On the Job with Ivana from Cochlear

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Lynn Elsey
Lynn Elesy
Team GradAustralia
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Ivana Popovac is a senior systems engineer with Cochlear. In 2010 she gained a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering & a Masters of Biomedical Engineering, from the University of New South Wales. In 2011 Ivana joined Cochlear as a graduate engineer, before becoming a systems engineer in 2012 and a senior systems engineer in 2014.

Why the interest in Cochlear? 

As a classically trained guitarist and a singer, music is my passion. The company’s mission – to restore the sense of hearing – really struck a chord with me (pardon the pun). I saw Cochlear as a place where I could work towards something meaningful that gave people the opportunity to hear the world as I do. 

The graduate program interested me because it involved solid engineering work and a real-world application of everything I had been studying. It also offered a “mezze taster plate” of a wide variety of engineering disciplines. 

Best aspects of the program? 

I met an incredible variety of people from around the organisation, which really helped me to get the bigger picture of how Cochlear operates. And when I needed help with solving a problem or getting information outside my field of knowledge, I knew exactly who to go to. 

It also helped increase my visibility and abilities, which is really important as a budding engineer as it puts you in the spotlight for different opportunities. 

Being able to experience different engineering disciplines in a practical and focused way was also a big plus. Before working at Cochlear, I had a superficial understanding of what systems engineering was and little desire to pursue it as part of my career. After living and breathing it for three months, I could see that it fit my personality and my values much better than my original career path would have. 

What were the most challenging aspects? 

Getting up to speed on the team and tasks when going through rotations. With only three months in each team, it was a case of hit the ground running or being left behind. The experience of learning how to find information and solve problems quickly really helped me to evolve as an engineer. 

What is the most surprising aspect of your current job? 

I get to interface directly with users of Cochlear products: recipients, clinicians and surgeons. I learn something new and surprising in these interactions – about what people need, how they use our products and what their hopes and dreams are – which gives me an incentive to continue striving to improve their hearing experience. 

Advice to current students? 

  1. Find practical engineering experience before the end of your studies. This is the best way to get into graduate programs and shows prospective employers that you have experience working in teams and on problems. 
  2. Go to as many careers fairs and site visits as you can; you never know who you will meet and what opportunities are out there. There are also some great MeetUp groups on engineering. 
  3. Say yes to everything. This applies to your studies, as a graduate and also in your career. Don’t assume that because you don’t have the university medal or you haven’t had years of experience in the field you don’t have what an employer needs. If you don’t think you have the skills yet, try anyway, because no one starts knowing everything. And don’t forget to back up your attempts with hard work.