Heather Lord Knight
Senior Engineering Manager
Job Title: Senior Network Engineer
Pronouns: She / Her / Hers / Herself
Quiz Results: Providing a Service, Regulating, Educating
I always loved the sciences. I love doing experiments and finding out what's going to happen. I enjoyed exploring what would happen] if I mix these two things together. I also love the arts, the creative side of things. Initially in high school I actually had never heard of engineering before. Literally towards the end, when we were about to pick university courses, my friend said ‘Oh, hey, maybe have a look at engineering’. So I looked at it, I just did a Google search and after some reading thought this sounds interesting.
The funny thing for me was what kind of actual jobs would that lead to? Because it's so broad. You've got your environmental infrastructure, chemical and many other types of engineering paths. So I thought I’d do the broadest subject I could find, which was at RMIT at the time, and it covered everything from software, to biomedical, electronic to electrical. I had about a year to explore the fundamentals which would help me focus on a specific area as I progress through my degree.
My studies led me down to the electronic and communication area. I loved doing little PCB boards and learning how communication works. And to me initially it just seems like magic because you don't see it, it just happens. It connects everyone globally. Which is amazing.
After finishing my degree in engineering I initially explored consulting before deciding it wasn’t for me. That’s when I decided that I missed more pure engineering and applied for Telstra. Today I am a Senior Network Engineer for Telstra.
My first job out of University was actually at a consulting firm, and it was not exactly engineering. I just thought, what does the professional world look like? This was a huge learning curve, and ultimately I decided it wasn't for me. I missed engineering.
So that's how I ended up at Telstra. It was the industry I wanted to get into and I learnt a lot about how networks are built and evolve. My job is so varied now as it doesn’t just involve the (fun) technical stuff, but also there are other things that needs to be considered like commercial impacts, products, the finance, and how to bring everything together. This is another huge learning curve and I'm still learning a lot today.
The role that I went into at Telstra was capacity planning. In this role I needed to make sure that there are enough links in different areas around different parts of Australia. I needed to make sure that we were putting our money in the right places where the customers actually wanted and needed them. This is to make sure we're investing in our technology, in the right places as well. Another instance I had an opportunity to contribute to a big core network upgrade which helped transition from old technology to what we use today.
It was this time where I actually fell in love with the data analysis space, which led me to my current role now. My position now basically mashes everything together in data solution engineering - a bit more of a shift towards the data side now. But having that sort of subject matter expertise from the network side really helps me because I can look at what's useful and what's not useful.
We asked Fithriyah where she found creativity in her work:
Absolutely everywhere. There's a part of my work where we would design data solutions. For example, if a team has come up with a product, we need to understand the drivers and if the product's going to be successful.
To do this we could design a test to see if the product is going to go well or not. And you need to be thinking about different things that make the product successful or not. It could [also] be a technical thing that we need to solve for, but it could also be just the way the customer interface works.
I think that's where the creative side would come in. It's all about problem solving when you're creating that solution. But when you're putting on the project management hat and you've got work that needs to be done, but then you don't have people to do it. Then you're going to have to be creative. And think ‘How can I solve that? Can we borrow someone from a different area’ that sort of thing. So, yeah my role is constantly trying to figure things out.
For me, how I chose where to work or who to work with has changed over time. So when I started, it was more, where can I get the most experience from. What can I get the most exposure from. I think in hindsight, going with a smaller to medium sized company would have been better, because you probably have been given more responsibilities.
That said, with more established larger companies, they do have better programs. So you get trained a bit more and you get a buddy and all that. It's a bit more structured. So think about what's important to you personally. For me, I do appreciate structure.
One piece of advice that I now would have appreciated when I was starting out, is going with a leader that you connect with instead of picking things by just the job description. Because working with someone you connect with they'll be advocating for you instead of just telling you what to do, and that's a huge difference. You want to go to work every day, wanting to talk to your leader.
Put your feet out and test the waters. Don't be scared of failures because that's what's going to teach you the most in life. One of my biggest pet peeves in high school was that math is seen as a scary and intimidating thing, just like engineering when in reality it’s just like when you try something new for the first time. It might be scary and intimidating at first but once you start and have a go it gets easier and easier and before you know it it’s not so scary anymore. Ask all the questions and practice vocalising your thinking. No given job is truly solo - you always have to work with people. Having a collaborative and open mindset is important especially in helping navigate through challenges.
Find yourself sponsors/ mentors/ managers and support network who would vouch for you when you’re not around. People who would put you forward for opportunities to grow, stretch you and give you honest feedback. Having a support network is so important not just at work but in life. They can help you put things into perspective. This personally have led me to a leadership opportunity in an important field of work I love and really believe in making a huge impact. Especially as we are moving towards a highly automated world, using data and AI, where diversity in representation really matters as it is literally building the world we live in.
My advice is that it's okay to be scared and anxious about starting or trying something new because that means you care. Just give [everything] a go. The worst that can happen is you don't like it, you move on and then the best that could happen is you find something you love. And if that's the case aren't you glad that you tried it!