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WSP Australia

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Tuan Nguyen

Systems engineering is multidisciplinary and requires a strong appreciation for all types of engineering, and this means building up your knowledge of first principles.

How did you get to your current job position? 

I started off as an intern at WSP back when it was still known as WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff about 3–4 years ago. Having worked there several months after I had graduated from university, I moved into a graduate position within the Transport Rail team not too long after.

From there I got exposure in rail engineering design and even had a stint through a secondment at Laing O’Rourke building my project engineering and construction experience. During this time I was involved in several major rail infrastructure projects, which exposed me to a variety of engineering disciplines. I also felt a desire to be more actively involved on the design management side and found myself at a crossroads; deciding where I wanted to head in my career.

Having previously worked in other sectors in electrical manufacturing and biomedical engineering design, I was no stranger to multidisciplinary design and hence found myself reaching out to the Systems Engineering team at WSP. I had a strong appreciation of systems thinking and holistic engineering, and I believed that this would be a perfect fit for my skill set and personality. Since then I’ve been working across transport engineering projects, applying systems engineering where I can. I have even been given the opportunity to travel around Australia and New Zealand.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia? Why did you become a member?

I have been a member since my first year of university. I first found out about Engineers Australia when a representative attended my university with a campus coordinator.

Besides the benefits of chartership and continuing professional development, I joined Engineers Australia because I believed it would help connect me with a network of industry professionals and other engineers. Since then I’ve been actively involved as a committee member of the Young Engineers Australia Sydney (YEAS) group, working closely with Engineers Australia to help run a variety of exciting events for graduates, undergraduates and young professionals.

How does being a part of Engineers Australia benefit your career?

As a member, you receive many benefits such as networking, free events, webinars and when it comes to career development, guidance from the great people at Engineers Australia.

Extending beyond this, networking has also allowed me to find myself in volunteering positions, eventually becoming a member of the Sydney Young Engineers Committee. I’ve found myself closer to the industry than if I was just in my workplace alone.

The chartership program is one of the key parts, if not the most important part, of being a member. Engineers Australia strongly encourages its members to pursue chartership and provides plenty of support in order to get us there, providing tools, guides and access to chartered engineers for advice.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills that would be beneficial for them to develop?

Depending on what industry you would like to work in, I would advise you to develop some foundational experience and knowledge in engineering. Systems engineering is multidisciplinary and requires a strong appreciation for all types of engineering, and this means building up your knowledge of first principles. With this appreciation, you will find that the role will lead you to multiple specialities within systems engineering as well as working across multiple industries. That being said, there are post-graduate degrees that focus on systems engineering, however, I’ve been told by very experienced systems engineers (and others alike) that no education will ever beat the hands-on approach.

I believe graduates and engineers of tomorrow require a mixture of both soft and technical skills. I find that in order to have a voice that is heard, you need to be a strong communicator. This means being able to communicate your knowledge and being confident in what you’re saying. Whether it is a new idea or a solution that is efficient, time-saving or high performance, you need the soft skills to support it.

There is also a strong focus on being able to adapt to change. I quite often see a variety of engineers of all ages feeling inundated with the changes that are occurring in the industry. We’re seeing a shift in behaviours in the workplace (flexible work hours, hot-desking etc) leading to a more collaborative environment. The old days of working in silos are going away. 

On top of this, there is also pressure to keep up with ‘disruptors’, such as new technology and different ways of working. There is an enormous amount of pressure on young engineers to be able to meet all of these changes, and education alone isn’t enough – that’s why I think it’s important to be adaptable to change. Systems engineering, and more so ‘systems thinking’ is a gateway to this; it’s why I’ve found great appreciation for all types of engineering.

I studied mechanical engineering but exposed myself to other engineering disciplines through work experience and self-study. Through my work, I also involved myself in several multi-disciplinary projects and actively sought more knowledge in each contributing area. 

From a technical skills perspective, I highly value getting one’s hands dirty, but I also acknowledge the importance of having good interpersonal skills. Outside the classroom, networking events and volunteering have been an important factor in building my interpersonal skills. Additionally, being involved in extracurricular programs like those at my university, and being a committee member of the YEAS has been very helpful. I’ve met great mentors and great engineers through this approach and it’s given me a platform to grow the career that fits me best.

What traits are required to succeed in your career?

An appreciation of technical knowledge and expertise, an openness to learning, confidence in one’s skill and a strong aspiration for career development.

What do you love most about your job? Which kind of tasks do you enjoy the most?

I love the great culture at WSP. It’s an international business with a strong focus on the career development of its young professionals. This means supporting them in aspects such as training courses, becoming chartered and volunteer opportunities.

At work, I mostly enjoy the opportunity to learn about different engineering disciplines and how they come together to deliver a solution, such as a complex railway system. I also enjoy having the ability to lead projects in some way or another and work collaboratively to help make significant and positive impacts on the community through engineering.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

I’ve always had a passion for art, so I think I would still be doing something creative. However, I believe that engineering is an amazing space for creativity; it depends on how you want to approach it.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  1. Failure is the key to learning.
  2. Have confidence in one’s own worth or abilities.
  3. Be creative, both in work and life.