What's your job about?
My employer provides engineering advice to project managers and contractors. Specifically, I am tasked with understanding the engineering behaviour of the ground (soil and rock) to then assist with a project design which best works with the geology of the site.
I am an engineer on the Great Ocean Road, and there are many types of projects which my team and I can provide input to – and so the design of a foundation for a new bridge was my first task!
My role is to dig a deep but small hole in the ground (underneath the proposed bridge) and extract from inside the soil/rock for laboratory analysis. Depending on how good or bad the soil/rock is, I will do some calculations to determine how the bridge foundations can be best built. The Great Ocean Road is big, and so instead of working on the bridge one day I may go out on site and inspect a wall or wire-net which helps keep rocks on cliff-sides from falling onto the road below.
Another day, we may have to inspect a road to see if it is prone to landslides after a heavy rainfall event (i.e. Risk Monitoring and Management).
If I were to describe my job to a 12 year old me, I would say: “We help builders choose the best way to build their roads and bridges into the ground (there are many!), which helps save them lots of money and helps keep the roads open for longer”.
What's your background?
I grew up in a small village in northern Bosnia & Herzegovina, and completed 1st grade at the local village primary school. As kids, we would spend our free time building cubby houses out of bricks and tiles which we found around the house.
The most important stage of my life was the overseas move from B&H to Australia when I was 7 years old, having escaped surrounding military conflict with my parents and twin brother (I don’t remember the conflict, thankfully!).
The love of building things stuck around, and soon enough it was all about art, maths and science!
I took on the degree of civil engineering at Swinburne University and my curiosity took me to Nepal (a summer unit). This was the other important stage of my life - seeing, analysing and reflecting on how a society unique in a culture I had not previously encountered moves forward. The people accompanying me on the trip were open-minded and kind-full.
By graduation I had formed an image of the ideal employer that I wanted to work for.
I had applied for the VicRoads Graduate Program after researching the company culture. To reiterate, and open-minded and caring employer was key for me.
During my visit back to village in Bosnia in mid-2017, I had gotten an email from VicRoads offering an interview. All the pieces felt like they came together, and the rest is history.
I’ve been at my current position with VicRoads for only 4 weeks, so this stage of my life is hardly a chapter deep.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
That depends on the job! Someone with a different background could attempt to do Project Development (my previous position) by learning from fellow team members at their project develops in complexity. However, their problem solving and stakeholder engagement skills must be sharp! One must be able to juggle consultants while listening to the preferences of the community. Unfortunately, engineering at university does not dwell on community engagement and stakeholder management.
Geotechnical Engineering on the other hand requires an engineering background, a love for physics and numbers, and in this case the university degrees cater very well to the technical nature of the job.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
In general, I love the continuous learning curve as there is always something that can be done better when it comes to Geotechnical Engineering. After you’ve researched Peer-Reviewed material (learning as you go along), and have calculated a design you’re happy with; you get the privilege of working face-to-face with other engineers and seeing your design being built form ground up.
Specifically, we get to use a vehicle filled with all sorts of gadgets necessary for our job. This includes a ute full of test equipment, ropes for climbing, pickaxes and even a drone (for top of cliff inspections)!
What are the limitations of your job?
A colleague of mine had put it really well recently, ‘Geotechnical Engineers for some reason all seem to be workaholics”, and I will tend to agree with that statement.
It seems that this aspect of engineering requires ‘time’ in order to plan adequately and to accomplish the task at hand. Emergencies in construction also often require the use of geotechnical engineers and so your time (at times) must be laid bare.
At the moment I am looking to produce a life schedule outside of work which helps me balance everything work and non-work related. However, my own motivation keeps me engaged and so I know I’m in a well-suited role.
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...