What’s your job about?
Western Power operates and maintains the electricity network in the South West of Western Australia. There are many aspects to the business - construction, maintenance, long term planning for future projects, and short-medium term designs for existing projects.
As an Electrical Engineer, I am mainly involved in the short-medium term designs at our zone substations. This could be replacing an obsolete circuit breaker which has reached its end of life, installing a new transformer to cater for load growth, or some wiring modifications within the relay room.
These are referred to as ‘brownfield’ works, which can sometimes be more complicated than if you were designing a substation from ‘scratch’. You have to familiarise yourself with the existing drawings to understand what is going on in the surrounding circuits, and work around these constraints to design the solution for the particular section you are upgrading.
What is your background?
I completed my Bachelor of Science (majoring in Engineering Science) at UWA; and chose to do my electives across the electrical, mechanical and software streams. I enjoyed all displines of engineering, so it was a difficult decision when it came time to specialise, but I chose to complete my Master of Professional Engineering in the electrical stream.
I enjoyed that the electrical subjects were quite technical and challenging. Although you definitely need a strong grasp of circuits and electronics, one thing I learned as my degree progressed was that there were different subdisciplines within electrical engineering – power, robotics, electric machines, communications, automation and control – which allowed me to appreciate that the subjects I was learning also had real world applications to industry.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
No - you definitely need to have a degree in electrical engineering. The work to complete the high voltage (HV) designs for a power utility is quite technical and specialised.
What is the coolest thing about your job?
Knowing that my designs will be implemented on site gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Sometimes I go out to site to see the construction in action, other times I’m the office and get a phone call if there is a query from the field, and other times the work gets completed smoothly without me needing to hear about it. One way or another, knowing that that my works will come to fruition is very rewarding.
What are the limitations of your job?
Graduates have six monthly rotations, which can come and go very quickly, so I would recommend to reframe your expectations. The main aim is to learn and understand the gist of what your department does, and maybe knock out a couple of mini-projects.
As a graduate I would avoid being ‘half involved’ on the high profile (multi-million dollar) projects, since they span much longer than six months; and instead take on some ‘bread and butter’ projects which will give you a good foundation of the basics, and allow you to take more ownership of the outcome.
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student.