Jocelyn Ellero was sure she wanted to be a structural engineer during most of her university degree; water engineering had hardly been discussed as an option.
It wasn’t until by chance she landed an internship at Blacktown City Council, Australia, as Junior Drainage Engineer that she discovered how interesting and important the water industry is. “This is where my love for water really began. I started to see how all the theory in fluid mechanics and hydrology was applied.”
Jocelyn later made the decision to switch over to the private sector and move into a consultancy role at SMEC. “Moving to the private sector provided me with an opportunity to learn about water design and modelling ‘from the other side of the fence’ – rather than assessing storm water management plans, I would be designing them.”
Embracing opportunities at home and overseas
Now an Experienced Engineer in SMEC’s Water Resources team, Jocelyn says her career has been shaped by embracing opportunities. She has travelled around Australia and overseas to contribute her expertise to water projects. Luckily for Jocelyn, travel is one of her favourite things.
“I recently spent 3.5 months working in the Philippines on the stormwater drainage design for the Manila-Clarke Railway Project and North-South Railway Project. My involvement included designing over 50 km of mainline drainage for proposed maintenance roads and the drainage design at 11 train stations. This is one of the largest projects I’ve ever worked on and had the additional pressures of working in a foreign environment with different guidelines, standards and work culture. Completing the detailed design for this project was a huge achievement, given the large quantity of design work, environmental factors, relocation and tight deadlines. It is the most memorable project of my career to date.”
Jocelyn hopes to return to the Philippines and complete a flood study for the whole area of Metro Manila. “Whilst working in Manila on a previous project, I found out first hand that flooding information was limited and often based on outdated information (such as topography data from the 1950’s). As I was working in Manila during monsoon season, I saw firsthand how devastating the floods can be and the impact it has on residents. I would love to work with the government to develop flood mitigation strategies to reduce the flooding impacts for at-risk communities and ensure that future developments are safe and well planned.”
Developing technical skills and beyond
Ongoing training has enabled Jocelyn to advance her technical skills, furthering her specialisation in flooding, stormwater design and water sensitive urban design. She attends regular in-house technical sessions, for example Australian Rainfall and Runoff (ARR) Learning Circles where a senior SMEC specialist leads a discussion based on the books within ARR 2019. Jocelyn has also completed SMEC’s in-house Project Management course. “Career wise I want to continue developing my water related technical skills whilst simultaneously building my business and project management skills.”
At SMEC, learning isn’t limited to your role as an engineer, as Jocelyn recently discovered when she had an opportunity to bring an internal innovation to life for the benefit of the whole organisation. With 16,000+ employees operating across dozens of countries, Jocelyn identified the need for a user-friendly way for internal employees to find and connect with colleagues based on specific skills. “We have so much talent and expertise within SMEC and our larger network the Surbana Jurong Group. There could be someone in another city who can help with your AutoCAD query, or a colleague in another country who has deep specialist expertise in cable-stayed bridges. But there is no centralised way of finding and connecting with these people.”
This led to Jocelyn pitching the concept of the Buddy Finder – a internal application that will allow employees to search for colleagues based on specialist skills and project experience. After her pitch was enthusiastically welcomed and supported by senior management, Jocelyn worked with cross-functional teams to develop a prototype platform that will be launched shortly. “I’m excited about how the Buddy Finder can improve collaboration across our business and the solutions we can offer clients”.
In recognition of her innovative contribution, Jocelyn won the Surbana Jurong ANZ 2019 Young Female Professional of the Year Award, an achievement she says is the highlight of her career to date.
Don’t be scared to self-promote
Jocelyn encourages young women entering the industry to speak confidently about what their achievements and capabilities. “There’s a lot of studies that have shown that females are less likely to self-promote and tend to have less confidence in themselves compared to men. Show your workplace and industry what you are capable of and be proud of your successes.”
Excerpts of this article originally appeared in International Water Power and Dam Construction