Director Strategy, Clients & Markets
Norman Disney & Young
Benita Husband, FIEAUST, NPER, CPEng, Deputy President Engineers Australia Victoria, and Victoria representative for National Congress. Registered Building Practitioner (Electrical) Victoria, MBA, GAICD.
Benita is Director Strategy, Clients & Markets for Norman Disney & Young, a Tetra Tech Company (NDY). NDY provides Building Services engineering professional consulting services globally with approximately 650 people in 12 offices across five countries, serving nine Markets
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I became a student member of Engineers Australia in 1999 and have been a member since (20 years).
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
As a child I was very curious and loved science and doing experiments. I had a natural leaning towards maths and science subjects in high school, but I wanted to be part of a ‘profession’ rather than studying science at University. I had an uncle who was an engineer, and hearing about the way that the profession generally supported graduates through a structured program of becoming a chartered engineer really appealed to me.
I studied engineering at the University of Tasmania, and they have a great course that allows you to study all disciplines of engineering in your first year before specialising. The university also has great connections with industry, so we were exposed to different career options. While I was studying electrical engineering I did an internship in Building Services, and I really enjoyed the tangible outcomes of the work we did. During the internship I worked on a stadium in Melbourne. I remember being on a tram and hearing people comment on the construction works, and feeling so proud of being involved in a project that directly impacts the community.
How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
In addition to large iconic buildings I’ve worked on smaller, but still impactful projects like designing remote power supplies to light stations for Parks Victoria. With any buildings projects I’ve been involved in the engineering teams are always looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment (through both passive sustainable design and incorporating efficient systems), and I love collaborating with architects to achieve designs that impact on the community through the visual built form.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on to date?
All of the projects I’ve worked on have been interesting, as I learn about what the client does in order to design a building that meets their needs. One of my earliest projects involved designing a laboratory that dealt with artefacts that had been recovered from the ocean. Other projects have been hospitals, schools, offices and transport facilities.
One of the most interesting projects was the New Northern Stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). It was interesting because the building is so iconic, and because it was one of my first projects and I was based on site with the architects and builders during construction. I got to climb the light towers, and had to go on the pitch to test lighting levels – which are experiences I will never forget.
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
I think the biggest issues also pose the biggest opportunities. Digital disruption, for example, is considered a threat by some and an opportunity for others. I think that digital disruption will be great for Australia’s engineering profession because it enables us to take on larger scale design challenges and collaborate in new ways. It is also an exciting way to engage the next generation of engineers.
What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
Historically there has been a lack of diversity in the engineering profession, and I see inclusion and increased diversity in the engineering profession as a huge opportunity. I’m excited about the design outcomes that we will achieve with more diverse teams.
Who is your engineering hero?
It’s hard to pick one hero. I am extremely grateful to the engineers who have mentored and sponsored me throughout my career. In terms of a historical engineering figure, I think that Edith Clarke is a fantastic role model. She was the first female electrical engineer and the first female professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas. I have an affinity to her as an electrical engineer, and I’m impressed with not only her academic achievements, but her achievements as an inventor which is what engineering is all about – practical solutions that come from technical excellence.
Image courtesy of Benita Husband.