Structural engineer

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Simon, 29

Simon Maan works as a structural engineer in the aeronautical industry. His role is to analyse the effects of different kinds of stresses on aircraft and as a result recommend repair designs or other actions. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Simon spends most of his day in meetings, analysing computer based models of aircraft or testing real aircraft. He writes reports on his findings and supervises a team of engineers.

Subjects studied: Maths (Reasoning and Data), Maths (Change and Approximation), English, Physics, Chemistry

Further training: Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) - 4 years Monash University

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Profile

Simon has always been interested in cars and building things. He also happens to be pretty good at science and maths so it seems natural that a career in engineering would be on the cards. But he never thought he'd be working with military aircraft.

As a principal engineer in the structural analysis division of Aerostructures, Simon has a lot of responsibility in his job. As many of the aircraft operated by our military have been flying for a number of years, they have experienced a lot of stresses, which can mean that cracks can develop and make the aircraft unsafe. Simon works very closely with the air force to ensure that all the aircraft are able to keep flying safely and track when and how any structural problems occur.

A typical workday sees Simon attend a project planning meeting of the management team for the company to discuss the different projects the company is working on at the moment and in the near future. He then spends the rest of the day preparing or delivering his reports to the air force and conducting analysis of aircraft structures.

Most of the analysis conducted is computer based. Wherever possible, Simon has to examine the aircraft, but in some circumstances this may not be possible. In these cases, Simon has to closely examine photos and plans of the aircraft. From these examinations, he then builds a computer model of the area that needs repairing and uses specially designed software to see what needs to be done.

Because he often has to physically examine the aircraft, Simon's job involves quite a bit of travel. "I have recently been to Sydney to check some work completed by a third party contractor," he says. "I have also had to go to Richmond Air Force base. Earlier this year I went to a conference in California, where I took a bit of time off and went skiing in Canada."

Although the air force is the company's main customer, Simon also gets the opportunity to work on other projects. For example, a customer wanted to fit a satellite dish antenna to their Lear Jet and Simon had to verify that it wouldn't fall off during flight or damage the aircraft.

Apart from the opportunity to work on military aircraft, Simon also loves the fact that in his job there is a finished product for all the work he puts in. He is looking forward to taking on a more managerial role in the next five to ten years, once he has built up his technical experience, and is considering undertaking an MBA to help his career progression. Having been promoted quite quickly so far, however, he may find this happens a lot sooner than he planned.

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Job specs

Civil engineers plan, design, construct, operate and maintain roads, bridges, dams, water supply schemes, sewerage systems, transportation, harbours, canals, dockyard facilities, airports, railways, factories and large buildings.

Duties:

Civil engineers may perform the following tasks:

  • investigate sites to work out the most suitable foundation for a proposed construction
  • research and advise on the best engineering solution to meet with a client's needs and budget
  • produce detailed designs and documentation for the construction and implementation of civil engineering projects
  • organise the delivery of materials, plant and equipment needed for the construction project and supervise labour
  • develop detailed programs for the coordination of site activities
  • talk to other engineers, architects, landscape architects and environmental scientists
  • assist government bodies in preparing yearly works programs within set budgets, e.g. car parks, drainage, roads, aerodromes or sewerage
  • prepare engineering calculations required for the design of projects and supervise the drafting
  • operate computers to assist with the design of civil engineering projects
  • coordinate and direct research development and testing of materials, processes or systems related to civil engineering works
  • research, advise and plan on the control and minimisation of air, water and solid waste pollution, and the management of water
  • supervise the testing and commissioning of completed works
  • analyse and interpret reports on loading, labour, productivity, quality, materials and performance
  • analyse risks associated with natural disasters including wind, earthquake, fire and floods, and design structures and services to meet appropriate standards
  • arrange for geological and geophysical investigations and carry out feasibility studies.

Personal requirements:

  • able to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • aptitude for computing and design
  • practical and creative
  • able to work without supervision
  • able to work as part of a team
  • able to accept responsibility
  • willing to contribute and adhere to the safety requirements of the operation

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Getting started

Find out more about a career in structural engineering:

Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA)
Level 12, 447 Kent St Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9267 6677
Email: ipwea@ipwea.org.au

Engineers Australia (Victoria Division)
21 Bedford St North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Tel: (03) 9329 8188
Email: vic@engineersaustralia.org.au

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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