Powering Through Industry Stereotypes and Leading by Example

According to Heather Hurree, Wind Technical Manager, Power for Victoria and South Australia, “Public perception is still skewed and requires change. Yes, engineering is male-dominated — but if you’re genuinely interested, you should go for it.”

Heather joined WSP in November 2017 and currently leads a team of six bright, young and talented wind engineers. “They are vibrant and full of excitement, just as I was when I first started in the industry,” she says. As a leader, Heather values patience, active listening, and empathy as the fundamental skills needed to better support her team and relate to clients.

 

We recently sat down with Heather who confessed that while she’s been working in the wind sector since 2008, a career in wind engineering wasn’t her original plan. Born and raised in Mauritius, she first decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics engineering, learning about robotics and programming. And, despite being warned about a lack of diversity in engineering by the school’s faculty, Heather remained focused.

 

“When I applied for mechatronics, my entourage asked me if that’s what I really wanted to do, because the industry is so male dominated,” she says. “And yes, for the first four years, that was absolutely true – I was the only female in the entire mechanical department.”

 

Undeterred, Heather completed her bachelor’s degree and with the same drive and momentum, she pursued a master’s degree at the University of Melbourne. It was there that she changed direction to study renewables for developing countries with a plan to pursue solar, when an unexpected opportunity presented itself.

 

“During one of my practice interviews, I was offered a job on the spot with a wind consultancy firm. Once I started in wind, I realised how complex and challenging this discipline was, and I immediately loved it. The industry was young and everyone was so excited about making a difference. I was surrounded by like-minded engineers and discovered just how inclusive wind is. We’re all working on the same goal—to make the industry better for the future.”

 

When asked what attracted her to WSP, Heather says “Without a doubt, it was the strong female leaders such as Heidi Sick and Natalie Lukies, along with a high number of female engineers in the team, which was refreshing. I feel the culture of the team is diverse and empowering and working in a more gender-balanced environment is a definite plus for me.”

 

Heather’s vision is to bring more balance in the industry, showing women that engineering is a field that anyone can pursue.

 

“Initiatives such as a half-day workshop, placing students in an engineering situation where they must problem-solve and introduce engineering earlier on can influence and re-shape students’ perspectives.

 

“We need to help people see the exciting side of engineering so they begin to choose it as a career to pursue. It’s not tailored to just men or women—it’s a field that can be pursued by anyone who is truly interested in it.”

 

WSP Diversity and Inclusion

 

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