Jill Boag has all the essential credentials of a professional engineer behind her more than 20 years’ experience: a Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering, a Masters in Project Management and membership of Engineers Australia for 20 years. Jill is also in the closing stages of her MBA in finance.
Jill has worked on many large-scale infrastructure projects spanning countries and industries, beginning with several projects in the United Kingdom and moving to Australia to include Melbourne Water Capital Delivery, South Road Superway, the Network Integration and Ancillary Works (NIAW), the Barwon Water Alliance, and most recently Melbourne Metro Early Works.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I have been a member of Engineers Australia for approximately 20 years – firstly as an undergraduate member while I finished my studies and then as a full member after I graduated.
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
It all happened somewhat by chance. I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to study, but a friend of the family had decided to study electrical engineering, so I tagged along and went to the university’s open days. I found those information sessions so interesting that I was hooked straight away, and engineering has been my passion ever since.
How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Because I work in infrastructure, everything I do as an engineer benefits people in some way or another, either as individuals or in communities. But having worked in a Tier One Construction company for the last ten years, I have seen first-hand the far-reaching social benefits of major infrastructure; how it can make people’s lives more liveable, bringing them real long-term benefits without distinction of class or privilege. In fact, given the scope of some of the infrastructure, many of our projects bring about changes that are city-shaping; such as water and road infrastructure, or most recently Melbourne Metro, which will have a positive impact on the lives of so many people in Melbourne for generations to come.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
This is always a tough question to answer, because every single project I have worked on has been interesting, all with their own unique engineering challenges and their differing stakeholder perspectives.
But one project that is really special to me was a very small project I managed in Scotland on behalf of Vodafone. The MET Police, who protect the Queen, needed us to rock-anchor a mobile phone tower on land adjacent to the Queen’s Balmoral estate. We used a ‘marooka’, which is a rather large tracked motorbike with a crane mounted on it. I’ve never had to do that again, so it is itself ‘anchored’ in my memory as something quite special.
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Actually, I believe the biggest issue facing us as engineers is technical excellence. While technology has made things a lot easier, the foundation of all engineering still lies in the technical knowledge and expertise of individuals who make engineering decisions. It has been like that for thousands of years and we can’t shirk from our responsibility to be on top of the technical knowledge in our own fields.
What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
One of the things I love about this career is that all the time I’m being involved in building something different – all very different projects yet all in the same career. Never a dull moment! The future has a lot of exciting possibilities – how will quantum computing and nanotechnology, for example, affect what we as engineers can achieve in the world? But closer to my heart is the future of women in our industry; over the last two decades our rise has been almost spectacular, and it looks more and more promising each year. To be both a witness to this change, and a participant in it myself, really fills me with great optimism and a certain gratitude for being in the industry at this time of social change.
Who is your engineering hero?
Tough question for me, but I do love the story of Sir John Holland; how he started his engineering firm in a farm shed and grew a company that, with its sister companies, would create many iconic structures across Australia and around Melbourne. That really speaks to the farm girl I am at heart.
Image: courtesy of Jill Boag