CQUni knows Alana

Alana McDonald

Alana McDonald
Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)

Prior to studying at CQUni, I’d done a Bachelor of Science and my intent had been to go on and study medicine. For a year I worked in the science field and then went travelling abroad. It was a bit of an eye opener. I realised I probably wasn’t the best at the biological aspect and had always really enjoyed maths and problem solving. I realised what a difference engineers can make in the world, so came back and decided to study engineering. Engineers, quite literally, can do anything and everything. You might be building a road, working on a water pipeline, creating a dam, or, [work in] waste and sanitation, so people have access to toilets and safe drinking water.

I chose CQUni for two reasons: It has a good reputation within the industry for producing engineers that have a practical outlook. It’s not just a theory, book-smart degree: It has a really good reputation for producing engineers that are able to think on their feet and solve real-world problems. Theory is great, but if you’re not able to actually apply that within an industry setting, it can be less useful. Before graduating, I secured a position with a tier one engineering company. I was applying for graduate positions (it’s quite a competitive process) and initially I was intimidated a bit by the reputations of other unis, but a lot of my colleagues have come from CQUni.

The course is practical in the sense that you apply the theory you’re learning. So, in the geotechnical aspect, we did practical geotechnical placement that I literally use in the field every day. Every semester, or every second semester, we participated in prac for a week or two in Rockhampton. I really liked the practical, hands-on problem-solving. Something was put in front of you and it felt like you were getting somewhere.

The second thing… it was important that I could study online. I was working full-time while I was studying, so I wanted that flexibility to study in your own time, as opposed to having to do a lecture at midday on a Wednesday, or whatever. The best thing about studying at CQUni for me was studying flexibly. People think when you study online it’s isolating. I found it was the complete opposite experience. There are a lot of like-minded people that are working full time or have families, and we all want to help each other when we are running into difficulties. I really enjoyed that aspect. I would thoroughly recommend for people to study online if they’ve got families or full-time work.

I had a really positive experience with the lecturing staff — quick responses to emails and very relatable if you’re having a problem or drama. The lecturers were of a high calibre. Studying online, sometimes there’s a bit of a disassociation. But when we went up for pracs, they put a lot of energy into students studying online so that you don’t fall behind. All the lecturers were really accommodating. Quite often they were available to have chats on a phone call; if you’re struggling with something, it’s nice to know that you could contact them directly. A lot of them had life experience before going into the lecturing field. Again, they were able to relate what they were teaching students to what was actually the profession outside of university.

Before starting my final year studies, I went on a design summit with Engineers Without Borders. That was a real eye opener and gave me some marvellous experiences that I’ll never forget. In offering this program, they’re encouraging students to understand all the aspects that the engineering degree has to offer, how to be socially sustainable and apply engineering skills, not just in a developed sense.

I completed a two-year graduate program with LendLease on one of their road projects in Brisbane. The project is a lane expansion, from two lanes each direction to three, that basically links the airport of Brisbane to the city centre hub. The length of the project is about five kilometres and it’s worth roughly $450 million. I’m now in my third year working for them as a site engineer. When you’re on site, it’s [about] thinking on your feet, dealing with problems as they come up and resolving them.

In the last decade, the industry’s really changed and there’s been a strong presence of females coming through – we definitely need to get more females interested. By studying engineering through CQUni, the door is open for me to be able to work within a very male-dominated industry. I’ve had a very positive experience and would definitely recommend it to others.

At the moment, I work on the construction side of engineering... I enjoy what I do. In the future, I wouldn’t mind doing a little bit of volunteer work somewhere overseas. I guess, bigger picture being a project manager; essentially, running a major construct project, would be my major ambition.

I feel the university has equipped me to get there. I would definitely recommend studying engineering at CQUni.