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Claire Chaikin-Bryan

Civil and environmental engineer

An engineer with a knack for coding, Claire Chaikin-Bryan is using her STEM skills to make communities more liveable.

After attending a women in engineering event, Claire knew engineering was for her. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), during which she started working in the construction industry.

She also discovered a passion for coding, so after graduating she took on a role in digital engineering – using data to optimise a building’s design and construction. “I realised I enjoyed computer coding. I might have done a different type of engineering if I’d known that when I was in high school,” says Claire.

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When the construction industry went through a downturn, Claire went back to university to do a Master’s in Town Planning. “Being an engineer, the problem-solving skills I had and the understanding of how things are built were useful for planning,” she says.

During her Master’s she worked with different councils to gain experience until the opportunity to join a ‘digital transformation’ project management team came up. “Because of my engineering skills and background, I was able to get a position,” says Claire.

Being an engineer and a town planner, Claire’s unique skill set allows her to work on a smart city project from beginning to end. “I understand how to engage with the community, how to plan things or the legislation around that and how to build things,” says Claire.

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Claire is now doing her “dream job” at Lake Macquarie City Council, where she is the smart city lead. Part of her job can be very technical. She looks after the software of the sensors, making sure they run smoothly and that all sensors are well integrated. She also spends a lot of time networking with other people in the industry. Collaboration is a key aspect of smart cities, she explains. But what she loves most is engaging with the community to understand what people need.

Claire believes the number-one skill you need in engineering is problem-solving. “Problem-solving is one of the most valuable skills to have. In smart cities, you’re trying to solve community problems all the time,” she says.– Manuela Callari

Claire’s study and career pathway

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2020.

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