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University of Adelaide
Natalie Redmond studied Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Bachelor of Laws as a double degree at the University of Adelaide.
What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
- Natalie Redmond – Acoustic Engineer
- I studied a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Bachelor of Laws as a double degree at the University of Adelaide and I graduated in 2015.
Where did you grow up? Important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)
I’ve always lived in Adelaide and I went to university straight after I finished high school. While I was studying I worked as a Vac Swim instructor, a Kitchenhand and in a bike shop; I also founded and was vice president of the Adelaide University Cycling Club.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
After finishing all my subjects I completed my work experience requirement with AECOM as an undergraduate. This transitioned into a permanent graduate position which I have had for 3 years so far.
What does your employer do?
AECOM designs, builds and operates large infrastructure, including hospitals, commercial buildings, airports, schools, bridges, tunnels, major roads, rail, etc. Because it is a global company, AECOM is involved in projects pretty much everywhere you can think of – even in Antarctica!
What are your areas of responsibility?
I am an Acoustic Engineer in the Buildings and Places team. We work with the Mechanical, Electrical, Hydraulics, Fire, Structural, Sustainability and Design and Planning teams on large buildings projects. We provide advice to a client over the life of a project as it develops from a concept to a fully constructed building. With regard to acoustics, this includes things like the acoustic rating of walls between apartments in a multi-storey apartment building, what internal finishes are appropriate in a classroom so students can understand their teachers, or whether noise barriers are required around the mechanical plant on a roof so it doesn’t impact on nearby residents.
In acoustics, we also get to work on a range of projects outside of the Buildings and Places umbrella such as noise assessments for major road and rail transport projects and even noise monitoring at concerts and festivals over the summer.
My responsibilities at work are mostly on the technical side – I’m doing the work rather than winning the work. When I started I was just learning how to do different tasks and assisting other members of the team, but I’ve developed my skills and amassed enough experience to take ownership on smaller projects and work directly with clients.
Can you describe a typical work day?
There is no such thing as a ‘typical work day’ for me at AECOM, as the projects and tasks vary so significantly. I really like that one day I will be working on a road design and the next day it might be a new school building. The larger projects usually involve collaboration across all of the different teams and will ramp up and ramp down through different project phases over years. The smaller jobs can be just a week of work, but they are good to break up the big jobs. I like getting out of the office and am on site about once a fortnight.
Aside from project work, I’m also involved in the AECOM Connect Committee where we plan social and networking events for the ‘early professionals’ in the office. I also am very fortunate to work as a Client Coordinator for one of our key clients. This means that I help the Client Account Manager monitor the work we do for the client and how our relationship with the client is developing. It is really great to get early exposure to a big client and see how the senior people in our office go about fostering relationships and winning work.
Suppose a student was considering your career.
What would you advise them to study?
Acoustics is a specialism within Mechanical Engineering, so I would advise someone interested in this career to study Mechanical Engineering and to take the Acoustics elective if it is offered at their university. However, I did not personally take the Acoustics elective and learnt on the job instead.
Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop?
A successful consultant engineer doesn’t just produce exceptional technical work, they are also exceptional communicators. Skills relating to written and verbal communication are likely to be the thing that engineers find most challenging. You should take every opportunity you have to develop these skills seriously and focus on clear and straightforward communication.
Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
If you were interested in working in acoustics, I would look to complete some of your compulsory work experience in this area.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
I think that to succeed as a consultant engineer you need to enjoy working with others, be well organised and good at following processes, do great technical work and be able to communicate well. If you step back before you start a project and think about what the client actually needs you will be successful.
Pros and cons
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
Outside of work I am involved in a Women’s Commission for cycling and I also run a Women’s cycling training group. Because gender inclusivity is so important to me I love that it is important to AECOM too. There are inspiring women at all levels of the company, including senior leadership roles and that makes me believe that there is also a pathway for me.
AECOM is really open about offering flexible working options. I work permanent part-time, so that I can compete in cycling nationally and internationally. I do a four-day work week spread over five days, so I can fit in long training sessions in the morning before work. It means a lot to me that I can pursue a career without sacrificing my sport.
The tasks I enjoy the most are those related to projects with a clear social benefit. I enjoy working on hospitals and schools because I feel like I am genuinely contributing to society in a positive way.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Is your job physically demanding?
Like all consultant work, the main difficulty is that your workload is variable and sometimes you will be under stress to complete projects to deadlines. Reaching out to your team and client and organising your time well can reduce this to an extent, but it will always be part of the job. We also do some late night site work, which can be tiring. As we are able to take time in lieu back after night work, I am still able to maintain a work-life balance.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I wasn’t an engineer, I would be racing my bike overseas.
A word to the wise...
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?
- In the future, technical engineering tasks are likely to become automated. The engineer of the future will add value by using their interpersonal skills, such as listening to clients about the problems they are facing and providing appropriately tailored solutions that meet clients’ needs.
- When you start working full-time, do not give up your hobbies or sport commitments. What you choose to do outside of work makes you who you are. Be open about those commitments and work with your team to manage them.
- Say YES to opportunities.