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Today we are speaking to our Senior Engineer Natasha about her background in engineering and the importance of supporting women in renewables.
Natasha will be walking us through her personal experiences within the industry, and her advice for women looking to go into engineering and renewables.
Greenwood: Hi Natasha, thanks for speaking with us today! To start with, what is your educational and professional background?
Natasha: I have a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronics) degree, which I completed at Victoria University, and a Global Business Program, which I completed at FH Joanneum during my 4-year time abroad in Austria.
During my career, I have gained experience across a vast array of engineering roles. Ranging from technical roles as a software, hardware, electrical, automation and senior engineer, to more project management orientated roles as project lead, senior project manager and senior project officer. The variety of these roles have allowed me to work for different types of organisations, across different industries.
Greenwood: What made you decide to become an engineer?
Natasha: To be honest, I didn't know much about engineering at a young age. I knew bits and pieces as my father was an Electrical Engineer before he migrated to Australia and would often speak about projects he was involved in. At times, he would show me what he was doing when he was fixing something like a VCR or some other gadgets around the home.
Some of my favourite subjects at school were maths, physics and information technology. While these are typically “engineering subjects”, I can remember, especially at a young age, not always knowing what it meant to be an engineer. It was always a profession that was behind the scenes, not in every kid’s dreams like being an actor or a singer or a doctor. There wasn’t really an opportunity to see engineers in action. Luckily, my family always encouraged and supported me in my pursuits to expand my knowledge and skills with computers and electronics. This was something that assisted immensely in developing my love for innovative technologies and solutions.
It was in my final year in high school that speaking with my career advisor and attending various university open days assisted me in gaining a further understanding of what engineering is and how this plays a role in the world. I always knew that I wanted to contribute to the world in some way and so, with all this in mind and my love for technology and innovation, it was a no brainer for me to become an engineer.
Greenwood: Have you had any challenges working in a male dominated field such as engineering?
Natasha: Fortunately for me, I did not have any concerns working as an engineer in a male dominated field. I grew up in an environment where I was surrounded by an equal mix of both genders, so for me, I was comfortable communicating and working with men.
Despite having this comfort level, I found that, particularly earlier in my career, there were some external stakeholders that did not take me as seriously as they would one of my male colleagues. At the time, this would upset and frustrate me and it took me some time to learn how to deal with this. I was, however, fortunate enough to have very supportive colleagues who would help shift that challenge to a more positive experience. My family also played a huge role as well. With their support, they have all taught me how to stand up for myself when I need to and always believe in my own capabilities.
I must admit, I still do have this issue from time to time, however, I have grown more confident within myself and have learnt how to manage when challenges of this, or any other nature do arise.
Greenwood: Why did you choose to work in renewable energy?
Natasha: I have always had a keen interest in renewable energy as I have a strong passion for animals, the environment, our planet and the future for the world’s wellbeing. There weren’t any renewable energy courses and subjects available to me during my time at university. I decided that in order for me to provide the best contribution to sustainability, I would complete my electrical and electronics engineering degree as it has a direct correlation to the innovative solutions required to create and implement renewable and sustainable solutions.
Greenwood: What has been the highlight of your career and why?
Natasha: There have been many highlights in my career for which I am grateful. One of these was my time as a software and hardware engineer while I lived in Austria. The organisation that I worked for was an international telecommunication company and this role taught me how to work in an environment that required a steep learning curve. Part of my role was to program, project manage and complete testing verifications of phones within different countries across Europe. This gave me an amazing opportunity to explore different cultures in each of these countries and also taught me how to adapt to working in different countries. The nature of this role was to create innovative solutions which further inspired me to continue to find renewable and sustainable solutions when I moved back to Australia.
Another highlight was my time as a project engineer for an embedded network company in Australia. Within the first six months working there, I was thrown in the deep end to manage over 30 sites. This experience up-skilled my knowledge of the electricity industry and provided me with a lot of exposure to different types of stakeholders such as developers, builders, electricians, plumbers and owners corporations. It also gave me the opportunity to develop new skills, confidence in learning quickly and further understand my own capabilities.
Greenwood: What has been the biggest challenge of your career and why?
Natasha: My personality has always naturally been to work in collaboration with others to achieve a common goal. I love doing this as it is a great way to form strong relationships with colleagues, learn from others, share knowledge and feel part of a community. I experienced some challenges while working for a company where the culture did not encourage employees to work collaboratively between different departments. I was quite disappointed and felt dejected with the culture as it inevitably led to inefficient working methods, negative behaviour and created silos within the organisation. It made it very difficult to develop any efficiencies or initiatives across departments as the culture had gotten quite poisonous. While this was one of the more difficult roles I have undertaken due to the workplace culture, it did provide some unique challenges and was still a very worthwhile experience.
Greenwood: What advice do you have for women looking to become engineers or work in renewables?
Natasha: I would suggest that they study AutoCAD and develop this skill set as early as possible if there is a desire is to design solar PV systems and battery storage systems. I would recommend going to as many university and further studies open days and ask as many questions as possible, particularly from anyone who has worked in the field.
It is helpful to have a keen passion in the field that they choose to work in as there will be some 'not so great' days at work. For those days, knowing that I am contributing to solving one of the world’s biggest problems and something that I am passionate about helps to lighten my day, push on and achieve my goals.
Greenwood: What changes do you want to see in engineering and the renewables industry to become more inclusive of women?
Natasha: It would be great to have more access to seminars, courses and workshops related to the integration of working in a male dominated field from a woman's point of view.
Further education of hiring managers etc. and reinforcement of the message that gender does not play a role in the successfulness of an applicant’s career in the engineering or renewable space.
Greenwood: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Natasha! It gave us a great insight into what it takes to become a successful engineer and we hope it helped any women who are looking to go into the field in the future.
If you would like more information regarding women in engineering or renewable energy please feel free to contact Natasha via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 03 9131 9807.