Dr Steven Goh graduated from University of Queensland with a manufacturing and materials major, in his Bachelor of Engineering. He then went on to complete his MBA, Master of professional accounting and a Doctorate in Engineering. Steven currently works in academia, teaching engineering at university. Prior to this, he spent ten years working in industry and running his own business.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I’ve been a member since I was a student, over 20 years ago.
Why did you become a member of Engineers Australia?
I think that the lecturers were emphatic that we should be part of the profession and we should join the profession right from year one. Our Dean of Engineering at the time came into the theatre to introduce himself to all the engineering students and said, ‘you know you’ve got to be part of the profession’ and I guess one of the first steps to being part of the profession is joining as a member. So, I think you should take as a given that you should be a member. Period. It’s a non-negotiable.
How has your work contributed to the community?
I’m really proud when I think of it, of some of my mechanical design, particularly around the truck and trailers components. At one stage, probably, every Kenworth’s truck or Macks truck and maybe some of the Volvo trucks had my design in terms of the wheel hubs, the brake drums, and the disperator on there. I take pride in the fact that I always think of public safety first. At the time I didn’t really realise this though. Doctors have this ethos of ‘protecting the public and do not harm’. At that time, I didn’t think that was such a big deal, but I really want to focus on this fact. Even though I always think that there’s contrasting pressures such as cost and trying to stretch to the limit of your engineering, these trucks and big vehicles can do a gigantic amount of damage. There are mums and dads and other drivers out there so if these trucks don’t stop, then geez bad things can happen.
Everything I did at the time, as a mechanical engineer, was around public safety and making sure that these trucks can and do stop (when braking). Every now and then I drive through traffic and see all the different structures, and in the back of mind I see all the designs and the people behind it. My kids, they are more interested in their iPhone, or whatever they are dealing with at the time, and don’t really appreciate it right now. I think that a lot of the public also don’t realise there is a lot of engineering that’s been done by good people out there who are trying to look after them. People who are trying to ensure that they get from A to B on the road safely, and home every single day. I’m very proud to be part of that.
What would you say is one of the most challenging or interesting project that you have worked on?
I think that nothing is impossible, I always have to believe that nothing is impossible. It can be challenging but with persistence you will get a desired solution that can be appreciated by the general public or your employers. So, to answer something challenging, I would say a component of that was dealing with people when I was starting my own business. I had to work with various types of people, not just engineers.
With everything I did in my career so far, I tackled every challenge with a belief that I can do it with hard work, persistence and just thinking, ‘Steve you can do it, you can solve this problem’.
But one thing I find most challenging is working with people, it’s something they never teach you in engineering school or even during your MBA program. To be able to start a business and a management service, you need to be able to deal with people. Obviously in engineering you are dealing with the technical side, however managing people is one of the most challenging aspects of being an engineer.
What excites you about the future of the profession?
What excites me about the future of the profession is the enormity of the challenges that we’ve yet to face. I mean, in one way it is sad, but in another way it’s exciting to see the opportunities for men and women out there to make a significant difference and contribution to society.
When the world is in such a flux, as it is at the moment, and things are changing so rapidly, don’t see it as a time when you think, ‘I just wish I could get a job, get home and be satisfied with doing my engineering work and getting good pay’. View it as an opportunity. There are some really big challenges like climate change, sustainability, growing population and a gap in infrastructure spending – the list goes on and on! There are other professions which are in the right places to help solve these issues, however I think engineers are in the perfect place to be able to make a significant contribution in solving some of the 21st century problems.
There are opportunities to help solve global hunger, just by saying, ‘why not?’ Let’s do that, lets fix it. We can do this when thinking about some of the poverty around the world or even just in Australia. There are so many basic needs of people that need to be attended to. Things like basic sanitation, access to clean water and cheap reliable energy. These are things we take for granted, and unfortunately in Australia there are still many parts of the country where there’s no access to clean water and there are people in poverty and hunger with no access to electricity. So, I hope that we can finally do something about it and I think engineers are perfectly placed to do that.