Chartered engineer Marnie Coates CPEng has seen a lot of the water industry, but she continues to find new ways to make a real difference in her community.
Marnie Coates has been working in the water industry for more than two decades — even longer than she has been a qualified engineer. She began her career at a subsidiary of Hunter Water while a first year student at the University of Newcastle.
“It’s an industry scholarship scheme where you’re essentially working part-time for an industry partner all the way through your degree,” she told create.
“I felt like I was already an engineer, and I was doing all of this amazing, interesting work even while I was still at uni. And I had this huge breadth of amazing industry experience to call on right at my fingertips.”
The company won her loyalty as a result; in 2022, she’s still there, though the business is now independent and renamed Hunter H2O. It has permitted her to see her industry through a broad variety of perspectives, from process design to operation support to construction management.
“And now my role is mostly in project management,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever done the same thing twice throughout my career.”
Coates is a Chartered engineer, and she said she pursued the qualification because it matched the goal-oriented direction of her career.
“As soon as I knew that the option to become Chartered was available to me, I started almost immediately pursuing that,” she said.
“I’d only been graduated for a few years at that point, and I guess what appealed to me was that recognition within my organisation, but also the broader industry.”
Among Coates’s proudest achievements are a series of upgrades during 2016 at wastewater treatment plants in the Newcastle area. Her accomplishments were so impressive that they were recognised by an Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia award for innovation.
“They knew that the concrete in their inlet works had degraded to the point where it was dangerous, and so they had this plan to replace the whole inlet works,” Coates said.
“I came on board on that project and was able to come up with a really innovative solution that meant not knocking down and rebuilding the inlet works, but actually having a series of 17 carefully timed shutdowns, where we had crews come in and repair the existing inlet works.”
Her creativity saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
“I just approach everything with a lot of energy and honesty,” she said. “I don’t think it matters whether that’s around a performance issue in a plant or a behavioural mindset in a person. You need to talk it out and get to the bottom of it and figure out how to change it or fix it.”
Marnie Coates’s tips for success:
- Stick with it — don’t lose heart if your early career is challenging.
- Ask for support when you need it, because no one will know that you’re struggling otherwise.
- Focus on the things that you’re passionate about or have a flair for.
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.
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