Webinar recap: Land your dream career in STEM with Arup’s Danika Smith

15 Feb 2022

By Evan Jones 5 min read

Accel iQ host Miles Campbell is joined by Arup’s Danika Smith and Careers With STEM’s Heather Catchpole to talk about on careers in engineering.

In the second instalment of our three-part webinar series Land your dream career in STEM, host Miles Campbell is joined by Arup water engineer Danika Smith and Careers With STEM’s Heather Catchpole. In this webinar recap you’ll hear from our panel as they discuss water engineering, scholarships, must-have job skills and future opportunities for women in STEM. 

If you couldn’t make it, you can catch up with a full replay of the webinar below to see what you’ve missed. You can also get a more thorough understanding of Danika’s journey with our feature profile.

People have this stereotype of engineers with headphones on all day and a bit antisocial, but it’s not the case at all"
Danika Smith, Water Planner – Arup

Danika’s dual roles at Arup:

“I wear two hats, so my most-of-the-time role is as a water engineer. Water engineer encompasses everything from waterways, storm water, flooding and hydrology, all the way across to waste water networks and water networks. My other hat is Australasia Water Skills manager at Arup, so working closely with the water skills leader. We look at opportunities that can improve our skills at Arup in key areas by recommending training or promoting the skills that we have by going to conferences, writing papers, creating workshops and facilitating skill sharing.”

Danika on the types of skills needed in engineering:

Hard skills: “Hard skills are engineering skills that you would expect. You definitely have to be good at Excel as an engineer. For me, you need basic hydraulics and hydrology – how contour lines work, how you draw a catchment, understanding of pressure head, which is how water gets through pipes, but I don’t need to do any calculations, I don’t need to do any of that hardcore engineering maths that we did at uni.”

Soft skills: “People have this stereotype of engineers with headphones on all day and a bit antisocial, but it’s not the case at all. We’re still a business so we still have to pitch ourselves, so we’ve got to have really good soft skills and we have to be able to communicate well with clients and provide them what they need. We’ve got to be able to write reports, write emails that make sense. So it’s a mixture of written and verbal communication skills. The soft skills I think are actually the most important.”

Danika on the benefit of receiving a scholarship:

“For me, [getting a scholarship] was huge. I was moving from Bathurst in the country so I was going to have to live out of home. Obviously living in Sydney is expensive. Had I not got the scholarship I’d planned to do a gap year and save up money, but because I got it, it meant that it was actually affordable to go to uni. But it also encouraged me to study because in my mind it was like I was getting paid to study. I put a lot more effort into uni and I could put a lot more effort into uni because I wasn’t having to work huge hours.”

Heather on applying for scholarships:

“There are certainly plenty of opportunities beyond academic scholarships. There are scholarships for women getting into engineering, for example. There might be scholarships for other minority groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, because there’s a real push for increasing diversity in STEM across the board. There might also be scholarships available if you’re coming from a rural area. It’s always best to check with the uni in the first instance to see what they have available in general scholarships, as well as looking at specific STEM scholarships in the area that you’re interested in.”

Danika on women in engineering:

“In environmental engineering which is what I was studying, it was about 40% women. In the workplace, I think Arup is about 35% women. It’s getting better. Where the work needs to be done is in the more senior roles. There’s a lot of women coming through who have done engineering at uni and they’re early on in their careers, but once women go away and have children, it is a bit of an issue with them coming back to the industry.”

“The challenge has been a lack of flexibility in the past and a lack of female role models. It makes a huge difference when you have a couple of females in those more senior roles. For me, I have someone to look up to, it doesn’t feel like a boys club. We had a new female team leader join at the end of last year and I’ve noticed a huge difference, I feel way more comfortable.”

Heather on women in engineering:

“There’s a lot of new programs, there are certainly some excellent women in engineering societies and programs and mentorship that you can get into. And there’s a lot of women that might not necessarily be in your particular area of engineering but are willing to be your mentor and lend you that expertise to push you up that pipeline and make sure you’re getting to that leadership area. I really love something that the Chief Scientist Cathy Foley said to me once  that if you’re still here as a woman in STEM in your 60s, the leadership opportunities are really amazing.”

In the final part of our webinar series we’re joined by Declan Burke, STEM graduate and research assistant at Hazer Group. We’ll hear about working in clean energy, combining STEM and philosophy, and some tips for getting the most out of high school and university. We’ll be chatting from 5pm on Thursday 17th February. Register now to secure your spot.