Updating Results

Hydro Tasmania

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Pippa Williams

The biggest danger in society is the ‘you wouldn’t understand’ factor, it’s important to acknowledge that if someone isn’t an expert that doesn’t mean they can’t understand something if they want to.

What's your background?

I grew up in Adelaide and was always interested in the environment, I was actively involved in environmental groups in school.

As I was approaching year 12 I didn’t know what I wanted to study or pursue as a career. I was looking at environmental science, in discussions with my dad, he asked why I would spend my career researching problems when I could have a career solving problems. He told me engineering would be a great career as I was good at maths. A friend mentioned a new degree called ‘Sustainable Energy Engineering’ which I thought would give me the chance to stand out and make a difference.

In my first year of study, I applied for a scholarship with the Australian Power Institute. They were offering a significant amount of work experience and a small amount of money. I gained work experience at ElectraNet and AGL and realised that experience was far more valuable than money.

I was successful in my application to the Hydro Tasmania Graduate Program as a Mechanical Engineer and so I moved to Tasmania. I thought the move would be really tricky, however, there were a number of other graduates in my cohort who also moved to Tasmania for the opportunity. We formed a great support network and some of them are still my best friends today. The weather isn’t as cold as you think either!

I’ve been at Hydro Tasmania for over 9 years now, I spent 5 years as a Mechanical Engineer and I’m now working in the market analysis space which is really exciting stuff!

What's your job about?

The big project I’m working on at the moment is writing a new optimisation program that mathematically optimises how Hydro Tasmania run the different power stations across Tasmania.

On a day to day basis, I am gathering information and data to input into the model. I conjure up different ideas and experiment with different ways to capture complex parts of the system.

The most fascinating and interesting aspect of my role is taking into consideration the real-world complex constraints of a remote power station and creating a mathematical equation the model I’m developing can understand. It’s really fun to take something that is weird and complex and figure out how to turn it into something a computer can understand.  I regularly test the tool with stakeholders to ensure it works for their requirements.

The energy industry is changing rapidly so it’s important I stay up to date with the latest news or disruptions. I love the speed of change and need to adapt and learn new ways to do things.

Did you always know you wanted to work in this field?

Throughout school, I had all sorts of ideas about what career I wanted. I knew my purpose was to help people and I wanted to be intellectually stimulated while doing it. Towards the end of school, I became passionate about the environment and I’ve ended up in a career that is at the forefront of the changes helping to stop climate change.

In my time at Hydro I’ve had several really different and diverse roles, it’s great to know their opportunities to progress in different areas.

What is most rewarding about your job?

There are two parts I find rewarding:

  • I feel like I can make a meaningful difference in making the best use of our flexible hydropower stations to balance new wind and solar energy. I am personally contributing to speeding up Australia’s response to climate change and that is exciting!
  • Taking something really complicated and helping to make it simpler so people can understand. The biggest danger in society is the ‘you wouldn’t understand’ factor, it’s important to acknowledge that if someone isn’t an expert that doesn’t mean they can’t understand something if they want to.

What were some of the challenges you faced in getting to where you are now?

It’s challenging to transition from a really well-defined world (uni) to a world where you may never know when you’ve done enough or what ‘good’ looks like. Uni is an environment where you are given a specific task with all the information you need and at the end, someone will mark if you were right or wrong. In the real world, someone will come to you with a vague idea they want you to investigate, but they don’t really know much about the idea and at the start, you might have no idea where to even start.

I spent 5 years as a Mechanical Engineer, sometimes working long days away and only being home for the weekend. It took me some time to build up my confidence on site. It was made easier with everyone at Hydro Tasmania making me feel at home. They never made me feel like a ‘woman engineer’, I was always just an ‘engineer’ which is different to what I’ve experienced in other engineering workplaces.

It was personally challenging finding out that I wanted a more theoretical career than mechanical engineering because I was trying to live up to peoples expectations. I am really grateful to the mentors I had who helped steer me into different opportunities that were a better fit for me.

3 pieces of advice for you would give women who want to work in your industry?

  • Once you’ve decided you want to work in a particular industry, start doing things that show you want to work in that industry. When you apply for a graduate position there are hundreds of other grads applying for the same role and you need to stand out as someone that has a genuine interest. So pick subjects in the area, seek out work experience/volunteering opportunities, personally research the industry, apply for scholarships. Do things that show you’re really fascinated!
  • Build your network! If you know or can establish a relationship with someone at a company you want to work for, get to know them and learn about the company. Company culture is so important for your experience, growth, learning and development.
  • Just do it! If you try something and it doesn’t work, try something different. There have been so many situations I’ve been in where I’ve been different to those around me and I’ve found at Hydro Tasmania I’ve never felt different. I’ve been supported and respected.