This is a great resource to let you know a little bit more about Imposter Syndrome
Lucy really admires the work that went into NSC – New Safety Confinement at Chenobyl..
I was particularly impressed with the robotics inside
There’s a great documentary called Building Chenobyl’s mega tomb
Lucy brings to our attention the wonderful work of Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr – the mother of Bluetooth
she designed the frequency hopping technology…. that’s used in Bluetooth today
Hedy was the instigator of today’s Bluetooth technology
About Lucy Griffith
Lucy Griffith – Project Engineer at ANSTO
Lucy graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
Not content to stop there Lucy also obtained a Degree in Maths and Computer Science as well.
She has worked with Alstom as a Design Engineer, Design Coordinator and a Systems Engineer and is now a Project Engineer for the Opal Reactor at ANSTO Lucas Heights.
In addition to this she has been doing an exceptional job firstly as the Communications Manager and now the Secretary of Young Engineers Australia Sydney. She was instrumental in numerous events, INCLUDING our Beer With An Engineer 1st birthday party in July 2019.
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during the Podcast, Season 2 Episode 11.
It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Lucy Griffith
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Hi, welcome to season two episode 11 of Engineering Heroes, a podcast that presents the incredible engineers that are shaping our society and battling our challenging issues. My name is Mel and my co host and our podcasts resident engineer speaking to us from the trenches is Dom.
Do you ever think, Do I really have the experience to be doing this? Are these the right answers? Should I be working on a project as important as this? Imposter syndrome is alive and well in the engineering industry. Engineers that are honestly great at their job sometimes feel like they don’t know enough or might even be unsure with the level of responsibility that comes with the job. Our guest today speaks to us about her experiences with imposter syndrome. She’s an incredible engineer having graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Engineering and Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and she also received a degree in math and computer science. She worked with Alstom on Sydney’s new light rail network as a design engineer, design coordinator and systems engineer. However, most recently, she’s a project engineer for the opal reactor and ANSTO Lucas Heights. In addition to this, she’s been doing an exceptional job holding positions at Young Engineers Australia Sydney. First she was the communications manager However, now she holds the position of Secretary. Our guest is no stranger to organising events such as the young engineers Australia drinks in February of this year where we initially met her. But Mel also worked very closely with tonight’s guest when young engineers Australia Sydney I was to be with an engineer’s first birthday party in 2019. Tonight, we’d like to welcome Lucy Griffith.
Lucy loved maths, doing all the maths she could in high school. She was also really good at physics and chemistry.
So when I was trying to figure out what kind of university study what kind of career I wanted to go into, I just knew that it was it had to be something where I could use that knowledge and in an applied way, and of course, the natural progression from that is engineering. So I decided to go into electrical and electronic engineering because on the open day at the university, there was this wonderful .. one of the lectures that was presenting to all of the perspective first years and she was a woman and I went Oh Great. So electrical engineering, they’ve got they’ve got chicks. There you go. Yeah. And then of course, when, when I turned off my first day, I found out it’s got one of the least number of females and but I still enjoyed it. That that was how I got into it.
And so what was the first project that you worked on when you, you finish your degree?
So after university, I started on my graduate programme, which was actually ANTSO which is where I work now.
Okay, so you went straight to ANTSO
Went straight to ANTSO, I moved up to Sydney and I was actually working as a cyclotron engineer at the cyclotron in Camperdown. So we were operating and maintaining, so really, I didn’t have a lot of project work and that’s the first couple of years. But I was, I guess my project for myself was learning how the system works and how to troubleshoot it and how to operate and maintain it.
And so what sort of things were you doing?
So I would shadow the cyclotron engineer that works there full time. He was actually… didn’t get the title of cyclotron engineer because he did a physics degree. made that mistake. So, so I shadowed him for those first few years and we maintained the cyclotron, which is a type of particle accelerator. And we operated it as well for the research facility that it was in.
It’s not like a little CERN.
It’s a little bit like a little CERN. So a cyclotron accelerates particles in a spiral pattern. So it’s much more compact then then the CERN’s or the synchrotron type accelerators. It was just a little six by six metre volt.
So not as exciting as the CERN overseas but still I had no idea we had something like that in Australia.
Yes, but we have a number of them. We have them in most hospitals, actually. Because they produce some of the radioisotopes that are used for medical purposes.
And are they all managed by engineers like yourself?
Yes. So it’s usually engineers that maintain them. It’s usually engineers is that maintain them. I think operators don’t necessarily have to have an engineering degree. But definitely the maintainers do.
Okay. And whereabouts are you working now?
So what happened in between, I went and worked for Alstom on the wonderful light rail project in the Sydney CBD.
Oh, you work on that one.
I did. So that was a big change from ANSTO because I went from the government sector to the private sector, I was on a big infrastructure project. So it was very high stress. It was everything had to be done yesterday, but I had lots of opportunity for learning and learn ideas, but it became a bit too fast paced for me and I wanted a bit of a change and there was a opportunity then back at ANSTO so I went for that. And that’s how I ended up back there as a project engineer.
So what was the gap?
It was about 18 months that I was on the big infrastructure project.
Mel De Gioia 6:00
Did you do one of those sort of things like, “I built that” like that’s, “that’s my bit of the track there”.
I do a little bit of that. And people often aren’t that impressed.
I didn’t say it was impressive!
You need to tell other engineers, then it would be impressive. Yeah, they’d understand just exactly what was involved.
That’s right. And I think once it’s running, it’ll be a bit more of an impressive thing to say I had a hand in that.
Yes. At the moments it’s more of a hastle
Yeah. Well, not long now at least they’re running tests up and down through George Street. So that’s right. Not long at all.
And so you went back to ANSTO. And so what sort of things are you doing now as the project engineer.
So yes, as a project engineer, in the reactor engineering team, we have two different types of engineer there. If If you can split it down that way. So we have the project engineers like me, and then we have the system engineers. The system engineers have ownership over one or multiple of the auxiliary systems that keeps the reactor running safely and, and well. And so they spend their business as usual time on planning of maintenance and dealing with any breakdowns or any anything that comes up day to day. And they’re quite busy with that. And being a nuclear facility, we are very highly regulated. So any changes that need to happen to the facility, to any of the plants, it goes through a very rigorous change control process, which means something that may be considered a relatively small change in another industrial plant is a big job for us in terms of the documentation that we have to produce.
And so is that what you do?
That’s right, that’s where I come in. So I spend my time building up the documentation for the change control submissions. And basically, if you have anything that needs to be upgraded, or replaced – a lot of components, you can’t get the same one anymore. So everything has to be assessed. And if it’s not assessed as a like for like, change, then it gets escalated. And it’s a big change control.
Do you get frustrated with the whole preconceived ideas of what the Reactor is doing as well, because I’m pretty sure out there in the general population, no one really knows what that reactor is about. It’s so frustrating when you talk to people event as well. They think we’ve got a mini Chernobyl seeing in the middle of a….
I was thinking, The Simpson’s honestly. This is a nuclear power plant was up on The Simpsons you see that always melting down or things like that.
That’s right, it is a bit of a frustration. And so for a long time, the nuclear industry in Australia was very Hush Hush. And we don’t want PR because you know, we don’t want people coming to visit. But now we want them to know what we do. And we want them to know where we are. So I get one of two reactions when I tell people that I work at. And so the majority of the people go “Oh, what’s that? Oh, I didn’t realise we had a nuclear reactor” and other people go, “oh, my goodness, you glow in the dark?” But of course, yeah, so the reactor that I work at is a research reactor, which means it’s many, many times smaller than a power reactor. So we use it to produce neutrons, basically, it’s like a neutron factory. And then we use those neutrons to do scientific research. We can use them for imaging similarly to the way that you can use electrons and x rays for imaging, but you get different images. And we also use them to produce nuclear medicine, we produce most of Australia’s nuclear medicine down at the reactor, our biggest production, our biggest product is technetium 99. Which is used as a diagnostic mainly. So that’s a radio isotope that is used in diagnostics, so a lot
to identify, to identify if you’ve got cancer or anything.
Yeah, used for a lot of different cancer scans and bone scans and brain scans and things.
All right. And is the Australian little plant that you’re working at? Is that able to keep up with the demand? Or is it kind of bursting at the seams?
Well, yes, we actually export overseas as well.
So in the in the last few years, we’ve had worldwide – there’s been another reactor that did produce a lot of this radio isotope, which has shut down. Reached end of life and, and didn’t, they couldn’t operate it anymore. So we moved to fill that gap. We built a big new facility so that we could process higher volumes of material to get it to get more of this technician out.
Okay. That’s, that’s very interesting.
Yes, I’m glad you said that. I’ve spent a lot of time at ANSTO in various causes. And even years and years ago with materials testing. So it’s, it’s really not all about the reactor as well. It’s.. there’s so much that goes on. It’s very much a science hub.
Yes, that’s right. Yes, so much more than just the reactor, it’s the heart of the place, but there’s much more to it.
Mel De Gioia 11:25
Okay, I’m just going to pause it there for a moment. Lucy has shared a lot with us so far about working at Australia’s only nuclear plant. And when we come back, we will be deep diving into what it means when an engineer experiences imposter syndrome. But first, Lucy wanted to share some information about an exciting conferences taking place in 2020.
If you’re interested in nuclear engineering, or nuclear medicine, anything to do with the nuclear field, you should come along. IYNC 2020.org next March.
So IYNC is the International Youth Nuclear Conference, bit of a big deal in the whole nuclear space industry. So if you’re interested, check it out. In our show notes, the links there, www.engineeringheroes.com.au If you want to go straight to Lucy’s page, it’s /s2e11. Now Lucy is such an amazing guest, she’s going to talk about an incredibly personal topic, one that she’s not alone and experiencing, she’s going to talk about her experience with imposter syndrome.
It’s a psychological phenomenon where a person can’t or has trouble internalising their successes. So for me, that looks like a lot of procrastination, a lot of feeling like I don’t know enough to be in the position. I mean, and a lot of feeling like everyone around me, no samples, and I do. And which is not always true. It’s funny actually, I was a little bit nervous about during the interview today. And I was thinking to myself, am I am I qualified enough to talk on
Mel De Gioia 13:10
the act of questioning yourself is making you the most qualified person. And is that something that… I’m going to say? Not just it’s not just focused on engineers who have this experience
Yeah. It is quite common.
Mel De Gioia 13:25
Is there something that’s from an engineering perspective that it can cause issues?
Yes, there is. I feel when you transition from university to the workplace, in engineering, you go from learning all of this technical background, and you go into the workplace, and there’s all this extra stuff that you need to learn.
And that can kind of lead to a bit of feeling like well, you know, I’ve been at university for four years, shouldn’t I be prepared for everything. But that’s not the case. You’ve got to learn when you start any new role, there’s a lot to learn always. Yeah, so I feel like in engineering, particularly, there’s always a lot to learn when you when you enter a new role.
Yeah, I always thought with engineering, it’s almost as though going to uni is a bit like doing a trade where you, you’re an apprentice for four years, and then you come out and you still…even if you do a trade, you’re a journeyman, like a few years being a journeyman, before you get you ticket. And it’s a bit like that I suppose in anything .. it really … you learn, you learn certain things, but you don’t like the things that you need to apply until you’re actually doing them. You’re involved in them, they’re your day to day tasks. And that’s the only way that you really can learn on the job. And I agree with you completely, because it is really hard, particularly when you first come out and you think you meant to know more than you you are. And even then when you progress through your career in the get to… kind of work your way up through, you know, graduate engineer, design engineers to project management roles or business development roles. And you’re still sort of sitting there and thinking to yourself do I actually like, Do I know the same amount as everyone who’s sitting around this table? … is this? And it does take a while to to sort of let yourself realise that, Yeah, actually, I am. I do know this stuff. And I have been practising it for the last however many years, so I understand exactly what’s going on. But I know for myself there was … I was sitting around a table at one stage thinking to myself, should I really be at this table? And then I realised that I was probably the greyest person there, out of all the people there, I probably had five years on everyone that I was sitting around the table with. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Right. Okay. People always do that whole, fake it till you make it. And I just hate that because I prefer to know what I need to know. And then, if I don’t know it, let the people around me know that… I’m not stretching myself to try and provide expertise on something like that I don’t really know about.
Yeah, yeah. So that’s, that’s pretty much hit the nail on the head of what I’m talking about.
That just goes to show that, you know, there’s other engineers out there that are experiencing the same thing.
That’s right. Yeah, I talked to a number of colleagues about it today. I was telling them about how it’s doing this interview. And they all said, Oh, yeah, yeah, I know that feeling. Of course, I guess it’s, um, it’s one of those things where in order to deal with it, I have to keep reminding myself that everyone around me, they don’t necessarily know exactly what their next step is. And especially as engineers, it’s about working out how to do the next thing. And and figuring that out and problem solving that. And also, the other mechanism to help deal with imposter syndrome is to gather evidence of where the work that I’ve put in has led to successes. And that’s where this role that I’m in currently feels like it’s a little bit harder for me. So I’ve gone from that very fast paced, huge infrastructure project, where we’re constantly getting to milestones and, and, and meeting..
Yeah, that’s right, constantly moving forward and gathering achievements. So it was quite a bit easier for me there to gather my evidence and go, Oh, yes, open the box. And oh, yeah, I’ve got this and this, and this, from the recent, you know, months and weeks. I’m doing okay. Whereas the role I’m in at the moment, because of the very high level of control around any changes, it means that it moves quite a bit slower. And so my goals are a little more long term. And which makes it a little bit harder for me to collect things to put in that in that box. Which is why I’m struggling with it a little bit more in my current role, than I was in my last
Did you experience that when you were a graduate?
funnily enough, it was a bit less when I was a graduate, I think, because there was an acknowledgement that I was fresh out of uni.
Yeah. And so actually, you could expect that within yourself. Yeah, no, I don’t know everything. I’m not here to do that yet. I’m here to learn. And what is it, five years down the track? You’re kind of like, well, I should know better by now.
But that’s right. That’s the feeling. So I could be a little kinder to myself when I was a graduate.
And now I find myself being a little harsher. On what I should know what I feel I should know. But it’s something that I am just working on all the time.
what sort of things are helping? So you’ve got your .. What… What did you call your it, your box.
My box of gathered evidence,
Your box of evidence, in a way maybe keeping track on your CV. And so you can sort of say, you’ve done this done this, so you kind of bolstering you… yourself there. What other things can be put in place to help this situation, especially since you’re not the only one that’s experiencing this?
That’s right, I think being up front as much as I can, with my team. So I have a habit of I’ll try and solve something myself first. And it’s it’s not always a bad thing, because sometimes I can, you know, find find the answer. But more and more, I’m trying to limit the amount of energy that I spend doing that when I know that a team member will probably have the answer. And I will go to that resource because the teams that we work with such great resources for us. And really drawing on the knowledge of others in our team is a part of being an effective engineer. I think.
So you’re learning that I don’t need to know the answer. I need to know who to go to to get the answer. Yeah, that sort of thing. Yeah. So that, again, that comes with experience and learning what people around you can do and what their skills are and things
Engineering is such as collaborative process as well. So the more you… the more time you spend with other people, which is kind of counterintuitive as well with engineers, because most engineers like to work alone, but the more time you spend with other people, the more more you learn, the more they learn. And the more you can develop ideas and create change. It is really good to use that resource. It’s, it seems as though, once you work out that that’s something like that to such a benefit. It’s almost as though you you’ve unlocked the key to learning so much more.
Hmm. Yeah, of course
Do your managers have any role in this?
Yeah, so my direct manager is also a young engineer. He’s not much older than myself. He’s our team leader. And so I feel quite comfortable going to him when I am struggling a little bit with my imposter syndrome. And he is quite good with affirming that – yes, I’m a valuable member of the team. And a good engineer and I, I am getting things done. And so that’s always good to hear it from another person. So that’s Yeah, that’s definitely a big part of helping me out with that.
Are you finding mentors might help? Do you have a mentor?
Yes, I do.
So you, does that help the situation as well?
It does, it helps greatly. I haven’t caught up with my mentor as much as I did when I was a graduate. Actually she’s just moved on. So my mentor was working at ANSTO, I got her as … she was designated my mentor when I was a graduate there. But we’ve kept in contact even when I left and went to Alstom to work for a bit. And yeah, so I don’t catch up with her as much as I did when I was a graduate. But that really did help put into perspective, early career, I guess, and it being okay, that I don’t know everything. Sure.
I think it’s a really good opportunity to then go and sit with your peers, and run through where you’re at in your career and what you’ve done and examples of what you’ve done. So then that way, you can actually have someone else see where you’re at. I think that was something that I found really interesting actually that because it’s almost as though it’s someone standing on the outside looking in on your career, that isn’t involved in your career, who’se not even necessarily involved in your special facet of your career, either. They’re… they’re adjacent to it. So then that way, it gives you the opportunity to take a step back and justify where you’re at. And then once you’ve achieved it, and you it really does show you that you, you you’ve reached a certain goal as far as your career you guys as well.
Yeah, and they have just changed the process, actually, for Chartership is you probably went through the new process Dom
And it’s no longer 16 full essays that you have to write. So it seems far more achievable now as a process to go through, essentially looking at it as a young engineer. But certainly, and it’s something that I’ve been encouraged quite a bit to undertake, through working with Young Engineers Australia Sydney, because of course, Engineers Australia, provide the service of assessing charter ship. Yeah. So there’s a very strong encouragement to do that, from that side. And I think it would be a good objective measure as well
I think it’s one of those things where you put something out into the future. So if it is a chartered, or a certain KPI set by your manager, or a challenge that your mentor gives you… or something along those lines that you need to move towards, and then when you achive that, you put that into your box, and then you go to the next one. I feel like there’s some really good points that we’ve come up here. So what are your thoughts on the future of engineering?
I think the future of engineering is in cross disciplinary teams. And I think the engineers coming through now graduating, the young engineers that I’m working with, are all going to be having knowledge across different disciplines of engineering, in order to be able to work together and to integrate systems and to bring to life the projects that are coming on. Because there is there’s so much more integration of different technologies now. And there’s just going to be more of that into the future. I think i
Yeah and it’s tough, because I can remember, even when I went through, I was learning CAD CAM systems, using programmes that were redundant before I even walked out, before I graduated. And you, it all changes so quickly, that and I agree with you completely, that if… it is something where you can’t just sort of walk out and go on a mechanical engineer, I’m just going to do mechanical engineering, because you know, electrical engineering, you need to know hydraulic services, and you need to know fire services, if you’re in the building industry, it is something where you need to be able to evolve to all of those various facets and how it all comes together. And you don’t need to specialise in them. But just to understand them makes life so much easier when you’re on a massive project.
I’m just gonna tie it back and probably make myself sound 100 years old. But I’m finding those young uns that are coming out of uni now… stop laughing at me Dom… they’re brash. And they’re, you know, I probably was a bit like this myself when I live, but we went through climate struck recently, where they’re teenagers going, they’re going, I’m changing the world, I’m going to change the world. I don’t know, do you think they’re going to suffer as much from imposter syndrome, as you and Dom have talked about that you’ve experienced yourself? Or are they actually going now I’m changing the world and get out of my way, I know what I’m doing that sort of feelings.
If anything, I think the younger generation of engineers are going to experience imposter syndrome even worse than what Dom or I have had to deal with thanks to the internet, we are so connected now. And everyone can compare themselves to the highest of achievers. And I think that makes it really hard, especially if you’re very passionate about creating change, when the systems in the societies that we have are very resistant to change. And you’ve got the high achievers to compare yourself to, I think it’ll be quite difficult for them. In that sense.
I think the other scary thing is sometimes the people that we think are high achievers, aren’t necessarily high achievers, they’re just very good at promoting themselves as well. So which makes it even worse, because it doesn’t necessarily need to be the substance behind some of the things that they say. And they don’t really have time to, to delve into see whether or not there’s any substance behind it. Because there’s so much more information coming in which, which makes it even worse. So yes, it is very, very hard. What would you say to people that are just starting out in engineering?
I would say, it’s okay if you don’t know everything. And just remember that it’s about figuring out how you’re going to take the next step. And as engineers, that’s what we do. We problem solve, we figure it out. And we work in teams. That’s what I would say.
It’s definitely a career of learning
Yeah, That’s right. It’s, it’s a bit of a case of need to learn something new every day,
Even though you come out of uni, you still got so much to go, you’re constantly learning and then having to move forward, yeah, you can never rest on your laurels as an engineer by the sounds of it.
Definitely not. And we’re just going to finish up with what’s the piece of engineering that impresses you?
The piece of engineering that impresses me today. It’s the New Safety Confinement I think, NSA at Chernobyl. So this is an enormous projects that they’ve spent 18 years doing, it’s just insane. It was in testing and commissioning in February, and cost over 2 billion euros to create this thing. It’s a confinement. So it’s a big building that they have had to put over the sarcophagus at reactor four. At Chernobyl, which is the one that blew up. And it is fully climate controlled inside and it is fully fitted out inside with robotics that will deconstruct and decommission the reactor. And it’s going to be it’s going to be there for the next 100 years. So it’s incredible.
We actually saw a documentary on it, it’s amazing, I think was 4 part, we only caught the last one. And just seeing this massive building, moving on rollers, because they had to kind of build it far away because building it on top was not safe. So they had to build it. And then they had to wheel it over the top of the … What did you call it… sarcophagus like? Yes. So the the initial thing that they did to to stop the spread, they wacked up a cement building or something like that. And so they put this thing over the top, and they just had to fit it. And there was an arm that came up and went down was like, yeah, it was crazy to see this massive building. I hadn’t realised that? I don’t think I’d clicked about the robotics on the inside either. So I vaguely remember something about that. But that’s Yeah, that’s, that was amazing. How long did you say it took them?
They started the design in 2004. They started the construction in 2010.
And they just finished the construction, I think at the end of last year at the start of this year.
That is a massive project
A long term project
It’s got some … is it a 100 year life expectancy?
Yeah, yeah. So phenomenal.
Yes, yeah. It’s incredible. And I was particularly impressed with the robotics inside because having worked in a nuclear facility, I’m trying to understand the electronics are particularly susceptible to radiation damage. And so to have built the system as they have, so in order for it to withstand the radiation inside and be able to actually de-construct the reactor inside, it’s it’s quite incredible.
That would have been groundbreaking work to just make those…. the building itself, but to make the robots that go on the inside as well. So yeah, yeah, thank you for…
definitely nothing out of a box for that one. That’s for sure.
Nothing off the shelf.
And just to finish up, do you have an engineer that you admire?
I do… Hedy LeMarr. So she was not formally trained as an engineer or physicist or anything, but she was an actress in the 1940. And also an inventor. Hedy Lamarr heard about the problem with torpedoes, and the radio frequency jamming, that could impact them and stop them from getting to where they needed to go. And so she designed the frequency hopping technology in order make them hardened against these frequency jamming attacks. And that is the technology that’s used in Bluetooth today. So she came up with this idea of, and this technology for frequency hopping that we use today all the time. For Bluetooth.
Mel De Gioia 32:19
That’s amazing. So she’s the mother of Bluetooth.
Mel De Gioia 32:25
Oh, wow. I’m going to be looking her up for sure. That’s a good one. Thank you so much for …
thanks for that
Mel De Gioia 32:32
.. coming on tonight.
Oh, it was great. Thanks for having me.
Mel De Gioia 32:36
It’s been such a blast. So we’ve picked up so many interesting facts today. It’s been fascinating.
Yeah, it’s been great talking to you guys.
Mel De Gioia 32:44
And thank you for tuning in to Episode 11 of Engineering Heroes. If you want to know more about our podcast, your best port of call will always be our website. That’s www.engineeringheroes.com.au take some time to check out what we have going on. We’ve got show notes, we’ve got support pages, we’ve got contact pages, all that good stuff. If you enjoyed today’s show, the best way, the absolute best way to show your support is to go and tell someone … seriously it’s that easy. Just go and tell somebody and let them know about our podcast and who knows they might hook in and listen up as well and learn something new. We look forward to you and your friends joining us next week we will bring you another interview with one of our engineering champions.