Karen Riddette

FIEAust

Principal – Asset Risk

Water Corporation

Karen holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons 1) in Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as an MBA. She currently works as a technical specialist in risk engineering and asset management at the Water Corporation of Western Australia. In her spare time, Karen volunteers with Engineering Heritage WA, a special interest group of Engineers Australia.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
Ever since I first joined as a student member in the late 90s (apart from a couple of short breaks when I was broke).

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
While I was in high school in Sydney, the Anzac Bridge was being constructed. It was a beautiful new type of cable stayed bridge that captured my imagination. I wanted to build one of those!

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Water is essential for life, industry and prosperity. My goal is to help our water services be more reliable, more resilient and more efficient, benefiting our communities for the long term.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
Before joining the Water Corporation, I was a consultant working with advanced computer modelling to understand the impacts of extreme events like wind, flood and explosion on complex structures. After 9-11, there was a lot of concern about the potential for terrorist attacks on our public buildings – we did some interesting projects during that time.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Engineers have historically been at the forefront of technological innovation, but there is a growing risk that our changing climate will start to move more quickly than we can keep up. I worry there won’t be enough engineers, or funds, to deliver the adaptations that will be required across the globe to ensure communities remain safe and prosperous.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
There is always a new challenge looking for a solution. I truly believe that being an engineer gives you a chance to change the world.

Who is your engineering hero?
In the absence of any female engineers on whom to model my career, as a young graduate I turned to fictional ones. B’Elanna Torres, the half-Klingon chief engineer of the Starship Voyager was an early hero of mine, always finding a brilliant solution to resolve whatever crazy new situation the crew uncovered each episode. Thankfully, these days there are many more real-life female engineers doing brilliant work to inspire our young graduates.

Image courtesy: Karen Riddette.