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Kerstin Schoen

Try and get as much varied experience in the field on-site as possible.

Kerstin's journey since UWA

As an undergraduate, I took on vacation work at Alcoa’s Wagerup alumina refinery. Since graduating from UWA, I went to work for Alcoa at their Kwinana and Pinjarra alumina refineries located in the south-west of Western Australia. After 6 years I left Alcoa and travelled extensively throughout Europe for several years and ended up working in the UK being part of a team installing new escalators on the London Underground system. I returned to Perth, Australia and ever since I have been working for large and small engineering consultancy firms, and mostly in the alumina industry and mostly for Alcoa again. I currently work for Worley and my current project is a large iron ore expansion project.

How did you choose your specialisation?

I chose to study mechanical engineering as it is a tangible career, that is I see it as hands-on building stuff. I was playing a lot with cars at the time. I nearly decided to do civil engineering as I just love bridges too. I saw electrical and electronic engineering as being too “black box” for me.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? 

Mechanical or Mechatronics engineering is worth studying at UWA. As well as technical skills, soft skills are also important, as without them you can’t get stuff done as you can’t communicate your ideas! I would highly recommend top writing, speaking and communication skills such as report writing, grammar, presentation and speaking skills. I also highly recommend that every engineer gains a good few years of experience on-site amongst the equipment and getting stuff built. As much varied experience as possible.

What does your employer do? 

My current employer is an engineering management and consultancy firm. We work with local and international clients to design and build their projects. We work in the mining, minerals, energy and resources sector, particularly with major clients in WA, such as Rio Tinto, BHP, Woodside, and Alcoa.

What are your areas of responsibility? 

My areas of responsibility as a Lead Mechanical and Piping Engineer is to ensure our engineering deliverables are met in a quality, technical and timely manner. I usually support and guide others working with me in my team, and on a project, I am part of a multidiscipline team, usually working with others such as process (chemical) engineers, civil and electrical engineers, and engineering management.

Can you describe a typical workday?

A typical workday might include the following, completing some pump hydraulic calculations, writing a report on several alternatives to pumping iron ore slurry to different locations, reviewing a launder calculation, attending a multi-discipline 3D model design review meeting, meeting a vendor to discuss technical criteria for a positive displacement pump, and responding to a technical query from a client. My current project is conducting a Preliminary Engineering Study for a major iron ore client in the Pilbara of WA. We are currently putting together an equipment list so that we can create a capital cost estimate.

What sort of person succeeds in your career? 

The sort of person that succeeds in my career is someone who is not only technically competent, but also self-motivated, and capable of working well and communicating well within a team environment.

If you could share one piece of advice with an international student at UWA, what would it be?

Try and get as much varied experience in the field on-site as possible.