Senior Project Manager
Gardiner & Theobal LLP
Nicola Telcik is a Chartered Professional Engineer with over twenty years’ experience, primarily in the successful end-to-end delivery of multi-disciplinary infrastructure projects. Nicola graduated as an environmental engineer from the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia, and gained her Masters in Engineer Science based on research into atmospheric-oceanic influences on southwest Australian rainfall.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I joined as a graduate engineer in 1998, and rejoined in 2006 ahead of applying to become chartered.
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I enjoyed science and maths in high school. I’ve always loved problem solving and understanding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind things. Additionally, my step-father, Peter Engler, was a great role model growing up. He enjoyed his career working as a Civil Engineer for the Water Corporation, and I too wanted to have a rewarding career, to feel like I was making a difference.
How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
I have been based in the UK now for 13 years and I have been an active member with the UK Chapter for Engineers Australia for the past three and a half years, most recently as the UK Chapter President. My role in this volunteer post is to continue providing a service for our members in the UK and Europe.
We try to provide a technical talk every month for our members, and a social / networking event every couple of months. I also support members on the road to chartership and fellowship. I organise and host ‘Getting Chartered’ talks and provide an annual ‘Fellows Breakfast’.
In 2020, I am arranging the annual regional tour for the UK Chapter, which will see us take 20 of our members across to Western Front to follow in the footsteps of ANZAC tunnelling companies and engineers corps. I have arranged a military historian to accompany our group, we will lay wreaths for the fallen ANZACs at the Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ypres, and we will enter tunnels at Loos and Arras where the ANZAC tunnellers toiled.
What is the key learning you’ve made during your time as the Engineers Australia UK President?
Although highly rewarding, being a volunteer office bearer takes time and commitment. Our UK Chapter are known for providing a varied and comprehensive calendar of events. To maintain this, with the least amount of effort, our outgoing Chapter President, Ben Ting, established a really good reporting dashboard and set our Chapter up on Slack. Slack allows the committee to keep multiple conversations moving amongst ourselves and with head office. I would struggle to do this role without it.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
The most rewarding project I have worked on was a 20 month site-based project on Guernsey (Channel Islands), as an NEC project manager. I oversaw the construction of a preliminary sewage treatment plant and storm tank, and was based on site from the enabling works through to the cutting of the ribbon. Being based on site meant that every day I got to see a lot of different construction techniques from continuous flight auger, ground anchoring, a lot of rebar fixing and insitu concrete pouring to steel superstructure installation. I learned a lot, especially when we needed quick answers to problems encountered on site. And being based full-time on an island only 5km x 8 km, I enjoyed the best work-life balance, getting to cycle to and from work every day and picking up my hedge-veg on the way home!
But I also thoroughly enjoyed my climate risk research! I used to jump out of bed to do that work. I had to add scientific rigour to a long-lead seasonal forecasting system for the Department of Agriculture. The work involved complex computer modelling to show statistical relationships and I was fortunate to work with the leading Australian climate scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s atmospheric and oceanic research. I was extremely proud to see fruits of my labour published in the Journal of Climate.
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
I think with climate conditions becoming more extreme, and increasing population pressures, that the world’s resources are becoming more and more constrained. This is impacting on energy supplies, food production, housing, transport and access to potable water and sanitation. This in turn is affecting deteriorating ecosystems. Engineers will be needed to help solve these resource limitations and assist the world to de-carbonise and close the loop between waste and resource. For every problem out there, there is an engineering solution to it.
What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
I think engineers, as problem solvers, have the ability to enable a lot of the emerging solutions required for the world’s resource problems. Engineers are great at bringing ideas to life, to scaling up prototypes, rigorously test solutions before rolling them out. We just need more engineers in global decision-making roles. Like Marlene Kanga, the President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), committed to advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals through engineering. And I love reading stories in our EA Create Magazine and seeing new technologies on the CSIRO and World Economic Forum blogs.
I am also keen to see more uptake of knowledge from Indigenous populations for future engineering solutions, like the reintroducing of Australian Aboriginal agriculture. I am really looking forward to the three part series of Dark Emu on the ABC in 2020.
Who is your engineering hero?
Linda Miller, who is an amazing civil engineer I was fortunate to meet when she was a Project Manager at London’s new Crossrail station at Farringdon. She is currently director of the excavation works for the Sydney Metro project. Linda is a great role model for female engineers, and STEM ambassador for school-aged girls. Linda has had an amazing career, working on a lot of high profile projects, but she always makes the time to give back. She will tell you that you can be anything if you give it a go. It was that positive attitude that made her defiant as one of the first females to study at the illustrious West Point Academy. In 2017, Linda was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for “services to engineering and to promoting gender equality”.
Image: provided by Nicola Telcik