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University of Queensland
Graduate Autonomy Engineer, Thiess
Rhys Mawn studied a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Queensland in 2017 and is now a Graduate Autonomy Engineer at Thiess.
What's your job about?
I work for Thiess, a global mining services provider, in the area of autonomous mobile equipment. The Thiess Autonomy Team identifies, assesses and integrates autonomous deployment opportunities within the global business.
My key areas of responsibility include:
- Autonomous systems consultation
- Financial value and risk modelling
- Operational feasibility
- Impact assessment
- Data analysis and automated reporting
- Systems integration
- Operational change
- Project management.
My current role allows me to build an understanding of autonomous systems and their operation, and comprehend the many elements associated with successfully delivering change to the wider business.
My role is project orientated which means my day-to-day tasks change as the project progresses. I’m currently working with network architects to implement a mobile network solution for autonomous drilling, building a feasibility assessment tool for future autonomous opportunities and collating information on autonomous systems to establish a common maintenance structure.
What's your background?
I grew up in Rockhampton, Queensland surrounded by a big family who loves sport. I spent most of my secondary school years in the pool training to be a Dolphin (member of the Australian Swimming Team). After school, I moved to Brisbane to study Engineering at the University of Queensland and quickly gravitated towards mechanical and fluid dynamics.
After a few years of study, my interest in fluid dynamics had grown, and I decided to apply for an internship with Bechtel who was then constructing the QCLNG natural gas plant on Curtis Island. As part of the Commissioning and Start-Up (CSU) team, I worked closely with senior engineers, specialised technicians and the client to deliver the world’s first coal seam gas to LNG export. I then took a year away from my studies to travel, spending most of my time driving the Americas with good friends.
After returning to my studies in 2016, I joined the Thiess Vacation Program. I continued working with Thiess as an undergraduate before entering the Graduate Program in 2018. I worked in the Assets Central Planning and Reliability teams where I developed and reviewed maintenance strategies for mobile equipment, monitored asset health and worked to implement a magnetic filtration trail at one of our Queensland sites.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
An engineering qualification is a requirement of my role; however many of the skills I use in my day-to-day could come from transferable backgrounds. The key is in applying critical thinking when faced with foreign challenges and maintaining a proactive attitude to learning.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
The part of my job I enjoy the most is the project development journey: understanding new technologies, how they might change the way we operate, working with our projects to identify opportunities to integrate these with the existing operations and seeing tangible benefits as a result.
Innovation is core to the way Thiess operates, and it’s exciting to be working to deliver change throughout the business.
What are the limitations of your job?
Thiess is an operational company with the majority of their draft and design sourced externally. Instead, mechanical engineering roles are based around supporting our global operations, i.e. asset management, reliability engineering and project engineering.
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...
- Get involved in extracurricular projects at university. Not only do they allow you to apply your skills but they are also a great way to build your professional network.
- Actively drive your career before it is in motion. Think about the direction you want your career to head and make moves to establish experience in that area. Internships, research topics and extracurricular activities in your chosen field all help give you the edge you need to secure a job in your field of choice.
- Don’t be put off by failure or rejection. It’s a cliché but be prepared for failure and use it to better your next performance.