What’s your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name is Namita and I’m an Air Vehicle Systems Engineer within the Joint Strike Fighter Division, Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), Department of Defence.
I graduated from the Australian National University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Systems Engineering with first-class honours. My majors were in Renewable Energy Systems and Mechanical and Material Systems.
Where did you grow up? Important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)
I grew up in Kerala, a south-western coastal state in India and spent 15 years of my life there. In 2009, my family moved to Canberra, ACT. Canberra has been my home ever since. I completed my year 11 and 12 at St Clare’s College and did my Bachelor of Systems Engineering at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.
During university, I did my first engineering work experience as a Photovoltaic System Designer at a local company. In my third year, I did my engineering internship at the Royal Australian Mint and then continued to work there as a Research and Development engineer on a part-time basis during my final year. I was also a founding member of the ANU’s World Solar Challenge extra-curricular program where teams design, build and race a solar-powered vehicle across more than 3,000 km of Australian desert from Darwin to Adelaide.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I started my professional career with the Department of Defence in February 2016 as part of the CASG graduate program. During the graduate program, I did three different rotations. The first was with a Navy acquisition project procuring a maritime rapid environmental assessment capability. I then went on to do an industry secondment with Boeing Defence Australia working on the sustainment of the F/A-18 Classic Hornets. For my last rotation I worked with an Air Force project working on the sustainment of the E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft.
Upon completion of the graduate program, I applied for my current role within the Australian F-35A Project to pursue my passion for aerospace engineering. I am an avid aviation lover and I am also in the process of learning to fly!
What does your employer do?
CASG is part of the Department of Defence and works in partnership with industry to meet the Australian Defence Force’s capability requirements.
What are your areas of responsibility?
As the Air Vehicle Systems Engineer in the F-35A Project, my main responsibility is to support the successful achievement towards acceptance of the F-35A aircraft and F135 propulsion system for service into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). My role involves a significant level of stakeholder engagement and liaison both internally within my workplace and externally with diverse groups of people. I ensure that all stakeholders are kept informed on key issues and activities. I also conduct technical reviews to support the airworthiness certification of the aircraft.
Can you describe a typical work day?
No two days are really the same for me. Priorities change every day. My job typically includes meeting with stakeholders, briefing the executive team on any topics of interest, keeping track of the aircraft production schedule, assisting with media releases, conducting risk-management activities and reviewing technical documents. My working hours are very flexible and are based on my priorities and workload.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would benefit for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
I would strongly encourage an engineering background. Your specialisation doesn’t matter as much as the analytical skills that you bring as an engineer. Most of your technical learning will be on the job. I also recommend doing courses that will develop your project management skills. As an engineer, especially within the Department of Defence, you will find yourself leading and managing projects.
I have learned that one of the most important skills is verbal and written communication. It is crucial for growing your career and to complete projects faster and more efficiently. I recommend actively seeking opportunities while doing your undergraduate studies to develop your communication skills. I also recommend pursuing networking and work experience opportunities in the engineering field that interests you.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
In Defence, like with any other organisation, you will need strong leadership skills in order to progress in your career. It is very important to be willing to take on more responsibilities, having a good work ethic, and being adaptable to change. When working with technology, it is also important for you to be a keen learner.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
It’s pretty exciting coming to work and to bring each of the RAAF’s fifth-generation fighter aircraft into service. The F-35A features a range of cutting-edge technologies. It is a rare opportunity and it’s something that, as an engineer, you don’t get to experience that often. Delivering a new capability to the Australian Defence Force and getting through that process is what I love the most.
Having a great team to work with also makes a huge difference. I am always inspired by the work that my colleagues do and the diverse experiences they have. I receive numerous opportunities for professional and personal development. I also like being able to take on as much responsibility as I want to and try different roles.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Is your job physically demanding?
As with any other Project, one of my main challenges is competing and changing priorities. Therefore it is very important to be flexible and to focus on the end goal.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
An artist or a medical professional.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role, or even be career-focused.