The former tradesperson’s journey was triggered by an ever-growing appreciation for the important role played by electrical engineers in improving society.
This interest climaxed with the realisation that he too wanted to somehow contribute to the nation’s power industry, which saw him enrol as a mature age student as he pursued a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering).
Applying the strong work ethic instilled in him from his six years on the work site, Aaron’s new labours in the library had him investigate the impact of renewable generation and battery storage on the operation of the electricity network, providing several scenarios for the future management of Australia’s power systems.
His four years of hard work paid off when he graduated with First Class Honours and the University Medal in 2016.
Aaron presently manages large engineering projects in his role as Project Manager for TransGrid, who manage and operate the high voltage electricity transmission network in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
We spoke to Aaron about his passion for electrical engineering, his career transition from electrical engineer to project manager and the advancement of both renewable energy and energy storage.
When I initially left high school, university was not on the radar, instead I decided to pursue an electrical apprenticeship. However, I found over time an appreciation for electrical engineering; I was curious about the things I was building and I wondered how they had been designed. I looked up to engineers who are able to make decisions about how to build something and know that it will work and perform its purpose.
I am really passionate about creating, designing, managing, and building big infrastructure. I like to be able to stand outside and see a large electricity substation, solar farm, railway line, or transmission line that I have worked on. It’s amazing to be a part of a large project that impacts society. It’s tangible and will be in use for a long time to come.
The decision to enrol at university was the first pivotal choice I made in my career. It taught me the importance of trying out new things and not getting stuck in a position that is not making you happy. Since then I haven’t looked back. I enjoyed my degree and the four years flew by.
Working as an engineer is a lot of fun, and in terms of progress I feel like I can constantly progress as each project I work on adds to my experience and value.
More recently I made another change in my career by leaving my role as an electrical engineer and taking a new role as a project manager with TransGrid. I now manage large engineering projects, which was my aspiration in the first place. This has been a great move for my career; I am now responsible for rolling out large engineering projects.
I am very proud of graduating as a mature age student and achieving First Class Honours and a University Medal. At the time, I was concerned that I may have struggled to keep up with the pace of the university courses which encouraged me to apply a strong work ethic to my studies.
I discovered that by studying something I am passionate about, I was able to learn and grow beyond what I had expected, and that the learning experience was fun and rewarding. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this goal without the support of my friends and family, and the encouragement of my lecturers and fellow students.
I work in the energy industry and at the moment there are a number of changes on the horizon that are really exciting and will definitely change the status quo.
Firstly, renewable energy and energy storage is disrupting traditional energy markets. This has been predicted for a number of years, and we are now approaching the point where it will become cost effective for households to install battery storage and solar panels. This will have a drastic effect on our energy markets, as traditional revenue streams are affected while the cost of providing energy to customers through traditional energy networks simultaneously increases due to the decrease in demand and the associated technical challenges that come with that.
Secondly, the way engineering design has traditionally been conducted and communicated to construction teams is through two-dimensional drawings. With modern processes it is becoming common to design in three-dimensions, which opens up new possibilities. Information can be gathered from laser scanning, which is then used to build three-dimensional models of existing spaces. New work can be designed in the three-dimensional models, which opens up opportunities for designers to be more creative and innovative, as well as providing more robust designs that have accurate clash detection and greater visibility of safety requirements. These changes are opening up new opportunities for young engineers and expanding their career options.
The exciting thing about engineering is that many possibilities will be available to you. In my experience, engineers typically work on projects that are unique. Many engineers who specialise in a particular field eventually branch out to work in new areas, or move on to senior management positions later in their careers.
Engineers are also highly sought after in other industries such as management consulting and finance. My advice is to engage with what you are doing, learn as much as you can from each subject and each lecturer, and keep an open mind for future opportunities. Once you finish studying, don’t be scared to change your job or career and try new things!
There will be a need for subject matter experts who can solve the technical challenges associated with renewable energy and energy storage integration into traditional power systems. I also believe there will be new market opportunities in the energy industry due to new technologies which will also provide new opportunities for start-up businesses in this space.