Claudia Valle

StudIEAust

Student Engineer

RMIT

Claudia Valle is a final year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Business student at RMIT University. During her studies, Claudia has worked as a Building & Construction Cadet at Multiplex; an Engineering Lead in the Office of Project Victoria, Department of Treasury & Finance; and as an Undergraduate Civil Engineer, in geotechnical & tunnelling engineering, at Aurecon. Claudia is currently focused on humanitarian engineering research in her final year of study.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
Approximately 3 years, since May 2016.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I grew up in rural Central Queensland and a school outreach program is what first made me consider engineering. A career in engineering appealed to me because I loved science and problem solving. Even from a young age, I knew I wanted a career where I could be a lifelong learner and constantly challenged, as well as contribute to society.

After graduating high school, I started studies in Medicine/Surgery to become a doctor. After two years of undergraduate medical studies, I realised my childhood love for science and problem solving was more suited to engineering. Dropping out of medical school to pursue engineering was an immensely hard decision but I’m overjoyed that I’ve finally found my passion. I’m glad to say that, through a career in engineering, I will be able to achieve my childhood goals of being a life-long learner, whilst being constantly challenged and contributing to society.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Working in the Office of Projects Victoria, I assisted the Victorian Chief Engineer with the development of the Victorian Digital Asset Strategy (VDAS). The VDAS aims to implement Digital Engineering into major Victorian infrastructure projects, prioritising the needs of future and current Victorians.

Digital Engineering is an innovation that will benefit the Victorian community through enhanced delivery and better value for money of Victorian public assets. Projects can achieve enhanced sustainability due to a reduction in CO2 emissions, energy use and construction waste, attained through increased efficiency of planning, delivery, operation and maintenance of physical assets. I’m proud to have worked on this strategy, and that my work will benefit generations now and to come.

Additionally, I’ve always believed in being an active member in my community. We often underestimate how much of a positive impact volunteering can have on the lives of others. Given that a school outreach program first made me consider engineering, I want to help promote engineering to young people from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m an active Engineers Without Borders volunteer, contributing to their school outreach programs. I also volunteer through the RMIT School of Engineering and RMIT Women in Engineering and have been a speaker at an international STEM conference.

I founded the RMIT Civil Engineering Student Association (CESA) after recognising a lack of opportunities for civil engineering students to connect with industry to secure work experience. Through CESA, I’ve hosted multiple industry events that has resulted in the employment of many engineering undergraduates at RMIT. Additionally, the learning opportunities students have gained means they have a better understanding of the industry when they graduate. Founding CESA has been one of my proudest achievements, as I’ve been able to have a positive impact on the lives of so many of my peers.

I currently volunteer in the Engineers Australia Women in Engineering Victoria (WiEV) Committee, which has been an immensely rewarding experience. Our efforts benefit the engineering industry through creating a platform to attract, support, celebrate and retain women in the engineering profession.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
Working on the VDAS was both the most challenging and interesting project I’ve ever worked on. My role involved coordinating digital engineering experts, major stakeholders and evaluating DE strategies of governments all over the world. Coordinating a vast amount of technical information within this role was complex and challenging, however collaborating and constantly learning about what could be achieved through DE innovations was incredibly exciting and rewarding.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
I believe the biggest issue facing the engineering profession in Australia is the lack of understanding around what engineering is. Whilst many people can confidently describe what a doctor, lawyer, teacher and police officer each do, few people understand what an engineer really does.

Unfortunately, the lack of understanding, and strong perception that engineering is a technical-heavy, isolated and sedentary profession, has led to a lack of interest from young people, especially females. As the demand for engineers in Australia continues to far exceed the supply, this is a serious issue that we need to address.

As a profession founded on problem solving, attracting more people and improving diversity will only strengthen the capacity of the engineering sector. Through greater diversity, we can achieve better engineering outcomes through sourcing a wider range of experiences, approaches, strategies and skills. To attract more young people, especially females, we need to highlight and celebrate the creative, collaborative and people-focused nature of the engineering profession. Engineers contribute positively to society and our work has a real impact on the lives of people in our communities.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
The role that technology will play in future is what excites me most about the future of engineering. Technological innovations – automation, artificial intelligence, computational design, 3D printing, laser scanning and digital models – have already come so far but they will play an even greater role in the engineering profession in future. These technological innovations will radically change the way we work – making our lives easier or enabling us to accomplish feats we never thought possible before.

Who is your engineering hero?
My engineering hero is Dr. Kourosh Kayvani, Managing Director (Design, Innovation & Eminence) at Aurecon and Fellow of Engineers Australia.

I have a huge amount of respect for Kourosh, who has acted as an informal mentor to me for the last year. I admire him for recognising that we need more fearless and human-centred engineers to tackle humanity’s “wicked problems”. As a leader of the business, he initiated the Aurecon Design Academy as development opportunity for design practitioners to master their craft. He has also fostered a sense of care within his employees and encourages them to actively take on mentoring roles. His caring nature and passion for the engineering profession are what make him my engineering hero.

Image source: courtesy of Claudia Valle.