Manager, Intellectual Property and Commercialisation
Carla Cher currently works in the innovation sector at RMIT University as its Intellectual Property and Commercialisation Manager. She is a patent attorney and an electrical and electronic engineer, specialising in microfluidics and nanofabrication. Carla started her career in research and development and moved into engineering consulting and management consulting. Realising she wanted to be involved with emerging technologies, Carla trained in intellectual property and commercialisation. She spent several years helping Australian companies and organisations to innovate, grow and connect with other companies and organisations globally, whilst ensuring Australian technology ‘comes to life’.
Carla’s EA involvement has spanned many years and includes being Chair of the National Young Engineers group, a Member of the EA Board (Council), a member of the Victorian Division Committee as well as numerous other volunteer roles.
Carla is passionate about making a difference through promoting STEAM by developing programs for students to discover engineering, science and technology. She is interested in supporting students to take up careers in these fields and encourages greater diversity within the engineering and innovation professions. Carla has held numerous Board positions, including at Engineers Australia.
How long have you been volunteering with Engineers Australia?
I’ve been volunteering with Engineers Australia since I became a member in my second year at university.
Why did you become a volunteer?
Prior to joining Engineers Australia, I volunteered with several other organisations and groups. As I was studying engineering at university, it was natural that I would volunteer with Engineers Australia in order to find out more about the profession I was entering and expand my network.
What I didn’t expect was the amazing opportunities that would come my way. Now, my volunteering has allowed me to give back to the engineering profession.
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
I enjoy being connected to the organisation and engineering community, but most importantly I enjoy facilitating opportunities for others, giving back to the profession while connecting professionally and becoming friends with other volunteers.
What has been your greatest achievement in your time volunteering with Engineers Australia?
Gosh – I’m not sure I can pick only one! One of my key achievements was being the youngest member elected to the Council of Engineers Australia – now known as the Board – to complete a two-year term. Through that opportunity, I was able to contribute to the governance of the organisation and be mentored by a number of amazing engineers, promoting my learning of several new skills that have been instrumental in progressing my career.
Another key achievement, shortly after joining Engineers Australia, was to reinvigorate the Young Engineers Special Interest Group in Victoria and nationally. Further key achievements include sitting on the Local Organising Committee for several major initiatives, such as the 2010 Leadership Conference and the recent 2019 World Engineers Convention.
How has your career informed your work as a volunteer?
For me, it is not only how my career has informed my volunteering, but also the other way around. Volunteering, and the amazing volunteers that I have met, opened my eyes to what my career in engineering could be and encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and learn new skills. My career has allowed me to give back to the profession, contribute my industry knowledge to various volunteering positions and to identifying which areas I could make the most difference.
How do you balance work and volunteering?
It is a fine balancing act. During the time I’ve been a member of Engineers Australia, my level of volunteering has increased and decreased depending on my career and life stage. There are so many opportunities to volunteer with Engineers Australia; you can commit to being involved in a committee for two years or just working as part of a small working party for a few months.
What would you tell other members who are considering becoming a volunteer?
Volunteering is one of the best things you can do! You get so much more out of Engineers Australia by being a volunteer rather than simply being a member. Personally, I have gotten so much more out of volunteering than I feel I have contributed by way of my volunteer positions. I am therefore very willing to give more back by way of mentoring and other activities.
Image: courtesy of Carla Cher