Felicity Amy Harrison
Environmental Engineer, GHD
Your career will never go to plan!
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I clean up the environment from contamination using innovative solutions, and design ways to prevent future contamination from ever happening again!
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I have always been passionate about the environment. I loved being outdoors, and as a girl I would get really upset when I would see people litter or hear about environmental disasters on the news. When I was 14 I got a weeks' work experience at Chevron, on one of their remote oil fields in North West Australia. I was able to get a foot in the door through my Dad, who worked as a Project Manager there. I shadowed a team of two women on site: one a botanist, the other an environmental scientist. That was my first introduction to women in STEM- and my world opened up! I didn't realise that I could work within a big oil company to make the right decisions on behalf of the environment, and influence profound change. I saw this first hand when the botanist was mapping sensitive ecosystems, and redesigned a pipeline around a rare plant!
On advice from this botanist, I chose to study Environmental Engineering. She advised that this degree could open more doors for me, and I can pivot with this degree more readily in a changing world. Her advice has proven to be very correct!
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
In 2014, when I was only 23, I co wrote guidelines that are now used and accepted at a national level. These guidelines are used to estimate how much money big oil companies need to set aside to clean up with a worst case scenario oil spill. Having these guidelines make sure that pollution is cleaned up right away, and that it wont bankrupt a company.
To write these guidelines, I needed to collaborate with dozens of people in the oil and gas industry, calculate how much money it would cost to clean up a number of different scenarios of oil spills, and ask many, many questions! These all play to my strengths of communication, maths and writing. In short: this work was more tailored for my 'soft skills' than my engineering expertise. Engineering is not always maths, spreadsheets, drawings and numbers- it can also mean: talking to people, negotiating, influencing and communicating big ideas!
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I love feeling like I am really making a difference in the world. Even when I may be frustrated over a document crashing, or having to speak to three different people about a tiny detail in a report, I can always 'zoom out' to see the bigger picture, and why the work that I am doing is so important to the greater community, the environment and future generations to come.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
Your career will never go to plan! I originally wanted to work in decommissioning offshore platforms, but I now find myself remediating legacy landfills, on top of influencing sustainability practices within my company. That said: my goal has never wavered. My mission statement has always been broad: 'to clean up, protect, and future proof the environment'. Despite not working in decommissioning offshore platforms - I am still living my mission statement in the work that I do.
INSPO / FUN FACT
Try to live every day like Elle Woods after Warner told her that she wasn't smart enough for law school.