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Student story

Ben Thomson

20 July 2023

"I was able to gain a strong sense of resilience for anything thrown my way..."


Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Civil Engineering

Senior Transport Engineer, Ratio Consultants, Melbourne, Australia

As a Senior Transport Engineer, what kind of projects do you get to work on?

I’ve had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the industry and engage with my colleagues in traffic and transport engineering.

I am primarily involved in the initial planning and design of developments. Particularly we are involved in the seeking of planning permits for new developments across urban centres and greenfield development, through to strategic transport planning. More recently, I have been heavily involved in Greenfield Subdivisions, Green Travel Planning, and Construction Traffic Management over the past two years.

What’s the most interesting part of that?

I find the planning side of project development a key opportunity to shape transportation for our towns, suburbs, and cities. By getting in at the paper level, the ability to flex and change for delivery of alternate transport modes, you can achieve balanced outcomes for the future transport network.

And you’re also a member with the Institute of Transportation Engineers – Australia and New Zealand (ITE-ANZ) and the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) Outlook Young Professional Committee. What comes with those roles?

Industry bodies, particularly those that have young professional branches, offer fantastic opportunities to network with peers across the engineering and wider development sector. Being involved at a committee level means getting involved with event planning and other skillsets that might be harder to come by in your day-to-day work.

In particular, opportunities through the ITE-ANZ  has allowed me to mentor Civil Engineering undergraduates through Monash University’s mentoring programme and directly contribute to networking and learning opportunities for both undergrads and young professionals as they transition into their careers.

So how did first you decide to study Civil Engineering?

My degree interest came from Lego and Roadworks as a kid. Watching the motorway creep north from Albany in Auckland, first to Orewa, then to Puhoi and now onto Warkworth and Wellsford, I’ve always had a keen interest in how we get around. Now as an adult, I find Transport Engineering the way in which I can combine my expertise in a career field, with the passion for supporting people’s ability to move around.

What was it like studying at UC, coming from Northland?

The University of Canterbury offered a true campus-style lifestyle and felt like a better fit for me for my university experience. UC has given me lifelong friendships, a sound learning base for my career, and enabled my career progression to take off.

What was one of your biggest learning experiences?

Christchurch was hit by the earthquake at the start of my second year of study. It certainly shook up the way in which I would be learning, with a coursework and cultural change in how we approach Civil Engineering occurring throughout my degree. Unfortunately, I initially failed some of my course papers, and this meant I’d be unable to follow my classmates to graduation.

However, that initial stumble and my ongoing passion for my industry have enabled me to achieve some of my proudest personal and professional goals since leaving UC (and only 6 months later than I’d planned).

Did those hardships help prepare you for the wider world?

I was able to gain a strong sense of resilience for anything thrown my way. Emerging transport professionals should know there’s no one fail-safe strategy for plotting out your career trajectory. Given the earthquake in Christchurch, failed papers, and then lockdowns here in Melbourne, resilience has been a key virtue for my career pathway so far.

How do you plan to take that adaptability into your career goals?

I am looking to be a leader in balancing transport modes in my profession. And tackling entrenched habits for travelling by car is going to need resilience to see this goal through. While cars aren’t going anywhere, they don’t need to be the dominant in the transport network. This is particularly important as we have more people moving to urban centres, a changing climate, and a need to rethink movement of people now.

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