Engineering has taken Martina Cusack all over the world – from Ireland to Thailand, Sudan to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka to Sydney and now Tatura.
Her journey began as a civil engineer, before studying project management and gaining her Masters in Water Resource Management with Melbourne University.
Now the Regional Customer Service Manager East and Dams Sponsor at Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW), Martina told her story to the next generation at a panel of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in Shepparton last month.
The night, organized by the Better Together Alliance, was aimed at helping young women gain insight into STEM careers and opportunities. Students from McGuire College, Mooroopna Secondary College, Shepparton High School and Wanganui Park Secondary College attended the night.
Martina said it was important for young women to feel encouraged when going into STEM fields.
"For much of my career, I was the first female engineer in the company. I worked twice as hard to prove myself and gain respect and credibility. But this has changed, with many women now involved in STEM disciplines," she said.
"It’s about engaging women and showing them they can be part of STEM – I think it’s easier now and I hope people like me have helped it get there.
"The years working out in the field and on construction sites knocks the corners off you and gives you great experience. It’s helped me a lot with working with the guys in the field."
Martina grew up in Ireland and realised engineering would give her skills sought after across the world.
"I think it was a little bit of the rebel in me – I’m the first technical person in my family," she said.
"I always loved maths and science; I didn’t have much time for language or the humanities at school. I always wanted to travel, and having technical skills is a great way to travel the world."
Eventually, Martina moved to Sydney, where her sister lives, and had a dream of working in outback Australia. She ended up in Shepparton, but that "wasn’t quite outback enough".
"I believe cities are the same anywhere in the world – what defines a country is its culture, and what exists outside the big cities" she said.
Martina has been at GMW for more than six years and travels across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District, visiting the sites and meeting with staff, customers and stakeholders.
She works with staff and customers to make sure policy reflects the best benefit for all, and maintains consistency across the GMID to ensure GMW is at the forefront of the dams industry.
"I’m there to support my staff and customers, to make it easier for them to get their work done," she said.
Martina said it was an honour to speak at the Better Together Alliance STEM night, and she hoped she inspired the next generation.
"You will be what you want to be – if you want to be a doctor, an engineer, an astronaut, a CEO or Prime Minister, you’ll get there," she said.
"Be curious and ask lots of questions, believe in yourself and take all opportunities. Most of all - love what you do!"