Jessica Dennien

Where it all began

I was born in a small town in Victoria and moved to Gladstone, Queensland, with my parents when I was three years old. Growing up my passions were always within the arts; painting, sculpture, drama, dance, graphic design, information technology. I probably don’t sound like much of an engineer, do I?

At the start of grade 12, at a parent teacher interview, my graphics teacher told my mum and I that I would make a fantastic engineer. Given that I could do an engineering degree in Gladstone without having to move out from home and engineers generally make a good living, I went for it.

Community pride

For my 20th birthday I went on a holiday to the United Kingdom and Europe. Within the four weeks I was there, I traveled to 11 different countries where I was filled with inspiration by the grand buildings, beautiful parklands and spaces that felt like you could sit in them for hours. This trip cemented in my mind that civil engineers not only created useful things, but also beautiful things. It was the parks with architectural elements and the spaces that took advantage of different views to enhance the natural beauty of an area. that got the most use. There were so many locations where driving on a road was an experience with the beautiful roadsides and cobblestone pavements.

Growing up in Gladstone, I was always one of the few people around me that noticed the beauty surrounding the entire region. The industry at night lighting the landscape like fairy lights and the beautiful landscapes from pristine beaches to mountainous bushland and secret waterholes.

It was during my trip to Europe that I decided that I wanted to combine my passion for the arts with my engineering skill and create beautiful pieces of infrastructure in Gladstone to improve my community and draw attention to its beauty that has been so easily missed in the past.

Getting to where I am now

The engineering degree I enrolled into at CQUniversity was a co-operative degree that included two semesters of industry work placements.

In my second year of university, I was successful in obtaining a scholarship through Gladstone Regional Council. The scholarship included monetary benefits each semester and in return I worked for Council for my industry co-op placements, vocational periods and for a 12-month graduate program.

I started working for Council as a student in 2012 before becoming a graduate in 2015. In 2016 I moved up to being a design engineer and have now been working for Council for eight years. During this time I took 6 month maternity leave in 2018 to bond with my daughter and my family and I are now thriving balancing my career with family life.

Loving my career path

My workdays generally consist of reviewing customer requests for infrastructure, completing calculations/spreadsheets for various design criteria and making decisions regarding the outcomes for various infrastructure.

One of my most recent projects was improving an open channel drain. The original scope was to line the base of the channel with concrete to prevent erosion. I identified that this could pose a safety risk to the community because a footpath ran along the top of the drain. As an alternative, I suggested that rock protection be installed to slow the water velocity and the banks of the channel be planted with specified plants to prevent ongoing mowing requirements and create a barrier between the stormwater and the footpath.

I’m particularly proud of this project because not only will public safety be improved but by planting out the banks of the channel, the stormwater quality will be improved, and the public amenity will go from a barren area to a beautiful vegetated space.

The thing I love most about my job is creating physical things that improve my community. As I have lived in Gladstone for most of my life, I am very passionate about my region and about constantly improving it. There is nothing more fulfilling than standing back after a project is finished and seeing your creation being used by the community.

Advice to young women

Choose a career that you’ll enjoy! You spend most of your life working, so you might as well make sure you’re enjoying that time. Make sure you leave yourself time to do other things you love like hobbies and/or spending time with family – Life is there to be lived!

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t have it all. I’ve met many women in my career that have been nervous about having children or have put it off because they wanted to focus on their career and didn’t believe they could do both – I was one of those women. If you want to, you can manage a career and a family! You CAN have it all!