Hey gal, this is me…. Emily, Em dawg, The Crow – I’m 21 years old and a civil engineer in training, but work retail part time to pay the bills. I’m studying at the University of Technology Sydney and LOVE IT!  I work out (occasionally), but am mainly found in the natural habitat of my home surrounded by chocolate, bath bombs and Netflix. What a dream – right?

If I were to describe myself in three words… Competitive (like really, it’s bad – you don’t want to verse me in Netball), thoughtful and passionate.

I always blow my pay-check on… dumplings, dim sims, sushi and then I eat too much so have to invest in a gym membership and active wear… (Cotton On Body sponsor me please!)

I’m currently… Completing my thesis with the Royal Australian Air Force (pretty cool hey!) I’m helping them bring niche skill sets into their workforce in my second degree – the bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation – it sounds like I should work for Agent Cody Banks but really its solving complex problems with different ways of thinking. I’m also applying for a lot of engineering scholarships, trying to make a difference and follow my passion of creating a path for women in engineering. But, apart from that it’s STUDY! STUDY! STUDY!

I got into it because… 1. I loved woodwork at school and my teacher was always so supportive of me doing something like this… I wasn’t so sure (maths was my worst mark). But, 2. It sounds stereotypical but I had a moment of realisation for why I wanted to be an engineer. I was done with school for the year and decided to go to this random engineering camp in Wollongong with my best mate thinking how fun would it be with a week away from Sydney with no parental supervision! What I thought was going to be a boring bridge tour ended up with me seeing the beauty in the collaboration between nature and man made things. We had the opportunity to walk inside a bridge. The Sea Cliff Bridge was a symbol of collaboration of Engineers and determination, and now the power it had to bring people together and connect places. I wanted to create something that special, so I found civil engineering, especially construction, so that I could be one of those building these places and structures.

What I love about it… I see it as challenge, especially being one of the few girls in my course. I want to make a difference for the future of women engineers and because of this I am very involved in Women in Engineering, going to different schools, giving talks to young girls and creating a path for them to pursue a future that otherwise would have been discouraged. I love being able to prove that women can do anything! And getting to construct buildings is pretty cool too.

What I don’t love about it … The prejudice that comes with it.  A mentor once told me that she left her boots and helmet out once and a guy spray painted them pink. A close family member told me that the only girls on construction sites are the lollipop ladies. People’s opinions can’t get you down though. A lot of people look at me and think ‘you don’t look like an engineer,’ even my male engineer friends, particularly after industry experience, would turn around and say ‘you won’t last on a construction site’. But if anything that just fuels my fire more to be successful and carve a path so other women don’t have to face what I do.

What my degree is really like…. Look. Maths was my worst subject at school and physics too. I was stressed that Engineering would be just a combination of both and I would do horribly. But, it’s not. It’s a combination of problem solving and using real understanding of the world to tackle the future. I attend university about 3 days a week. It is a mix of maths classes, project classes and lectures. I understand how air flows around buildings and in fact – how does a building even stand? It’s fun, hands on and the people you surround yourself with make a world of difference.

What does ‘Engineering’ and ‘Creative Intelligence’ really mean…. Your toothbrush, the chair your sitting on and the bus that drives you to school all have one thing in common – an engineer has been involved at some stage. Engineers help shape the tomorrow by solving problems of today. They are forward thinking and their skills can be manipulated into so many different fields. Many CEO’s of companies started their careers as engineers!

Creative Intelligence – now that’s a whole different can of worms. It is about thinking complexly in order to disrupt large problems to the emergence of simple solutions. Sounds a bit jargon-y doesn’t it? To put it in simpler terms it is learning to be innovative and think differently towards the future. I am in the first cohort of this degree and we have worked with companies like Google, Visa, Accenture Digital and ABC on their problems –  a bit like a high school design and technology design brief. But we try and use our different backgrounds e.g. engineering, design, journalism and the like to challenge each other and engage in each others methods of thinking and tackling problems.

What it’s like to study engineering at university .. As a female, it’s heaven! It’s all inclusive and there are so many opportunities waiting for us if we reach out to grab them. However, having said that – we face many road blocks, and people telling us we can’t do things because of our gender. It is sad to think that to a degree there is still gender bias. But it is easy to be resilient to this with the potential of engineering. I’ve been the only girl in some of my tutorials, and treated differently by lecturers. But, I have made the most of my opportunities by applying for awards and scholarships. The lectures are interesting and always have a link to real life. It helps me see how things work out in the real world. I can’t wait to be on a construction site one day as a project manager!

What skills do you need for a job in engineering… Let’s get it out of the way quickly – but you need technical skills. I remember one of my first lectures where we told that engineers need to know what they are doing or people can die. Think about it – what if one calculation goes wrong and a building collapses? But, to oppose that, engineers need a world of passion to design and tackle the future. They build collaborative spaces and extraordinary designs to bring people together. It overwhelms me thinking of the impact they have. As a female, you need resilience to continue in your own career journey. You need maths skills, and physics skills, but you need people skills. You need to be able to speak to people, to investigate their needs and relay that back to the person building it. You need project management skills and organisation. But most importantly, you do need to love it. Engineering has the power to change a lot if you capture it’s potential.

What I’ve learned from the experience… You need to be confident and believe in your own ability to achieve anything, because if you don’t believe in yourself and your skills than no one is going to.

My advice to anyone pursuing this pathway is…. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… Be like Bob the Builder, we can fix anything! But, in all seriousness, find what you love and what your passion is and pursue it like crazy! You need to be resilient and be confident enough in your own ability to keep pushing for acceptance, guidance and change.

I’m passionate about… WOMEN IN ENGINEERING, and giving the confidence to young girls to believe that they can do anything they set their mind too. It’s a positive thing what a little bit of advocacy can do!

Most people don’t know this about me, but… I’m in love with Arashi (not Asahi the beer), but this Japanese band that since I did exchange in Japan I can’t shake it. Not sure if it’s embarrassing or not, so I only listen to it at home…

P.s In 5 year’s time I’ll be…. I honestly don’t know, I like to live in the present, but I’ll always try to be proud of whatever I do, and keep striving to be the best ME! (But hopefully a Construction Engineer with a passion for STEM education!)