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What it’s really like to be an engineer

Engineering – it’s a career path that has shaped the endeavours of some of society’s most well-known inventions, from Gustave Eiffel’s eponymous French tower, to Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial drive behind SpaceX. But is a career as an engineer all it’s cracked up to be? And what does it take to get there?

Matt Bickely studied a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) at Deakin University, graduating with first class honours and qualifying for the Deakin Golden Key Society. He tells us about how the engineering course he studied online gave him the confidence to systematically navigate complex problems, focusing on the ‘why’ of a problem rather than the ‘how’.

Find out more about studying engineering online with Deakin.

What led you to becoming an engineer?

‘With an established career in the engineering industry as a design draftsperson, becoming an engineer was the natural next step. Although I had years of experience in 3D design, I was lacking in the engineering knowledge required to fully understand detail engineering design and calculation.

‘I am also fortunate enough to work at a company that supports its employees in developing their careers; with an assisted education program allowing me time off work for studies. Combining a supportive employer with existing industry experience allowed me to pursue a career as an engineer’

What does an average day look like for you?

‘A typical day begins with a quick review of my emails in order to catch up with on-site works (as projects occur all day – every day) with priority engineering issues actioned first thing. Throughout the day there are engineering and project meetings; typically discussing design, logistic and cost factors for major projects.

‘When I’m not in meetings I am busy working on major project engineering documents (scope of works, HSE assessments, project schedules and financial forecasts) or creating and reviewing detail design drawings.

‘Apart from these responsibilities I also attend site for construction and commissioning duties on most of the projects I am involved with in order to assist with problems that occur in any way I can (this could be anywhere in Australia).’

'Being a successful engineer is having a balance of theoretical knowledge backed by sound practical experience. A constant challenge is finding the balance of the two and ensuring the decisions you make are well thought out, engineered correctly, practical and cost-effective.'

Matt Bickley,
Deakin alumnus

What do you love most about your job?

‘No two projects are ever the same! Working for a national company means you have the opportunity to work with people across Australia on complex problems for projects that have different rules and regulations depending on the part of Australia that project takes place. This provides the opportunity to hear and learn from a wide range of engineers, technicians and designers from all background and experiences.

‘Another plus is the opportunity to travel Australia wide as required; to be on-site for site engineering duties, training or important project meetings.’

What are some of the challenges of your job?

‘Being a successful engineer is having a balance of theoretical knowledge backed by sound practical experience. A constant challenge is finding the balance of the two and ensuring the decisions you make are well thought out, engineered correctly, practical and cost-effective. This can lead to differences of opinion from other engineers, managers of field technicians in which the ability to justify your actions and provide sufficient engineering nonce are key.

‘Furthermore, a considerable amount of time is spent on engineering documentation, reports and forecasts. Whilst writing reports can seem tedious at times, the importance or traceability and accountability must be upheld in order to prove engineering due-diligence is considered at all times.’

What are the necessary skills required in your job?

‘First and foremost, I believe the ability to work with a team towards achieving a common goal is the most important skill required, which requires great communication abilities and consideration of other points of view. Furthermore, the willingness to travel and be on-site during construction activities and ownership of any and all tasks allocated to you are very important.

‘Enthusiasm for problem solving is a must, with the ability to work within strict guidelines but still find unique solutions a key component to most engineering problems. The determination to see a solution through to inception is also very important; as is the ability to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes as they happen (and they will happen!).’

What school and university subjects or qualifications fit your job as an engineer?

‘As project engineering requires a combination of project management, design, construction and commissioning skills it is hard to say, however I do think the ability to do a real industry-based final year project was the best university subject to prepare oneself for a project engineer’s role.

‘This is because a final year project requires not only design input, but justification, research, risk assessment, financial forecasting and solution proving in order to be successful in the unit. Of course, this unit is the culmination of everything learned so far; hence all of the units required for an engineering degree will in some way – even if only in a small way – begin to prepare you for a job as a project engineer.’

Build your way to a better future. Find out more about studying engineering online with Deakin.

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