Zoe Eather is a civil and environmental engineer who graduated from Queensland University of Technology in 2011. Zoe has worked for The Department of Transport and Main Roads. She now has her own consultancy called My Smart Community where she offers Smart Community advisory services.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I became a student member of Engineers Australia when I started university in 2007. Additionally, I was previously on the Toowoomba Regional Committee as a Co-Chair in 2017.
What inspired you to join EA in the first place?
I had a scholarship through the Department of Transport and Main Roads, so I was always encouraged to join Engineers Australia and continue the membership to obtain RPEQ and other similar accreditation. I thought it was good thing to be involved in at that time, particularly with the events held by EA.
Would you recommend to others to become a volunteer – what do you gain from being a volunteer of Engineers Australia?
Absolutely. I think there’s a great network there and it’s important that we bring those exciting events, conferences and forums to our regional areas.
We do some amazing work, but we don’t necessarily have as many of the events to go to in regards to networking, like say for example, in Brisbane. So, if we can volunteer a bit of our time then we can create that for ourselves.
Any advice for upcoming engineers?
No one’s going to hand anything out to you on a plate. Even if they do, it’s still up to you and you need to drive where you want to go, there are so many opportunities right now.
How can society benefit from your line of work now and in the future?
My passion is for smart communities, because we need to include all people in our conversations – not just a part of the big cities, but the little ones too. A smart community incorporates smart cities, smart towns and smart regions, which then incorporates smart people and having a smart life.
What this means is you can utilise the best ways of thinking and more innovative ways of thinking, as well as technology, as an enabler to make the places we live more accessible, liveable and sustainable.
Currently, I run my own consultancy called My Smart Community and host The Smart Community Podcast. We are working on a smart community and smart mobility concept. My background in transport has inspired my interest in this smart community and smart mobility topic. Smart mobility really shapes communities. We all need to get around, run errands, pick kids up from school etcetera… and how we do all of that impacts what our communities look like, sound like and how people live in them. It’s a key part of our smart communities.
What would be your advice to a graduate engineer?
My advice to graduate engineers, or people wanting to study engineering, is that there are so many opportunities engineering can bring. It’s really good to have direction, vision, purpose and passion, and realise what you want to do.
You’re going to have to move in different ways to get to that vision and it won’t look exactly how you planned it out. In my career, I started out in government in the Department of Transport and Main Roads where I worked for ten years from a student level up to a qualified engineer. But what I really wanted to do was work overseas to make an impact on society using my engineering background as well as utilise new technology to improve modern systems and processes. Work out what makes you wake up every morning and lights you up. Look at your skill set, know what you’re good at and then build on your career from there.
Who is your engineering hero?
A lady by the name of Julie Hammer. She spoke at an Engineers Australia event and at other regional forums on the Sunshine Coast. Initially working in the Australian Air Force, she told her story about overcoming challenges as a woman pursing a career in engineering. Julie didn’t take no for an answer, but she did this with such grace and put in the hard work to achieve her career ambitions. I think it’s a key lesson – not just engineering but in life in general – if there’s something you really want to do you must put in the work to get it, but don’t take no for an answer.
What’s an iconic piece of engineering for you?
For me, engineering is so many different things and every day we come across different feats of engineering. I travel around the world and these achievements of engineering are things that we’re all naturally drawn to. This is the case for me particularly in the transport space. It is such an interesting profession and this is what really inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing.
When I think of iconic engineering, I think about past engineers and how their forward thinking of smaller concepts helped advance society. For instance, the famous female engineer who invented the wiper blade. It’s not something we think about too often but how stuffed would we be in the rain if that one woman didn’t have the foresight and vision to go and change the situation. That’s what engineers are quite good at and I think particularly the millennial engineers now – I am eager to see what technology we can put into established concepts to make them more efficient, and that’s the future.