Ruby Heard

MIEAust CPEng NER

Electrical Engineer and Director

Alinga Energy Consulting

Ruby Heard is a versatile and ambitious entrepreneur and electrical engineer with global experience and a penchant for sustainability. Ruby worked in building services design for a large firm in Melbourne before relocating to San Francisco to pursue an energy focused role. She spent 6 months of 2018 volunteering in refugee camps in Ethiopia, and returned to Melbourne in December to launch Alinga Energy Consulting and apply her skills to help more vulnerable communities with affordable energy access.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
11 years.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I have always been passionate about problem solving and the environment. I knew becoming an engineer would allow me a shot at solving some of the difficult problems we face in preserving our planet. Engineering gives me purpose and fulfilment; it keeps me challenged and alive.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
I hope that my work in developing communities has made a positive and lasting impact on the people who live there. I helped to bring electricity, knowledge and skills to some of the worlds most vulnerable, disadvantaged people. Now and into the future I am looking for more opportunities to use my skills and experience to improve the livelihoods of people in developing nations and disadvantaged communities.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
In 2016 I worked on a pro bono project to upgrade the office space of a local charity which was without heating or cooling. This building, in the middle of San Francisco, had holes in the building envelope. The tenants would hang heat reflective material over the skylights in summer and run individual space heaters which tripped the circuit breakers in winter.

My colleagues at Arup and I worked extremely hard to come up with viable solutions that would fit within their budget. It was particularly challenging to come up with a design that the utility would agree to and to get it permitted. It was also the first building services project I had attempted in the US so the whole thing was a massive learning curve.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Sustainable engineers… Burn out. Low wages compared to other sectors. Pressure. Difficulty in achieving work-life balance. Unfavourable conditions for women. Unhealthy workplaces. Stress.

I see many people leave the profession and many more stay on with a reduced quality of life and diminishing health. I’d like to see a greater focus on healthy, happy, sustainable engineers to ensure we have a strong, creative workforce into the future and a career that more people want to get into and stay in.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
I’m very excited to see the future collaborations between traditional engineering and software and automation. There are so many opportunities opening up, things we’ve been waiting a long time for, and things we hadn’t even thought of. Desperately waiting for that hover board still…

Who is your engineering hero?
MacGyver.

Image: provided by Ruby Heard