Alicia’s dad was a fitter & turner and she would love watching him in their shed as he created all sorts of metal objects. With her skill in maths, it fuelled a desire in her to work in an industry that connected people with the built environment.
She thinks she had a good career’s advisor who steered her on the path of engineering, and when she was looking around her home area of country NSW she discovered that the roles for people who had an interest in maths and the natural environment lead them to either accounting or some type of role in the local council….
I have a very strong interest in how engineers can connect society and people with the natural environment
Extra discussions during the episode
Future: Creating buildings to suit individual needs
People having that control over their environment… is important and engineers are very well positioned to look at all of the building services and systems in a building and see how we can customize them and tailor them to meet individual needs
Advice: Engineering allows you to move around the industry, depending on your passion and interests
engineering is such a unique and diverse opportunity for people
Alicia admires: Bridges!
I see them almost as being a representation of pure engineering
Emily Roebling…. the female behind the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s an amazing construction story and Emily’s role is unique to the time, but has been felt through history.
It’s absolutely phenomenal what she was able to achieve
Alicia Maynard is the General Manager, Sustainability & Technical Services at ISPT, with over 20 years’ experience in the property and construction industry, spanning commercial, retail, residential, industrial and educational sectors.
Alicia has held senior management roles across ASX100 listed and unlisted organisations, championing sustainability programs to deliver shared value for investors, customers and the community.
An Engineer by training, Alicia is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for sustainable outcomes across all stages of a building’s life-cycle, from thought leadership in development, design, construction, and throughout building operation.
Alicia is currently Chair of the Better Building Partnership and is also a committee member of the PCA’s National Sustainability Roundtable and GBCA’s Industry Advisory Group.
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during the Podcast, Season 4 Episode 5
It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Alicia Maynard
[00:00:00] Alicia: [00:00:00] I wasn’t actually sure when I left school, whether I would become an accountant or whether I would study engineering, I applied for both at university and I actually got a scholarship with a local council near where I lived and that sealed the deal. I then studied civil engineering and I worked with the council whilst I was studying in what was called then a sandwich course.
[00:00:23]Yeah. Then when I finished I moved down to Sydney and I started working as a structural engineer with one of the largest engineering companies in the world, actually Arup. So from very humble beginnings.
[00:00:35]Mel or Dom: [00:00:35] Just thinking how you, where would you have been if you hadn’t have gotten that scholarship?
[00:00:40] Alicia: [00:00:40] Well, who knows? I’d like to think that fate played a role in that because I love my career. The opportunity that I have to work with a diverse range of stakeholders and creating buildings that connect people together and help them thrive in their work environments is such a fulfilling opportunity.
[00:01:03] I’d hope that I’d get here one way or another, but I’m certainly very grateful to be working in this profession at the moment.
[00:01:10]Mel or Dom: [00:01:10] So you finished your course. Do you remember what your very first project was that you worked on as an engineer?
[00:01:16] Alicia: [00:01:16] Yeah. So when I was at the council, I was thrown into the deep end, really? I had the opportunity to work on the design of some road upgrade projects as well as some new road projects. And it was exciting times because the council was one of the first in Australia to invest in a digital theodolite, which is called a total station.
[00:01:41] And so we take the total station out to the field. We do all of the field measurements. We come back to the office and plug the device into our 486 computer download all the field measurements. And then we had a very accurate digital representation of all the surveying that we had done in the field.
[00:02:04] And then we were able to create our road design.
[00:02:06]Mel or Dom: [00:02:06] I wonder if there’s people listening, going what’s a 486?
[00:02:09] I’m actually wondering what is a theodolite?
[00:02:13] Alicia: [00:02:13] Yeah, it’s a theodolite is one of those, usually orange things that sits on a tripod. Usually you see one person at one end and you’ve got maybe a hundred meters away, someone with a stick and they’re doing the field measurements with someone spying through a little telescope.
[00:02:30] Mel or Dom: [00:02:30] Surveying.
[00:02:30] Okay. And that was done… All right. Okay.
[00:02:33] Alicia: [00:02:33] Yes.
[00:02:34] Mel or Dom: [00:02:34] I’m assuming you would have measured Victoria Park down near Sydney University as part of you think it’s the most surveyed place in Australia, like particularly considering Sydney uni surveys at UTS surveys, it’s just been surveyed within an inch of its life. So it’s very easy to check. So you were doing, working for the council while you were at university.
[00:02:59] Is that how the timing goes?
[00:03:01]Alicia: [00:03:01] Yeah. So the timing is that I did some intensive time blocks studying, and then I did some intensive time blocks working. I actually did the degree in the same amount of time that one would have otherwise, because I had the opportunity to do some subjects by distance mode. But I was really fortunate as I said, the experience that I had in working while I was studying gave me an opportunity to learn what the real application of the theory was. And when I came to Sydney and I started with Arup in their graduate program, I think I already had a lot of experience to bring to the table.
[00:03:42] And I started when I was at Arup working on some pretty major projects. I had the opportunity to go and leaving London and leaving Brisbane in secondments, working on particular projects over there. And as I said, I think we’ve that training at the council coupled with my studying, I was able to really hit the ground running and I think it gave me a massive leg up when, you know, I consider how far I’ve gone in that period of time.
[00:04:12]Mel or Dom: [00:04:12] So you were quite an advanced graduate when you hit Arup what sort of work would they have been getting you to do though as such a grad as yourself?
[00:04:21]Alicia: [00:04:21] A lot of time doing modeling or column take down, low takedowns. So it was really mixed and varied. I worked on site. I had the opportunity to do some site inspections, oversee concrete pours, and the important role that an engineer plays when you’ve got a number of concrete trucks.
[00:04:42] Basically waiting for your piece of paper, with your signature on it to say it’s good to go. So that was a really interesting learning experience because it’s not all about the theory that you learn at university.Communication with, whether it’s a site engineers or other contracts or the like, has formed a really important skill that I have used through to my role today in again, dealing with quite a diverse range of stakeholders. So really at Arup, I again had the experience to work on a whole range of different things across a range of different project types and locations that yeah, I think has again positioned me really well for where I’m at today.
[00:05:24]Mel or Dom: [00:05:24] So, where are you working now?
[00:05:26] Alicia: [00:05:26] So I work for ISPT, we are the Industry Superannuation Property Trust, and we own around 140 buildings. So my role is to drive the sustainability strategy, the development of the strategy and the implementation of the strategy and across all of our buildings, make sure that they run as efficiently as possible.
[00:05:49]I like to think that I’m quite privileged in that role, I think of our buildings as children all with their great unique personalities and characteristics, and with the right level of encouragement, they have the opportunity to really perform at their best.
[00:06:06]Mel or Dom: [00:06:06] That’s a lot of children to look after! Are they around Australia or are they just in New South Wales,
[00:06:13] Alicia: [00:06:13] No, they’re all around Australia. We have coverage across commercial, retail, and industrial sectors with a couple of new assets, one in particular we’re building in Victoria, which is a university. So we have a growing portfolio, but it’s predominantly commercial retail and industrial buildings.
[00:06:31]Mel or Dom: [00:06:31] So your role there is to ensure that the buildings are all sustainable to a high level. Is that correct?
[00:06:38] Alicia: [00:06:38] absolutely, so sustainable in the context of both environmental performance, but as well as the way that the buildings interface and connect with the people that occupy them. Sustainable also in the context that they have to create value both for ISPT and for our customers. So it’s what I would say would be the triple bottom line focus across the building.
[00:07:04] So social, environmental, and economic performance.
[00:07:07]Mel or Dom: [00:07:07] It’s nice to be able to work somewhere that has that triple bottom line as well, because, and we’ve spoken about it before on quite a few of the podcasts that unfortunately, a lot of the environmental solutions often see the red pen at the beginning of projects because people just sort of go too expensive.
[00:07:23] Even though when you have a look at the overall implications of those strategies, the longterm effect is size so much better particularly from an operational expenditure, not just the capital costs. But it’s very hard. Sometimes it’s very hard sort of getting that that across.
[00:07:37] Is it something that’s relatively easy in regards to the company? It’s something that they really pushing for the company as a whole?
[00:07:43]Alicia: [00:07:43] Yeah. I think that ISPT is very well positioned to have that balanced view and look to both short term and longterm value creation, because we are fully funded by superannuation. In fact we represent more than 50% of Australian workers who have their superannuation invested into our properties. So we have a very strong responsibility to grow people’s retirement savings both now and into the future. And the only way you can do that with a longterm lens is to look at a broader impact, not just the financial bottom line.
[00:08:21]Mel or Dom: [00:08:21] Okay. And so how does your engineering background apply to that? The things that you learnt from your civil degree in your days at the council, do they still crop up every once in a wall and you think, I remember that from when I learned it back at the beginning,
[00:08:34] Alicia: [00:08:34] Maybe not column load take downs, but certainly the problem solving and systems thinking are absolutely essential in terms of the unique challenges that we’re trying to solve in today’s environment. we have an amazing team of people that I work with at ISPT, we have a great diversity of experience at the table to draw on as well, in terms of applying that system thinking and problem solving expertise.
[00:09:02]I have a very strong interest in how engineers can connect society and people with the natural environment. I think that that is both an opportunity, but a risk if we don’t do that. So I’d like to unpack that with you and share some of the work that we’ve done in that space.
[00:09:20]Mel or Dom: [00:09:20] Yeah. So what is the problem? engineers need to be connected to the natural environment. let’s start with the most basic, why is that a problem?
[00:09:28] Alicia: [00:09:28] Well, I’ll talk about a failure to do so and the risk that, that poses. And using climate change as an example, we simply cannot continue to consume the rate of natural materials and natural resources as we are today and continue to generate the level of waste that we are today. We need to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure that we create a great future for upcoming generations, as I said, that’s, that’s the risk. If we don’t think that we have this finite limit of these very precious materials and we can’t continue to, to create the amount of emissions that we do. Then we, we simply aren’t going to be thriving at the global scale.
[00:10:23] Mel or Dom: [00:10:23] Why did you move into this space?
[00:10:26] Alicia: [00:10:26] Into sustainability or.
[00:10:28]Mel or Dom: [00:10:28] Yes into the sustainability space.
[00:10:31]Alicia: [00:10:31] I was almost compelled to think about our responsibility to future generations and I loved the work that I did as an engineer. I really enjoyed the designing element and, and I worked in construction for a little while, as well as a design manager. And again, facilitating that design process, but I really felt so heavily morally obliged to solve some of these problems around resource depletion and integration with the national environment that I made that shift from engineering to sustainability. When I did that, though, it was an environment with my manager at the time , I expressed my interest in sustainability and he gave me an ultimatum that I either worked as a structural engineer, or I worked in sustainability.
[00:11:27] And as I said, that moral obligation that I felt so compelled to pursue drove my decision to work then in a sustainability profession. I don’t think that people would be faced with that same decision. Now, I think that sustainability is such an important thought process and consideration for every single person who works in the built environment.
[00:11:54] Irrespective of what role that you have. I think that everyone who, whether they be an engineer or architect or contractor or what have you can think about the ways that they’re creating a sustainable built environment and the decisions that they’re making in their job.
[00:12:09]Mel or Dom: [00:12:09] Yeah, we, we always say that sustainability shouldn’t be a separate component of design. It should be a component of good design. Sustainability is part of every single discipline, it doesn’t matter what you do. And everyone needs to be putting in, as opposed to then just having someone that’s standing on the outside, that’s looking at it and going, you should have done these things, or why haven’t you done this?
[00:12:31] It should be a fundamental component of good design. And it seems to be going that way, which is great. So hopefully it’ll, it’ll continue on that path.
[00:12:38] Alicia: [00:12:38] Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. So that was probably about 15 years ago when I made that step and since then I have been involved in amazing projects and discussions from the board table through to the construction site. And I come with an engineering perspective and effectively we’re creating sustainable outcomes.
[00:13:02] So the team of engineers that I have working with me at ISPT, we are an engineering team, but as I said, the outcomes that we’re creating in the decisions that we make are focused around sustainability, reducing our environmental impact, creating that social cohesion and connection throughout our buildings and driving financial outcomes. As I said, creating a sustainable triple bottom line.
[00:13:26]Mel or Dom: [00:13:26] So because of the shift away from the traditional people in offices at the moment, obviously, because of what’s been going on with the pandemic do you see that there’s a bit of a shift in regards to the way that people are thinking about building and trying to make things closer or more harmonious with the environment, which is also going to benefit the spaces themselves?
[00:13:47] Alicia: [00:13:47] Absolutely. So two things that I would say around that. So prior to COVID, we spent around about 80% of our time indoors and given the circumstances and our attempt to limit more time indoors. In conversation with our customers, they’re telling us that they want to return to our office buildings because it provides a space for them to be productive and to connect with their community, the building community. But also there’s a concern that with the focus on limiting social connection that people are also limiting their connection with the natural environment. So it’s great to hear that from our customers, that that’s one of the things that they’re looking forward to in coming back to the office, building connecting, as I said, with people, connecting with their building community, but also connecting with the national environment.
[00:14:49] Mel or Dom: [00:14:49] I suppose it’s actually a great opportunity at the moment in regards to that as well, because it does give you that chance to shake things up and change things to bring the outside in. Where before it was, in a lot of cases, pack as many people in, as you can.
[00:15:05] Whereas now it’s gonna be more about space and about fresh air and, just a healthier environment. I know there’s been a lot with well buildings and indoor air quality that there’ve been some people that are really driving that change, but it’s almost as though it’s now a change that everyone’s going to want to take on and it’s like a big wave that’s coming behind them to sort of push it along.
[00:15:27] Alicia: [00:15:27] Yeah, I completely agree with that. Again, going to that competitive tension in the industry, we’ve used NABERS, which is an operational rating scheme to rate the interior environments of our office buildings. We did our first in 2012. And from that we have been able to actively invest in and improve the air quality and comfort conditions in our buildings to the point where we have now the highest number of six star rated buildings across the industry. The NABERS rating scale is a star rating up to six star. So to have the highest is, is absolutely phenomenal, but we have other peers in the sector, nipping at our heels. And I think it’s fabulous because the people who benefit from this are our customers. As I said, they’re the ones who, you know, we want them to come back to our buildings and for them to thrive, we’ve done surveys with them, pre COVID and during COVID.
[00:16:31] And we’ve almost seen from them a recalibration around the definition of wellbeing and wellness. Around almost the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from the perspective of surviving and maintaining good hygiene practices and social distancing through to thriving. And again, that’s why they want to come back to our office building so that they can be productive so that they can address their working needs, connecting with their building community, connecting with the natural environment and being really at their best, which I think, as I said, the work that ISPT has done in this space, we’re very proud that we’ve been able to lead this and create some of the most amazing places and spaces in Australia where the air is cleaner inside the building compared to out.
[00:17:21]Mel or Dom: [00:17:21] So, what was your second point that you were going to mention?
[00:17:24]Alicia: [00:17:24] So the second point that I wanted to mention was around some research in this space. There’s a lady, a doctor in the US, Dr. Esther Sternberg, who has researched the healing ability of people when they have that connection to nature.
[00:17:42] She has done some research with the Mayo Institute and has tracked people’s improved health and recovery from critical illness and surgery when they have that direct connection with nature. And that in itself should be evidence for people to understand that nature plays such a critical role in people’s health and wellbeing generally.
[00:18:07] And we need to harness that in time, such as now when we are in a health epidemic or pandemic, and we need to get people to be at their best. Nature, has the way for us to achieve that.
[00:18:21]Mel or Dom: [00:18:21] what you’re essentially saying is that we need to work in buildings for the infrastructure and the toilets and the lighting and all that sort of stuff.
[00:18:30] We can’t work in nature. But nature is good for us. So we need to bring nature into the buildings. How do we do that? Is this, are you talking about like planting trees? Like I’ve seen some buildings that have indoor tree situations going on and things like that. What specifically are you talking about?
[00:18:47] How can engineers do that?
[00:18:50] Alicia: [00:18:50] Well, it is about bringing the trees and plants inside, but it’s also about having the best air quality, the best comfort, the best lighting, so that. If you feel like you’re in an environment where you’re not inhibited by the four walls around you. All of those elements are working together and for you to be working at your best, essentially.
[00:19:20] So it is definitely about the plants and making sure that you’ve got that connection with nature. There’s this amazing work. As I said, the work of Esther Sternberg around biophilia and the absolute fundamental importance of that physical connection with nature, but really buildings, if they’re designed and maintain really well, can enhance people’s productivity and cognitive output. Because as I said, all of those elements are working together for people to really be at their best
[00:19:52]Mel or Dom: [00:19:52] And it’s, really obvious when you walk into a building that has natural light and where the air just seems better and it’s amazing how it lifts your mood, by comparison to being in a building, an older building, it’s got a musty smell and the air con sort of doesn’t work properly. So you either feel kind of damp and horrible. It changes your mood, which can only change the way that you work in the, you know, the way that you feel, you feel happy at work, you’re going to be more productive. Whereas if you don’t want to be there, then you’re basically going to be watching the clock until you can run out the door. The benefits are so vast in regards to giving that to the um, the people who are occupying the building, that it seems to be a little bit of a, one of those things where it doesn’t make sense to not have them. I like, I don’t understand why people wouldn’t go down that path. Even from an economic standpoint, the longterm benefits far outweigh the capital costs upfront.
[00:20:46] Alicia: [00:20:46] Yeah, absolutely, it is a no brainer. And as I said, it’s great to see a bit of industry competition in this space, because I think now our customers are looking for more than a reliable lift and one to 10 square meters per person of space. They want quality, they want service and they want amenity.
[00:21:07] And these are the things that will differentiate owners in terms of the commercial office market. And the benefits, if everyone does this really well is really there for our customers. And I agree I’ve had moments when I’ve walked into a space and I felt uplifted and energized. Equally I’ve had moments where I’ve walked into a space and felt that the walls are closing in and, you know, I’m feeling suffocated and really unpleasant.
[00:21:39]Mel or Dom: [00:21:39] Do you get many of those buildings that you have to work in that you go, okay. We need to turn this around.
[00:21:44] Alicia: [00:21:44] Well, as I said, we’ve got 140 buildings and just under half of that are commercial buildings. We have taken a bespoke approach across all of our buildings to understand the unique positioning of that building because it relates to its aspect and how it’s positioned at the street level the glazing, the HVAC system, all of those things, how they connect together to provide that service and amenity for our customers.
[00:22:11] And we’ve invested significantly in this space to achieve an outstanding outcome with our NABERS, into our environment ratings and hopefully, as I said, we’re providing an environment for people to thrive in.
[00:22:24]Mel or Dom: [00:22:24] If you get it right, then you’ve got the happy medium of a great building and human’s ability to thrive in that environment.
[00:22:34]So what are some solutions that you said in regards to this? Cause I think we’ve engineering and I work in the building industry as well, is it a case of more collaboration with the architects in order to get that whole package in line with what it is that you’re looking for? How do we get it across the line, particularly with clients who were just basically looking at the bottom line, the economics of it, to have a look at that triple bottom line.
[00:22:58] Alicia: [00:22:58] It’s a systems approach that’s required to address these challenges ahead of us and to create these beautiful spaces. I think failure of people in that collaboration, particularly in the conceptual stage of a project design really will lead to an unfavorable outcome that will be in place for a very long time.
[00:23:24] So by systems approach, the best outcome will be achieved if you look at the whole of the intensive supply chain, really. So you have manufacturers of materials, you have, suppliers of services and products and people who are responsible for maintaining those services and products.
[00:23:46] You have the design team who are working at the initial stages of the project to understand what can be the best solution for a particular location. But as I said, you need that whole of systems approach. And considering that your customers also form part of that systems approach and having that dialogue across the entire system is critical to making sure that these buildings that have a design life in excess of 100 years, they can actually be well-performing over that timeframe, if you actively invest and manage them and leverage all aspects of the system. So it can’t be something that we do as engineers in isolation of the end users or the builders. Or as I said, the contractors, it has to be engaging with the entire system and making sure that everyone is aligned with a common purpose in creating a healthy and sustainable building for the long term.
[00:24:50]Mel or Dom: [00:24:50] Yeah, which is extremely important because one of our guests, Ashak. One of the things that he always talks about is, is the fact that there’s so many resources that go into a building that it’s not something that you can just build frivolously and then a couple years down the track bowl it over. Building maintenance and making sure that it’s something that’s going to last the distance is more important than anything else. A building that stands the test of time for 50 years, a hundred years then, all those resources that you used, all that energy that you’ve put into that building, you’re getting every last bit out of it, as opposed to building something and going this doesn’t work and then bowling it over and starting again because of all the materials that go into it, it’s just.
[00:25:29] It’s really not an option. It’s not, but unfortunately it happens. What? A lot?
[00:25:35] Alicia: [00:25:35] Well, this is the exact scenario that I found myself in when I moved from my career instructional engineering to sustainability. I in fact, was working on the design of a large scale building in Sydney and the site had two existing buildings in its place. They were only 20 years old.
[00:25:57] And I could not comprehend this scale of waste, not just waste in materials, but time and cost. And I couldn’t understand what went wrong with those two buildings that in such a short period of time, they needed to be demolished to the ground and we would need to build this new building in its place.
[00:26:19] And I thought I have to do something about this because it did not rest well with me that in some way I could be repeating the exact same problems that someone 20 years ago had done. And I wanted to make sure that this building would be around for the longterm.
[00:26:37]Mel or Dom: [00:26:37] Did you solve the problem? Like, did you work out why that building wasn’t living up to its sustainability so much?
[00:26:46] Alicia: [00:26:46] well, I’ve done a lot of research in this space. I’ve looked at sustainable materials and how materials can be recycled. I’ve looked at materials in terms of how they can be upcycled so that you don’t lose the integrity of material. But the thing that’s probably resonated with me the most has been thinking about a building in terms of building layers and the building layers being designed around the principles of low energy, long life and loose fit.
[00:27:18] So if you apply those principles to the design, construction and maintenance of the building, I think that we need to accept that over time, the building uses needs will change and you will need to strip out some things and do some upgrades and the like, but if you design the building around that loose fit principle, and you can strip out the building layer and put something back that then will you still have the core structure of building that could have a design life of 100 years, the integrity of that can be maintained. So those principles they’re something that really resonate with me. It’s a thought that I bring to the projects that I work on today and the legacy that we’re creating, not just now, but into the future.
[00:28:04] Mel or Dom: [00:28:04] So just on that, what are your thoughts on the future of engineering?
[00:28:08] Alicia: [00:28:08] Well, I’d like to think that with the work that we’ve done across the ISPT portfolio, particularly in terms of opening a dialogue with our customers around their satisfaction and wellness and the things that driving their business, that we’re able to act on the things that are important and we’ll keep them in our buildings for the longterm.
[00:28:35] So some of the. Initiatives that we have invested in have been around creating real time dashboards. We’ve created a real time comfort dashboard that our customers can dial into and see the conflict conditions at their workstation. We know that people have different tolerances for temperature and, and the like, so with that information, they can select a place to go and work that suits their comfort preferences.
[00:29:06]So I think the future of engineering is looking at that systems framework, looking right from the manufacturing of materials and the construction of buildings and then the operation of buildings. Looking at ways that our customers use space and hearing from them around what works for them and what doesn’t work for them. All of that system thinking needs to work together for engineers to remain agile in the way that they’re engaging across that entire systems framework.
[00:29:38]Mel or Dom: [00:29:38] I can’t imagine 20 years ago there were a building that said, okay, this is a hot spot here, and that’s a cooler spot, and you pick your zone where you want, I can’t imagine the technology was there to actually allow that. It’s pushing that technology. and what you’re saying it’s going to be a lot more personal, which it would be amazing to work in some of these buildings, I have a feeling.
[00:29:59]Alicia: [00:29:59] I think it does need to be customizable and tailored to people’s needs. People are unique. Like our buildings, people are unique and they have a range of working styles and working preferences that will be more aligned with some buildings and not, but the more that we’ve listened to people and have some type of customizable environment for them to work in, I think we’re going to be able to appeal to a much broader group of people.
[00:30:28] Then if you have. One set point temperature across the whole floor plate. And everyone has allocated desks. Then you have to see. At the seat and you have to sit here, and People having that control over their environment, I think is. Important and engineers are very well positioned to look at all of the building services and systems in a building and see how we can customize them and tailor them to meet individual needs.
[00:30:54]Mel or Dom: [00:30:54] That sounds complicated, but yeah, it’s like, it’s tying back to what you were saying before. I can’t remember the words that you said, like having that a loose fit. I
[00:31:03] Alicia: [00:31:03] Loose fit. Yep.
[00:31:05] Mel or Dom: [00:31:05] So having a loose fit, but with a personal perspective, that’s what the future’s going to be. You need to keep it loose, but keep it personal.
[00:31:11] So no stress there. So what would you say to people starting out in engineering? How will they do this?
[00:31:18] Alicia: [00:31:18] Well, I think engineering is such a unique and diverse opportunity for people. The two skills that I found to be very important and transferable have been around that problem solving skillset, as well as the systems thinking. I think something that engineers are learning to get better at is communication and communicating some of these complicated things to our customers and in that dialogue, understanding what’s important to them. And then, by all means going back to the technical boffins and creating some unique, amazing leading solutions. But as I said, it as a profession in engineering, you can stay working in the sector. You can become a specialist in a certain area, or you can become a generalist or even work outside the sector, applying that systems thinking and problem solving skills.
[00:32:12]Mel or Dom: [00:32:12] Yeah, I think that’s definitely something that runs through a lot of the discussions we have with engineers is that portability of being an engineer, just because it trains you in a certain way to think in a certain way. And you just find engineers popping up in places that you’d never even think of.
[00:32:29]And just to wrap up, is there a piece of engineering that impresses you?
[00:32:34] Alicia: [00:32:34] Well, I’ve got to say that I love bridges. I know that might sound a little bit boring, but I love bridges because I see them almost as being a representation of pure engineering. There’s nothing to hide. There’s no cladding , there’s nothing to mask the ill decisions. Often they’re designed around getting the load from one place to another and I’ve done some bridge design work in my career and it’s beautiful, pure engineering. So I do love a good bridge. I love what they represent in connecting people as well. I don’t have a favorite bridge, however.
[00:33:12]Mel or Dom: [00:33:12] I can reassure you that you’re not the only person that we have spoken to. I’m not gonna say unhealthy, but a real love for bridges.
[00:33:21] Alicia: [00:33:21] Yeah.
[00:33:23]Mel or Dom: [00:33:23] And so just to finish up, do you have an engineer that you admire?
[00:33:27] Alicia: [00:33:27] Well, I guess together with my love of bridges, I really admire the work of Emily Roebling. So she worked on the Brooklyn bridge and her husband was the chief engineer for the Brooklyn bridge. But he became ill with decompression sickness and she took over his responsibilities. And I just think it’s absolutely phenomenal what she was able to achieve. Thinking at the time they didn’t have the modern technologies and tools that we have in the design process. So all kudos to her. She’s my home girl in the bridge space. And I think that, when we’re thinking about some of the complex problems and the unique situations that we face, we’ve got to put ourselves in the shoes of the engineering pioneers and think if they were able to create some of these amazing structures and solutions, then we should be able to do it in spades.
[00:34:34] Mel or Dom: [00:34:34] that whole bridge thing is inspiring for so many different levels. Like the way it pushed technology, but also the way that it was handed down from the father to the son, to the wife and well, yeah, we’ve seen a documentary on it. I was like, Whoa, that’s mind blowing.
[00:34:50] Alicia: [00:34:50] it is it is absolutely inspiring.
[00:34:53]Mel or Dom: [00:34:53] Well, thank you so much for joining us.
[00:34:55] Alicia: [00:34:55] yeah, my pleasure. It’s been a blast. Thank you both.
And thank you for listening to Engineering Heroes as we present the new dawn of engineering challenges for Engineers Australia.