Trang Pham is a Civil Engineer at Aurecon within the Built Environment Unit, with previous experience in the IT and Infrastructure sectors. She is currently the Chair of Women in Engineering – Queensland and Immediate Past Chair for Young Engineers Australia – Queensland. Trang also volunteers as a CSIRO STEM Professional in School partner. Graduating from the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2014 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) and Bachelor of Business Management (Marketing). Trang is currently involved with UQ’s Young Alumni Advisory Board and UQ’s Women in Engineering Alumni Ambassador Council.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I’ve been a member of Engineers Australia since the beginning of my student days at the University of Queensland. When I graduated, I didn’t end up in the engineering world but kept my Engineers Australia membership current as I wanted to keep in touch with industry and somehow knew that all of my roads would lead back to Engineering.
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
Even though most of my senior school subjects were in the STEM field, engineering wasn’t on my radar until I saw a documentary about the extension of a subway line in America. I honestly don’t remember the details of the documentary but what stuck with me was how engineering could change the lives of a community – opening possibilities just by moving people from point A to point B!
Having pursued a dual degree in engineering and marketing, I was able to develop my skills in defining the needs of the people and to look for technical solutions. According to Wikipedia, marketing is defined as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” How is that different to engineering?
How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Engineering is at every touchpoint of our lives and so when we practise engineering excellence that has humanity at its heart, we’re creating a positive legacy that will make a difference in the lives of current and future generations.
By exploring how different groups of people move and use spaces to define the needs and interests of the people using it, we are changing the environment so that different groups of people can co-exist. It’s about opening up the space so individuals in the community can feel valued and purposeful with a sense of belonging.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
As a whole, each project I’ve been a part of has been challenging and interesting – a cliché answer I know! When you put human behaviour and experience at the forefront of your design process, it can be difficult to bring ideas to life. Humans are complex which is perfect for engineers who are wired to solve complex problems – pushing the boundaries of our technical capability and design expertise. So, when I start each project, I know that I have the potential to make a positive difference for people and communities, which is empowers me to do better each time.
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Engineering has a significant diversity problem and needs to become a more inclusive profession. The engineering profession needs to apply intersectionality and inclusivity to all discussions surrounding diversity. Diversity involves a range of social factors beyond gender, including race, sexuality, age, class, religion, ability, and many more categories and combinations.
I want to see more engineers loudly advocate on behalf of someone who otherwise would not have an equal voice – to use their platform to keep other people accountable for their exclusive actions and to publicly recognise the positive contributions that diverse people from our community bring.
What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
Historically, we have had to navigate through a world that has been generally designed by men. When there is a dominant group, design is inherently targeted at that particular group. There has always been a bias in how spaces move, feel, and look. With the journey of diversity and inclusion moving forward, I believe that the future of the profession will literally be reshaping the communities and spaces around us.
Who is your engineering hero?
Leonardo di Vinci embodies a lot of the aptitudes that I think are important to engineers – the arts and the sciences are not mutually exclusive. He was an open minded, inquisitive, boundless, practical dreamer that was driven to learn and had a restless mind. Not only did he paint the Mona Lisa, but he also designed flying machines. As a profession, we need to be more confident in combining our artistic creativity and engineering intellect to shape the future into a better place.
Image Source: Courtesy of Trang Pham