High achiever who won out over prejudices
WHEN Laura Kendall was considering a career, she wanted to make a positive contribution to society.
Now, as the Engineering Services Coordinator for the Surf Coast Shire in Victoria, Ms Kendall is working on projects that affect the well- being of residents living in the state’s fastest growing region.
In my teens and at school, I enjoyed maths and science more than English or languages and was interested in how I could best apply my talents to make a contribution to society,’’ she says.
I wanted to make a contribution I could see feel and touch.’’
Ms Kendall studied a double degree comprising a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering and Batchelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. There’s less of a focus on structure and materials and more of a focus on hydraulics and hydrology,’’ she explains.
On graduation, Ms Kendall undertook some private sector work but decided it was not an area that held a great attraction.
I did one summer of work experience at a consulting firm but I wanted to make the switch to the pubic sector because focusing on working for the good of community fits better with my value system than simply working for profit,’’ she says.
Ms Kendall says that she found the private sector more traditional in their approach to women engineers than those working in the public: When I worked in the private sector where there was more supervision of blue collar contractors directly on site, there was the attitude that, because you are women, you don’t know what you are talking about,’’ she says.
However, her confidence in her abilities and her determination for her team to achieve good results saw her though the projects.
‘‘ You roll with the punches and deal with it,’’ she says. ‘‘ Now we are at the point where you are not held back by those old- fashioned prejudices.’’
‘‘ When I started out in the private sector, I did a lot of field work tramping around sites in my hard hat and boots, but it’s dropped back a bit and now I’m in the office more.’’
However, she adds that working in local government is much more interesting that in the private sector.
‘‘ Another benefit is that it’s not quite as corporate here and the environment is much more personable,’’ says Ms Kendall.
Not content to rest on laurels with her double degree, Ms Kendall is currently studying a masters in public policy and management through Deakin University.
For Madeleine McManus, Vice Chairman of Engineers Australia, Victoria, engineering allows her to quench her passion for challenges, solving problems, helping people and making a difference. You can use your smarts and your ingenuity to address problems,’’ she says.
Ms McManus graduated with a double degree in mechanical engineering and economics in 1992 at Monash University and agrees that an engineering degree is a good jumping off point.
It gave me a wide variety of career options, from working with teams on large projects, to working with societies to improve their standard of living,’’ she says.
‘‘ I have worked on projects in Australia, Italy and France, focusing on water treatment, carbon trading ( about 15 years ago, when it was topical in Europe), plant pipe design, project management of plants in Australia and overseas, wine blanketing and cryogenic freezing.
Ms McManus says that engineers make it possible for you to turn on a light switch, get to work, drink our water, feed the family and improve the standard of living.
‘‘ The profession has a great diversity of achievers and achievements, and I love being part of that story,’’ she says.
‘‘ The engineering profession has really changed, especially in the last five years, to actively work to retain the expertise of engineering women and men who also have family responsibilities.’’