Kay Myers is a certified mechanical engineer with a degree in naval architecture, and is currently working for Serco as the construction and commissioning manager on Australia’s new icebreaker vessel. We chatted to her about kickstarting a STEM career – no matter what your ‘X’ is – and here’s what we learnt…
6 career lessons we learnt from Kay Myers
1. It’s OK to not know what you want to do – yep, even in Year 12!
In high school, Kay had zero clue what she wanted to study, so started searching for a degree that encompassed her favourite things – maths, physics and sailing.
“Somehow this ended up in naval architecture,” she says.
2. A STEM degree can take you around the world.
Before her current gig at Serco, Kay worked for 10 years at defence, security, and aerospace company BAE Systems and did some pretty awesome ship building and power station work in New Zealand, Spain and the UK (as well as Australia).
“I’ve really enjoyed being deployed to various locations!” she says. “In Spain I led a production team during the build of two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessels for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) – our prime asset for responding to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief throughout the region.”
3. Your position can change all the time – even within the same company!
Although Kay is currently leading the testing phase of the ship build project as Serco’s construction and commissioning manager, she will soon step into the role of mechanical engineering manager.
“When the vessel arrives in Hobart next year I will over-see the ongoing operation and maintenance of the ice-breaker,” she explains.
4. Big-picture goals are important.
Managing the day-to-day tasks that pop up during a ship build is obviously essential to the gig, but according to Kay so is focusing on the bigger picture goals or purpose behind a project.
“The Nuyina [icebreaker] is the centrepiece of the Australian Antarctic Program and will be one of the most advanced research and logistics ships in the Southern Ocean,” she says of her current build. “The focus is on ensuring that this state-of-the-art vessel is fully capable of meeting the research and operational needs required over its 30-year lifetime.”
5. Diversity in STEM is essential.
“Diversity should be present everywhere!” stresses Kay. “Seeing a perspective from all angles helps to get a better, more rounded result!”
6. There are loads of opportunities in Australia for those with STEM + ship building smarts
According to Kay, South Australia is particularly riddled with exciting career breaks for STEM professionals keen to help build and maintain ships.
“Naval shipbuilding in Adelaide with the Hunter Program will have many opportunities for upcoming graduates and apprentices over the coming decades,” she stresses. “It would be great to see this industry grow within Australia!”
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Author: Cassie Steel
As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.