A YARN WITH DAMON CHRISTENSEN
20-year-old Damon Christensen has recently finished up a 5-month Student Engineer placement with the Waterline Projects team at their Brisbane head office.
Studying Electrical Engineering with CQU in Rockhampton, and with a particular passion for power projects, Damon sought out a placement with a boutique engineering company seeking firsthand insight into a variety of different roles under the engineering banner. Damon shares some of his experiences from being a student engineer with Waterline and some of his biggest take-homes from his placement…
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ENGINEERING?
Two things that I’ve always enjoyed doing are the designing and problem-solving elements. I like being given a problem that needs a resolution and having to creatively solve it by a series of processes. I am most passionate about designing things that will end up being brought to life.
WHAT MADE YOU SEEK OUT WATERLINE AS YOUR INDUSTRY PLACEMENT?
I was interested in seeking out a smaller company. Mostly students are keen to start with an international firm because of the reputation. But I was really determined to get experience with a smaller office environment where I could get a lot of hands-on work experience across a lot of different engineering areas. I was really determined to try my hand at a variety of things and get a really broad experience base and I wanted to be able to feel like I could really contribute to the team. It was also of interest to me because Waterline specialise in power projects, which was a field that I was particularly curious about at the time.
HOW HAS BEING IN THE CLASSROOM DIFFERED TO BEING ABLE TO LEARN DIRECTLY FROM THE WORKPLACE?
It’s extremely different to the classroom environment! In the placement I’ve completed at Waterline, it’s about applying the knowledge that you’ve obtained in the classroom and turning that into real-life, practical, situations. There’s been so many new situations, particularly out on site, where I’ve had to think on my feet and put that knowledge into practice. You can finally understand why you’ve learnt it!
WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT YOURSELF PERSONALLY THROUGHOUT YOUR TIME AT WATERLINE PROJECTS?
One of the things that I’ve found most valuable was being able to overcome my nerves. Before this placement, I didn’t have the confidence to directly address clients or vendors. I’ve since found that if I prepare properly and get the right information from the right people in a professional manner, I am a much more confident communicator than I was before. I credit that to being put in situations where I had no option but to just give it a go. Being thrown in the deep end was really valuable to me. I wouldn’t have had that experience otherwise.
HAS YOUR PLACEMENT HAD AN IMPACT ON YOUR FUTURE CAREER DIRECTION?
My time at Waterline has given me a newfound motivation to go back to university. With the hindsight of having experienced many different facets of engineering, I feel it is going to be exciting to be studying things with the added benefit of knowing how they are actually applied. I can really start to hone in on what I want to do now with my career and have more direction. I wouldn’t have really known that if I hadn’t have had the experience here- it’s certainly opened up my eyes!
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER STUDENTS SEEKING OUT A SIMILAR LEARNING EXPERIENCE?
Be ready to take every opportunity you get as a chance to learn. Sometimes it’s easy to just fall into the routine of doing what someone else tells you without really thinking about why you are being asked to do what you are doing. The most important thing I’ve taken away is to stop and ask yourself, “Why is this task important in the big scheme of things?” By thinking of the bigger picture and understanding what task you’re doing and how it relates to the rest of the project certainly helped me to understand a lot better!
WHAT PROJECTS DID YOU GET TO BE PART OF?
I got to help roll out a new drawing management system at a high-profile Central Queensland mine, as part of a team that undertook a mammoth project of digitising 23,000 engineering drawings. I also worked alongside Waterline’s Project Engineer, completing power and protection studies and engineering design for a new seawater intake facility as part of a remote Reverse Osmosis water treatment plant. I enjoyed doing some electrical back drafting and data improvement of engineering drawings for Snowy Hydro- Australia’s largest renewable energy provider. I got to do power modelling and design for a ship unloader project which saw me working onsite at the Port of Brisbane. Lots of different things! But one of the most memorable was being asked to rebuilt the office amplifier to get the Friday Blues blasting in the office again!
DESCRIBE THE TEAM ENVIRONMENT YOU EXPERIENCED AT WATERLINE?
I would definitely recommend a placement at Waterline to other students. With any new workplace, you never really know what you’re going to walk into so it’s just an added bonus that the team were so welcoming of me and really let me get in there and give things a go. Here, I’ve learnt that you can be serious in your work and get your work done but you can also enjoy the work that you do because of the culture of the team. It’s possible to have fun while still working hard. The Waterline team really take the time to spend with you and show you the different processes. I found everyone to be very friendly and helpful. It’s certainly evident that they’ve spent time hiring people to fit their workplace culture. Everyone here works easily together. It’s one of the best workplaces that I’ve ever been in in terms of workplace culture. Because of that, it’s given me great insight also into how to work within a team environment. That’s the most important aspect in my opinion. You can have all of the knowledge in the world but you have to know how to work well with others and get the best out of the team and communicate well. It’s been a great team to have tried all of that out with!
There are some student Engineers who are naturally curious, self-motivated and mature beyond their years of experience. Damon was one such student, bringing with him an infectious level of energy and passion for learning. When we see students like Damon immerse themselves in real-world engineering problems within our high-performing team environment, we are reminded how important Waterline’s goal is to provide a platform for the next generation of engineers. We appreciate the ongoing relationship with educational institutions such as CQU and we wish Damon all the best on his career path.
Steven Cheyne, Strategic Engagement, Waterline Projects