From her first days as an undergraduate, Jessica Kahl wanted more people to be able to succeed in the world of engineering.
When she started studying at CQUniversity, Kahl discovered two things: engineering is a rewarding career, and it provides a lot of opportunities.
It was also a field that she thought should be better promoted to women and girls.
“At the time, diversity was not exactly a big thing,” she told create.
“I ended up being the only female in my civil engineering cohort.”
She decided to do something about that, and in 2015, before she had even graduated, she founded Dream Big, an organisation devoted to empowering women to succeed in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — or STEAM.
Why STEAM? It’s because, Kahl said, it allows conversations to shift from being about male-dominated industries to 21st century skills that focus on best preparing the next generation of leaders for success.
“We found that females — girls in school — are very attracted to the arts and creative thinking,” Kahl explained.
“By running Australia’s first STEAM Day, which focused on 21st century skills, we were able to refocus a conversation which typically focuses on gender … to one which is about future skills.”
That approach puts the organisation’s focus firmly on the future of careers like engineering.
“How about we think about another 20 years from now … what skills are important in 2040,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required Dream Big to shift a lot of its activities online, including developing a podcast called STEAM Ahead.
“Providing something that was readily accessible and engaging, such as a podcast, was beneficial to reaching students,” Kahl said.
As well as these activities, Kahl is a project manager at utility Sunwater, where she creates and delivers economic projects and the company’s 20-year strategy for achieving water prosperity.
She has found her qualification as a Chartered engineer has been invaluable in her career.
“When I was looking at Chartered status, it was when I was originally a student at university. Becoming Chartered is an achievement that I always strived to do,” she said.
“I knew that my career pathway needed to have credibility, but also a differentiation that provided a competitive edge.”
She appreciates that Chartered engineers are recognised by industry, community and government as well-rounded professionals.
“When you’re in a workshop or a meeting and you contribute, I think being Chartered gives you influence.”
Tips for success
- Find yourself a number of mentors.
- Mentoring works both ways. With the guidance and support I’ve gained, I’m now able to give back to those emerging in their careers.
- Finding a mentor is not a linear process. When it feels like the right fit, it’ll give you the confidence and capability to push your thinking.
Interested in learning more about the Chartered credential? You may already have what it takes to become Chartered. Find out more here and start your pathway to Chartered today.