From ‘undecided’ to engineer
3 May 2017
University of Waikato engineering graduate Morgan Fahey walked straight out of university and into a full-time job at Beca. The engineering technician is taking Wednesday afternoon off work to graduate.
It’s no surprise the chemical and biological engineering graduate has scored her dream job. Morgan received five scholarships during her time at the University of Waikato, was President of the Young Engineers Society and the student representative to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).
Morgan says her achievements don’t come down to being special or gifted, but simply working hard. “What you put in, is what you get out.” Her hard work was recognised during her final year when she was employed part-time at Beca, transitioning to full-time work in January this year.
Not bad for someone who had little idea of what she wanted to study when she left school. “All I knew is that I wanted to do something practical,” she says. She excelled at physics at Waikato Diocesan School and says it was only after visiting the dairy factory in Hautapu that it clicked, she wanted to be a part of getting things from ‘a’ to ‘b’. So she enrolled in Waikato’s engineering programme.
Rather than being taught abstract ideas, Morgan says she was taught ideas in practical contexts, helping her to form a better understanding of the subject. The support system offered by lecturers was also important. “The lecturers really care about the individuals and want to work with you,” she says. “If your work is slipping, they’ll let you know.” Morgan also credits her fellow students with helping her get through her degree. “We were all in it together!”
Morgan describes herself as a “people person” and says a common misconception about engineering is that it’s not a social discipline, “but engineering is very social” she says. “Starting from the first semester, we were all forming teams to get on top of the work. Rather than competing, we would work together.” She adds that this emphasis on collaboration and networking has also helped her work at Beca, which has consultancy as a core work element.
Morgan says there are also misconceptions around the types of people who pursue engineering, with many assuming that the typical engineer is male and not particularly creative. She’s quick to correct that old stereotype, saying “Engineering is for creative people, men and women. You need to be good at problem solving.”
According to IPENZ, women currently account for just 18% of engineering students in New Zealand. “I never thought I couldn’t do it because ‘that’s a boy’s profession and I’m a girl’,” Morgan says. “A lot of women think it’s a boring job, but it’s creative and suits those who consider themselves right-brained. If more women knew how social and creative engineering is, I don’t think there would be such a gender divide.” She adds that her new employer Beca has a good gender balance, noting that “it’s almost 50:50”.