Author: Lucy Cross, Year 12

On Friday 18th March our school community welcomed 5th year Mechanical Engineering and Material Science student at UNSW, Zali Steiner, to come and speak to Year 7 to 12 students interested in STEM and engineering. I met Zali through an initiative called ‘Your School, Your Story’ through my involvement in the UNSW Girls in Engineering FEAS program. Here we had the incredible opportunity to listen to her story about how she discovered her love for engineering and the pathways that led her to where she is today.

It seems there are many pathways to becoming an engineer and not just one fixed course description. The list goes on, with biomedical, bioinformatic, chemical, civil, computer hardware, computer software and science, electrical, environmental, food science, mechanical, mechatronic, robotic, nuclear, quantum, renewable, aerospace, telecommunications, geotechnical and humanitarian engineering.

During her presentation, we met fellow students undertaking these different majors, which showed me the importance of following your heart and to do the things that interest you. This is because it will draw you to like-minded people where you can be exposed to mind-blowing experiences and projects. Personally, I came out of Zali’s presentation feeling reassured to just follow my interests by continuing to ask, ‘how can this be more efficient?’ or ‘what makes this work?’ but am also excited to dive deeper into the opportunities available through UNSW engineering, in particular the Girls in Engineering club.

I would like to end by passing on the following advice which Zali shared with us. Firstly, if you have the creativity and passion to do engineering, you will. You do not need to be the smartest person in the room – as long as you are good at communicating, have the ability to ask ‘how can this work better?’, and embrace our diversity by being rural, as it helps us become well rounded authentic citizens. Do not let this stop you from dreaming big. Relating this back to Zali’s real-life experience, only a few months ago she was working on a group project focused on the bushfire recovery. Here her team viewed her as the most valuable member, as she was the only one who had first-hand experience of the 2020 bushfire season.

Secondly, if you are girl considering engineering yet are worried about it being ‘a man’s job’, we say go for it. There is always support there for you and engineers are some of the ‘nicest people you will meet’. They have all got into the degree ‘knowing they are able to do it and are excited to learn more about how to make our world better and safer’. I personally found it reassuring to hear this, in addition to Zali’s personal account that with the exception of one comment in the first year, she has never experienced discrimination around her gender in engineering. Even as I sit here and write this, I am excited, as are many of my classmates about the future that lies only a few months away.

I would like to thank Zali Steiner for making the time to speak to us and igniting the passion within so many of us.