Karen Brakell


Principal Water Resources Engineer

WSP Australia Pty Limited

Karen is a wife, a mother, and an engineer. She has been a practicing engineer for almost 20 years, and she specialises in flood modelling and floodplain management. Karen developed her skills in writing technical reports and public consultation from her work in flood modelling.

Karen was based in Sydney for 12 years, and in 2012 she moved with her family to the Central West of NSW to find a better lifestyle. She was fortunate enough to take her job with her, working remotely four days a week. Technology allows her to continue to lead projects, be involved in client meetings, and mentor colleagues – all important aspects as she continues to develop her career.

How long have you been volunteering with Engineers Australia?
When I lived in Sydney I was a volunteer with the Sydney Water Panel from 2001 through to 2010. In 2017, I started making an effort to connect with engineers in the Central West of NSW through EA Sydney Division. I am continuing to network and increase visibility of EA in the Central West.

Why did you become a volunteer?
Initially, I wanted to be more involved in the water industry when I lived in Sydney. Now from the Central West, I am using the opportunity to meet other engineers in the region and create professional development opportunities that ensure the regions are as capable as the metro areas.

What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
I enjoy listening and talking to people from all backgrounds so that I can gain more understanding of what society needs to thrive, what we need to grow, and what we need to excel at in the future. I enjoy being able to communicate how engineering fits into society.

What has been your greatest achievement in your time volunteering with Engineers Australia?
My greatest achievement was the idea of the Regional Growth Forum which was held during CSU EngFest in 2018. In regional NSW, there are approximately 2,000 engineers less than 35 years old. A key topic at the forum was discussing the strategies and growth areas that the government is proposing to ensure these young engineers stay in the region.

How has your career informed your work as a volunteer?
I am a specialist with a focus on flooding modelling and floodplain management but I enjoy helping people and want to make sure I make the best decisions with respect to my speciality.

By volunteering I get to meet other engineers and professionals that I can learn from and listen to and ensure I make informed decisions in my technical work.

Image of Karen Brakell

How do you balance work and volunteering?
It can be a struggle to balance both. My employer supports my involvement as they can see that it benefits my development as a professional and promotes the company. I ask for help when I am too busy to get it all done and try to manage events around busy work and family schedules.

What would you tell other members who are considering becoming a volunteer?
It can be a rewarding experience and can help you grow as a person. I consider myself a shy person but volunteering and getting out of my comfort zone have helped me meet many engineers in the region. It’s also helped me learn more about the Central West, which I now call home.

Image: courtesy of Karen Brakell