be able to communicate those solutions to others in a way they understand. Employers are always looking for good communication skills. These can always be leaned and are taught in great detail during a university degree.
Importantly, it’s okay to not be entirely sure of what you want to do when you leave school. It is often difficult to know which career path to follow, especially at a young age. My favourite subjects at school were English and Drama and yet I pursued a career in science and maths – I always liked a challenge. If you do choose to go to university, then the degree you start may not be the degree you finish. But you won’t know unless you try.