Kate McIntosh

FIEAust CPEng NER

Technical Director – Pavement Engineering

GHD

Kate McIntosh has over 19 years’ experience working in consulting in the fields of civil geotechnical and pavement engineering, with project experience spanning Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Philippines. Through working on a wide variety of design projects Kate has gained extensive experience in pavement engineering and rehabilitation for roads, airports and industrial pavements.

Kate’s qualifications include a Master’s degree in Geotechnical Engineering (University of New South Wales), an Honours degree in geophysics (University of Tasmania) and a Bachelor of Earth Sciences (La Trobe University, Melbourne).

Kate is a Chartered Fellow of Engineers Australia and is both an Engineers Australia Tasmania Committee member and a member of Tasmania’s Diversity and Inclusion group.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I have been a member of Engineers Australia since January 2011.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I have always loved the outdoors and I have always been interested in how things work, so I wanted to pursue a career that combined the two. Initially this lead me to studying a Bachelor of Earth Sciences (Geology) as I loved the field trips and learning about rocks and landforms, and this lead me to undertake an honour project in mapping landslides around Hobart. After graduating with honours I was fortunate to be employed in a role as a graduate engineering geologist, and through this position I became more involved in engineering projects. It was then that I realised that I wanted to change my career direction slightly, and so I embarked on further study to become an engineer.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
I would like to think that I am playing a part in helping people stay connected with their friends and families through my work on designing roads, runways and rail infrastructure. The world has become a much smaller place due to engineering advances in the transport sector, which have enabled more efficient and safer travel, and this allows us to be a more connected society.

I am also passionate about helping to promote more women in engineering and I feel I have a responsibility to be a role model for younger female engineers and school aged girls who might be thinking about embarking on a career in engineering. I believe that you can’t be what you can’t see so I hope I can make a difference in this way.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
Working as an engineer has enabled me to travel around Australia, and I have visited some remote and beautiful places that I may not have had the opportunity to visit if it were not for the opportunities provided through my work.

One project that comes to mind as being particularly interesting and memorable was an aircraft runway project in a remote part of WA. Through the project I learned about different types of aircraft and their impacts on the pavement structure, and I also saw a part of the remote Australian landscape that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to visit.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
The shortage of home-grown engineers, and particularly female engineers. I think there is a real need to do more to promote home grown STEM. We need a concerted effort to promote engineering careers in schools, particular to female students. This needs to be introduced early in primary school aged children rather than leaving it to when students are in secondary school when they may have already chosen their subjects and it may be too late to develop an interest in STEM subjects. We need to foster a love of learning and promote enquiring minds from an early age, as this pursuit of learning and questioning the world around us will benefit us all as a community. I believe that the more diverse our engineering community is, the better it represents us as a society.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
I am really excited about where engineering is heading with regards to the pursuit of a much more diverse engineering community.

Throughout my career I have become accustomed to being a minority in terms of my gender and I have frequently turned up to meetings or site visits being the only female. However, I feel that there is a strong move developing in the profession to better promote careers in engineering and to help introduce this rewarding career to a wider representation of our communities.

Who is your engineering hero?
Edith Clark (1883-1959) – an orphan from a small town in Maryland U.S. After very humble beginnings, Edith Clark overcame adversity after enrolling to study civil engineering. She then gained further qualifications in electrical engineering, and she was the first female to be elected Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. She was also ahead of her time by being an amazing advocate by promoting women in science and engineering, and I am grateful for people like Edith who have helped pave the way for our present day female engineering community.

Image: courtesy of Kate McIntosh