Remember that there are many different and varied pathways to get to where you want to be
Sophie Dawson attended the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in 2008 and like many students before her, was encouraged to apply by her (physics) teacher.
Sophie says she knew she wanted to study engineering due to her interests in physics and mathematics, but it wasn’t until she experienced the NYSF lab visits and workshops, and the Next Step Program in Adelaide, that she developed a better understanding of the variety of work that engineers perform.
“Before attending the NYSF, I wasn’t aware of or had been exposed to the many career opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or even which of the many fields of engineering, design and technology I was interested in.”
For Sophie, the NYSF was also a great networking opportunity. “I am still in touch with friends that I made at NYSF - I think because it brought together so many like minded people. The NYSF helped confirm that pursuing a career in engineering was the right fit for me based on my interests.”
Sophie studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical and Aerospace) at the University of Adelaide and undertook an Honours project examining ways of reducing the induced drag of aircraft wings. “At times during my study, I found the work hard and questioned whether I still wanted to be an engineer, particularly in the aerospace industry. I would then try and imagine doing something else but couldn’t see myself anywhere else. The passion, intelligence and hard work of the people around me was, and still is, inspiring.”
During her time at university she was involved in organising the Australian Youth Aerospace Association AeroFutures conference. “This was another great opportunity to find out about the careers available in the aerospace industry. This also made me realise the breadth and scope of an industry I thought was small in Australia.”
She has recently completed a two-year graduate program with Jetstar Airways where she was able to explore several roles though rotations in different parts of the business. “I think the appeal of this type of program is the ability to explore different interests and better understand the everyday tasks involved. This was the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate pursuing a technical engineering career or moving into other applications. From this experience, I found that I really wanted to continue working in a technical role, and was fortunate to find my current position as an operations engineer.”
Sophie is now part of a team that is responsible for technical support covering all aspects of aircraft performance and aircraft loading. “The work is varied and involves many different aspects of airline operations. I work on projects that involve the evaluation of new aircraft and modifications to existing aircraft and equipment. Other aspects are the management of systems and software that effect aircraft loading and weight and balance.”
“This role has huge scope for continued learning and development and is where I see myself for the next few years to make the most of this opportunity. Every day is different, and there is a large variety in the type of work including analysis, engineering and project management. Two of the most exciting things that I am involved with are projects that encompass the whole airline and aim to balance commercial outcomes and operational challenges, and quick responses to operational requests to ensure safe and efficient flight dispatch.”
For others considering a specific career, in engineering or otherwise, Sophie's advice is to get involved in the industry. "Seek out opportunities and be proactive. Remember that there are many different and varied pathways to get to where you want to be and much of the enjoyment and satisfaction comes from the journey. It takes ingenuity and hard work and you can learn something from every experience, even if the lesson is very unexpected."
By Julie Maynard