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University of Technology Sydney
Graduate Mechanical Engineer
Sally studied Bachelor of Engineering, Diploma of Engineering Practice (Mechanical), UTS
1). What's your job about?
UGL Limited Engineering and Construction is a diverse business sector with projects and experience in rail, transport & technology systems, power, resources, water and defence. My role in UGL is within the power / project sector where I am working on commissioning the Combined Cycle (gas and steam) Power Plant as part of the Ichthys LNG Project. I am a graduate mechanical engineer in the commissioning team spending my days writing procedures, liaising with the customer, lining up systems ready for commissioning and assisting with commissioning of equipment as well as all the associated quality documentation to go with running up each system. Seeing something of this scale being built leads to so much respect for planning and process engineering and involves a huge amount of communication and preparation between all the different companies and groups working together to complete this project. To give you an idea of the project scale; the project’s onshore component consists of a 361 hectare site and worldwide there are 30,000 people working to get the project done safely, on time and of highest quality.
2). What's your background?
I grew up in Grafton in rural, northern NSW exploring nature and spending as much time swimming at the beach, river and abandoned quarries as possible. Upon completion of year 12 at South Grafton High, I moved to Sydney to study Mechanical Engineering and work in power generation with Toshiba International Corporation. Through this work I gained engineering experience in a range of power plants across Australia and the world, including being seconded to the USA to undertake work for Toshiba.
Upon graduation I decided I wanted to remain in the power generation industry and gain as much onsite experience as possible so I took on a graduate role in UGL’s Engineering and Construction division from December 2015. With UGL I was given the opportunity from day 1 to go to Darwin and work on building and commissioning a brand new combined cycle power plant as part of the Ichthys LNG Project. I have now been up here for three months and have gained incredible hands on experience. To build a plant and run it up for the first time was something I hoped to achieve before retirement. To start on this project within days of finishing my university degree is something I couldn’t have found with any other engineering company outside of UGL.
3). Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes, in engineering I find most of what is needed for a role is learnt on the job so background plays very little and while my power plant experience certainly helps, there is great support onsite for the grads to build technical knowledge. The most important thing is that you can learn quickly, understand engineering concepts in practical applications and can work in high stress and time critical conditions when required. We are lucky enough to have an extremely diverse workforce all of which are highly valued for their different contributions to the team.
4). What's the coolest thing about your job?
No matter how challenging my job is, all I have to remember is that I’m building something huge from nothing. Something that will provide power for the next forty years with minimal maintenance, all because of how well we do the job now. To be involved in something so big is awe-inspiring and with my passion for power generation is a daily inspiration. As a result, it won’t come as a surprise that my favourite aspect of the job is starting a piece of equipment for the first time, testing its full capabilities and ensuring it will perform the job required.
5). What are the limitations of your job?
Working onsite means long, 11+ hour days and living in ‘dongas’ (small single bed rooms with a desk and bar fridge). To take on the site life you have to be prepared for daily 4am starts, working over weekends and public holidays as well as being away from family and friends for weeks at a time. It is often both physically and mentally demanding work that requires focus day in day out. Thankfully, in my opinion, in pays off one hundred fold for the work you get to do.
6). 3 pieces of advice for your teenage self...
- Learn to relax and realise that second chances aren’t the worst thing in the world.
- Remember to have some fun and take a break from study sometimes. Take that trip, go to the beach with friends. You need balance in your life.
- You are lucky – you are focussed and know exactly what you want to do with your life. This is uncommon and a gift. Use that passion in every way possible.