From mechanical engineering to systems engineering in Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry
Systems Engineers can specialise in architecture and system conception, integration and verification.
Core competencies include a knowledge of complex system engineering and concept development processes in support of a shipbuilding or submarine program. A Systems Engineer will use these skills combined with various systems to define technical proposals considering project requirements, constraints including costs, schedule and risks.
Nicola began working as a Mechanical Engineer in 2009, and is currently a Principal Engineer with BAE Systems Australia’s shipbuilding business, ASC Shipbuilding, working on the Hunter Class Frigate Program. Nicola has gained extensive shipbuilding engineering experience over the past 11 years, most recently on the Air Warfare Destroyer program.
Overview of your role
I joined the Hunter Class Frigate Program (HCFP) in May 2019, and my current role is Hunter Class Frigate Engineering Governance – Principal Engineer. My responsibilities include providing engineering governance for the engineering program, which means I collaborate closely with a variety of stakeholders, including our customer, the Commonwealth of Australia (CoA) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
Where do you work?
Osborne Naval Shipyard, South Australia.
How did you get to where you are today?
Science and maths were my favourite subjects at school leading to vague aspirations to continue my studies in the sciences as a basis for a career. However, when I reached Year 12 I still hadn’t figured out exactly what I wanted to do post-school. It wasn’t until the point at which I had to put in my university preferences where I read up on the Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Adelaide and decided that Engineering might be a good fit for me, as it involved learning about how and why things work. On graduating from university, I secured a job with ASC Shipbuilding on the Air Warfare Destroyer program. For the next 11 years, I had a variety of experiences and gained knowledge in systems engineering, safety engineering and project management. I was also supported by the business to undertake a Master of Systems Engineering (Marine Engineering) through the University of New South Wales – Canberra, which I completed at the end of 2019 while working full-time.
What do you love about your job?
As a Systems Engineer, I am required to facilitate the integration of a variety of disciplines to produce systems that consider both technical and business needs. Systems Engineering is an approach to problem solving – it is a way to make sure the right thing is built and that it does what the customer wants it to do. I love the variety in the tasks I perform – I am able to see the big picture while also being able to work on detail-oriented tasks. I also enjoy making sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and then function as expected, whether that is related to the accurate flow of data between systems or assessing the effectiveness of an engineering process to produce an end-product.
Why did you choose a career this field?
I chose to pursue a career in Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry because I love that the job is challenging, complex and requires problem-solving. There is a real sense of family in this industry – everyone is passionate about working together to build great ships for our Navy. I feel like I am part of something bigger in supporting our Defence Force and that we are making a difference for our sailors, as they live on these ships for long periods of time – the ship essentially becomes their home.
What skills are required in your position?
An engineering degree, strong technical leadership capability, strong communication skills, both written and verbal, ability to lead others from within the engineering function, ability to influence others from outside of the engineering function and ability to manage and prioritise team activities to meet project schedules.
Why did you decide to work within the Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise?
During my undergraduate degree I secured work experience at ASC working on the Collins Class Submarines. I really enjoyed learning about the complexities of the ‘boats’ and understanding the support that Defence industry provides to the Navy. I wanted to continue to build on that knowledge and understanding.
If you like being challenged, enjoy unique experiences that will set your career up for great things then you should consider opportunities in the naval shipbuilding industry. Join the national Workforce Register.