Job title

Currently, I am a student undertaking an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge in England.

Prior to starting postgraduate studies, I was working as a Graduate Process Engineer.

Who do you work for?

As a student: Department of Engineering - Centre for Sustainable Development

As a graduate Process Engineer: BHP Billiton Iron Ore

Where is your job based?

My previous position was part of a 2 year graduate rotation. My first rotation was in Perth CBD in Brookfield Place, which was followed by a FIFO (fly in, fly out) role based in Port Hedland, in northern Western Australia.

What does your job involve?

As a graduate Process Engineer my job included:

·         Throughput optimisation for Port Hedland by assessing the performance of major process equipment (car dumpers, stackers, reclaimers, conveyor belts)
·         Analysing and correlating system trends to be able to prioritise maintenance (preventative maintenance strategies)
·         Automating reporting on short and long term performance
·         Implementing improvement ideas generated from operation teams
·         Managing internal systems
·         Analysing the benefits or gains from projects previously run

At Cambridge, my studies include:

Change Theory, negotiation, ethics, complex decision making, systems dynamics, Life Cycle analysis, carbon and eco footprints, environmental and ecological economics, environmental design strategy, managing urban change, technical components of managing large scale waste.

Why did you choose to work in this sector?

In my first year of University, I received a BHP Billiton Iron Ore Indigenous Scholarship. BHP Billiton had the reputation of having a strong Graduate Program. The program appealed to me because of this regard, and the corresponding potential development opportunities for my engineering knowledge. Additionally, the company’s involvement with Indigenous communities and its employment strategies were formally established and clearly articulated its core value of sustainability.

I applied to the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at Cambridge get a reputable qualification which could increase my ability to influence, enabling me to challenge the clearly apparent inequalities between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australia, and contribute to long-term sustainable community development.

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

As a graduate, the level of responsibility given to me was both rewarding and challenging. I found it motivating to be given accountability of some high value projects, which pushed me to deliver better outcomes. The people I worked with really made the experience the most rewarding, especially building positive relations with a diverse range of thinkers.

At my first term at Cambridge, I learnt a lot from the  assignments which allowed and encouraged me to explore a broad range of areas, some of which, I previously hadn’t experienced, for example; looking at the applicability of collaboration in indigenous cultures and communities to Western capitalist ways of thinking, in order to most effectively reverse the impacts of anthropogenic (caused by humans) climate change. Being able to attend classes that I was not enrolled in was also a bonus.

What has been one of your recent achievements?

I lead a project on the collaboration of maintenance and process engineering departments, to effectively respond to unplanned downtime. I looked at problems affecting machinery from a holistic perspective, using systems analytics as well as engagement with experts.The project received positive attention from the management team. Being accepted into the University of Cambridge is an achievement that I am proud of.

What is the most challenging part of your current job?

I found working FIFO as a graduate could be quite demanding, though it seemed to get easier with time. And the frequent flyer points were great! Currently, the biggest challenge is finding the time to take up all the opportunities that Cambridge has to offer, within the relatively short duration of the masters’ programs.

What do you hope to do in the future?

My intention in the future is to address complex problems by focusing on the social and physical environment of a community with integrated engineering projects as service systems, rather than focusing principally on the problems faced by individuals.

What are some of the benefits of your job?

There was a sense of purpose from working on projects which I believed were adding value to the company, which provided personal satisfaction. The pay was also generous, which gave me financial independence in my personal life. Graduates are able to travel to Melbourne Business School for two weeks over the program. The experience helped me develop my interpersonal skills, increased my self-awareness, and allowed me to meet some great people. 

What training did you have for this job?

·         Upper secondary school: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and English
·         After secondary school: Bachelor of Chemical Engineering at Curtin University

Why is mathematics important in your job?

It is an integral component of most aspects of my studies and career. Mathematics is the basis for understanding programming languages, effectively analysing systems, quantifying the impact of a project and considering the economic elements of projects. I would argue that the most important aspect of mathematics is the foundational understanding it provides for coding and system automation work, which over the course of my graduate program, became one of the key influences on the future success of BHP Billiton.

A strong understanding of mathematics enables the effective analysis of systems and processes, and provides clarity for many types of problem solving. These are core skills that are highly valued in the work place.

How do you use digital technologies in your job?

·         Automation of systems, reporting and analysis
·         Simplification of communication across the business
·         Used in most engineering projects – one example was, the integration of feedback from laser scans of material transported on conveyor belts into a programmable logic controller, which calculated the instantaneous density of material and could be used to determine the optimal speed at which the belts should operate
·         At Cambridge, there is the potential to use digital technologies for entrepreneurship

What career advice would you give to school students interested in a similar career?

Engineering is a solid degree to hold. The thinking that an engineering qualification embeds can be applied to a broad range of industries. A career in the resources industry provides opportunities to engage with many people, work on large scale projects, develop leadership skills and earn a good salary. For myself, working as a graduate engineer has been a pivotal experience which has led to my acceptance into the University of Cambridge, which will further develop my career.