What is your name and job title? What did you study?
My name is Rebecca Lockett. I am a graduate process engineer currently in my second year of the Sydney Water Graduate Program. I studied a combined degree of Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical) and Bachelor of Arts at The University of Sydney, graduating in 2017.
Where did you grow up? Can you tell us about your education and any experience abroad or previous employment that you’ve held?
I grew up in Sydney but was lucky enough to spend a semester abroad in France in 2014, as part of my French major in my arts degree. During my engineering studies, I became interested in the water industry and completed my electives in wastewater treatment. While in high school and at university I spent eight years working in hospitality, both waitressing and bartending. In my final year of university in 2017, I applied for an undergraduate position at Sydney Water, where I spent a year at Bondi Wastewater Treatment Plant.
How did you get to your current job position?
Working at Sydney Water as an undergraduate has given me lots of hands-on experience and mentoring from senior process engineers. I’ve also met lots of Sydney Water graduates and learned a lot about the Graduate Program, which inspired me to apply for a position. I was lucky enough to be accepted into the program in 2018, spending my first year working in management of corrosion and odour in the wastewater networks. I have recently started my second rotation working in a consulting team for the water filtration plants.
How did you choose your specialisation?
The Sydney Water Graduate Program was a good fit for me, as I knew I was interested in the water industry but wanted to explore what area I was most interested in. The program allows up to four one-year rotations with a huge variety of placements across the organisation.
What was your interview process like?
The interview process included both a video interview as well as an assessment centre. The process was similar to many other programs. It can be quite stressful however the interview panel were all very encouraging and friendly.
What does your employer do?
Sydney Water provides water and wastewater services to over five million customers in Sydney.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I have just begun my second rotation on the program, where I help my team optimise the performance of Sydney Water’s many water filtration plants. I am involved in several projects including filter assessments, instrument trials, and jar testing for optimisation of coagulation/flocculation dosing.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
My previous placement involved management of corrosion and odour in the wastewater networks. A typical day could involve calibrating and deploying hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas monitors at strategic locations in the wastewater network, collecting and analysing data, and working with my team to problem solve (for example, optimisation of chemical dosing to better manage H2S in the networks). Other work includes research projects, risk assessments, development of new programs, technical paper writing, cost analysis of salt water ingress, odour complaint investigations and lots of site visits.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others go to from here?
The experience that I have gained through these placements has given me a wide range of potential career opportunities, such as becoming a senior process engineer, working in operations, strategy or consulting or perhaps going into a manager role.
What do you love the most about your job?
The best aspect of my job is being involved in a large variety of different work, which allows me to build my skill set in many different areas, get a feel for what I enjoy best and keep myself engaged in what I’m doing. I also enjoy the friendly people and the flexible working environment. My least favourite aspect of my job is the driving. Sydney Water has offices and assets that span across Sydney and beyond, and working in operations can sometimes involve a lot of driving to different sites. However, this can usually be managed by good planning.
What advice would you give to a current university student?
My advice to current university students, no matter what degree you’re in, is to look at what extracurricular opportunities are out there. I was able to go overseas twice as part of my degree: once on exchange to France and once to India as part of a human-centred design workshop running over the summer break. There are lots of scholarships out there to help fund these kinds of things. As well as being really great experiences, they can also help you in interviews to land an internship or graduate role.