Sophie Dawson

Your journey from Year 12 to where you are now:

I knew I was interested in physics and mathematics but I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do post Year 12. I had the opportunity to experience the National Youth Science Forum which involved lab visits and workshops, and the Next Step Program in Adelaide and developed a better understanding of the variety of work that engineers perform. This established that an engineering degree would provide access to many different career opportunities. From the many fields of engineering, design and technology I was interested in, I chose to study aerospace.

During my studies at the University of Adelaide I found the work hard and questioned whether I still wanted to be an engineer, particularly in the aerospace industry. I would then try and imagine doing something else but couldn’t see myself anywhere else. The passion, intelligence and hard work of the people around me was, and still is, inspiring. With a team of fellow students I undertook an Honours project examining ways of reducing the induced drag of aircraft wings. This led me to the realization that I would really like to be involved in improving the sustainability and accessibility of aviation/air travel.

During my time at university I was also involved in organising the Australian Youth Aerospace Association AeroFutures conference. This was another great opportunity to find out about the careers available in the aerospace industry. This also made me realise the breadth and scope of an industry I thought was small in Australia.

I have recently completed a two-year graduate program with Jetstar Airways where I was able to explore several roles though rotations in different parts of the business. I think the appeal of this type of program is the ability to explore different interests and better understand the everyday tasks involved. This was the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate pursuing a technical engineering career or moving into other applications. From this experience, I found that I really wanted to continue working in a technical role, and was fortunate to find my current position as an operations engineer.

I am now part of a team that is responsible for technical support covering all aspects of aircraft performance and aircraft loading. The work is varied and involves many different aspects of airline operations. I work on projects that involve the evaluation of new aircraft and modifications to existing aircraft and equipment. Other aspects are the management of systems and software that affect aircraft loading and weight and balance.

This role has huge scope for continued learning and development and is where I see myself for the next few years to make the most of this opportunity. Every day is different, and there is a large variety in the type of work including analysis, engineering and project management. Two of the most exciting things that I am involved with are projects that encompass the whole airline and aim to balance commercial outcomes and operational challenges, and quick responses to operational requests to ensure safe and efficient flight dispatch.

Any internships or work placements during your studies?

I had a couple of casual jobs during my studies and also completed 12 weeks of mechanical engineering work experience. I think learning to balance my commitments and time across my studies, jobs, friends and family was very valuable to learn before commencing my career. I think the work experience as an engineer was a good opportunity to understand the day to day requirements and tasks rather than the concept of being an engineer. I was able to understand the variety of skills and knowledge required to bring projects to fruition.

What about 'outside the classroom' ... what activities did you take part in outside of classes during your time at UoA?

I think that having good references from my casual jobs because I had shown commitment, a good attitude and worked well in the teams was beneficial when it came to seeking employment. I think actively researching and being part of the industry (aerospace/aviation) I was looking to work in through organisations such as AYAA, RAeS, and A/AA gave me a much better understanding of what types of jobs were available.

When thinking about future employment, what would be your "Top-3-Tips" for a new student about to embark on their University studies?

Enjoy what you are studying - if not, ask yourself why. Don't let small setbacks/bad marks prevent you from pursing your goals. Take risks and invest in yourself. Don't be afraid of hard work.

What are your future career aspirations?

I would like to be involved in sustainable aviation. I am not sure yet what this means but I think projects involving fuel efficiency, recycling of parts, or even aircraft design. Right now I have a lot to learn in my current role and many opportunities to explore what being an engineer in the aviation industry means.

With a team of fellow students I undertook an Honours project examining ways of reducing the induced drag of aircraft wings. This led me to the realization that I would really like to be involved in improving the sustainability and accessibility of aviation/air travel.
I would like to be involved in sustainable aviation. I am not sure yet what this means but I think projects involving fuel efficiency, recycling of parts, or even aircraft design. Right now I have a lot to learn in my current role and many opportunities to explore what being an engineer in the aviation industry means.

Graduate profiles

Sarah Clark

Bachelor of Science (Molecular and Drug Design) with Honours in Chemistry
(Corporate Finance & Marketing)
Smart Skills Inspirator, Questacon Smart Skills Initiative

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