Engineers share what 2021 taught them — and what they hope the next year brings

To mark the end of 2021, three Australian engineers consider the year that was and look to the future.

The pandemic. Climate change. The ‘great resignation’. There’s a lot happening in the world to be anxious about. But for Engineers Australia member and Chartered engineer Belinda Virant  MIEAus CPEng, 2021 was a time of personal and professional transformation.

engineers in 2022 Belinda Virant | bellpeople
Belinda Virant MIEAust CPEng

What did 2021 teach you?

To make the most of what you have. You can choose to reflect on what you are missing out on, but I believe you have one shot at life, so you have to make the most of it.

The lockdown period for me was a time to reflect, and spend more quality time with my husband and children and toast marshmallows over the fire in our backyard. It reminded me to be thankful, think of others and to be kind. It also taught me that we can do things differently, and this can bring great benefits.

What was your greatest professional moment or achievement in 2021?

It was my successful appointment as the Managing Director for Mobility in Australia for Arcadis.  Having worked for Arcadis for 20 years this year, the opportunity to lead such a fantastic team and business that I’m incredibly passionate and proud of is a true honour.

As part of this role, I have been given the opportunity to lead the team through a transformation into global business areas, enabling us to better leverage international best practice for our key clients.

What are you optimistic about for 2022?

It is a time of opportunity and a time to embrace change in our industry for the better. We can truly harness digital engineering to deliver our projects, we can measure value through whole of life solutions, and we can embed sustainability in all that we do.

In the past we have talked about all these things, but in 2022 I’m optimistic that we will bring this to life.

Another core area I am passionate about is culture, and I hope through initiatives such as the draft Culture Standard for the Australian construction industry, we start to see the evolution of our industry culture that is inclusive, flexible, based on collaboration and trust, that will attract and retain talent and diversity.

Belinda Virant  MIEAus CPEng

Graduate Engineers Australia member Hardy Hu GradIEAust is ready to embark on his engineering career and sees infrastructure investment as critical.

engineers in 2022 Hardy | bellpeople
Hardy Hu GradIEAust.

What did 2021 teach you?

The year taught me to appreciate things that I previously took for granted. This includes small things, such as the opportunity to meet with project groups in person or deliver a live presentation in front of a real audience as opposed to a screen.

I also learned to let go of things that I cannot control. It is important for our wellbeing to focus on the only thing that we can control, which is ourselves, and make the best out of every situation.

Lastly, 2021 taught me that we are much more resilient than we thought. Most people have now adapted to remote learning and working, which we would never have thought possible previously. What it shows is our strong resilience to overcome challenges that we have the potential to face but may think otherwise.

What was your greatest professional moment or achievement in 2021?

My greatest professional achievement of the year has to be finishing my Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Civil and Structural degree at the University of Adelaide.

I then continued my employment with WSP. I started with an undergraduate internship and have now joined the company as a graduate structural engineer. After hundreds of course work submissions and late-night study sessions, I can finally call myself an engineer!

Another great professional moment was completing my role as an Engineers Australia student ambassador and continuing my volunteering journey. I have grown so much personally and professionally from my role as a student ambassador. I am looking forward to continuing paying back to Engineers Australia by connecting early professionals to the organisation.

What are you optimistic about for 2022?

From the point of view of an early professional, the government is investing significantly in infrastructure projects, which creates more career opportunities.

Compared with previous years, more jobs will be created in the engineering sector, which opens up doors for people entering the workforce. The provision of smart and sustainable infrastructure in the country also boosts economic productivity and improves the lives of people.

The ease of international border restrictions means that international students will soon be welcomed back to Australia, which will see the tertiary students community prosper again. For many people, being able to travel overseas allows family and friends to reunite.

Hardy Hu GradIEAust

Engineers Australia Fellow and Chartered engineer Professor Shan Kumar FIEAust CPEng, Principal Engineer at Sheldon Consulting Engineers, told create that COVID-19 continues to provide learning opportunities.

engineers in 2022 shan e1639596078186 | bellpeople
Professor Shan Kumar FIEAust CPEng.

What did 2021 teach you?

As engineers we take lessons learnt very seriously in order to improve our service to the community. The world has seen engineering activities, especially construction, as essential services to keep the economic activities ticking.

As the National President of the Concrete Institute of Australia from 2019 to 2021, I went with the slogan “Concrete is stronger than COVID” to boost the morale of our team and put in place strategies to effectively service our members.

What was your greatest professional moment or achievement in 2021?

My greatest professional achievement was receiving Professor status recognition from Swinburne University of Technology for leading the Concrete Institute of Australia as its National President. That was a career high.

What are you optimistic about for 2022?

The lessons learnt from the pandemic will with no doubt make us smart and strong in 2022. Our future will be bleak without innovations and smart technology. As a passionate innovator (Engineers Australia named me one of the most innovative Engineers in 2017) my message to engineers is: innovation is our future. Innovation must not just be on paper, it must be implemented successfully.

Simple, smart and safe solutions towards achieving zero carbon solutions are our future.

With appropriate research, development and implementation, engineers can achieve this.



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