Kelly Coverdale was fascinated with biomedical engineering from the moment she first learnt about the field in high school.
“I loved the idea of there being a real medical device that can improve a person’s quality of life, Coverdale, who is the Managing Director at Cover Biomedical, said. “At the time it seemed to only be biomedical engineering that could achieve that, but there’s now much greater recognition that most engineers can contribute in some way to improving people’s quality of life.
“I’m really grateful that I was exposed to biomedical engineering early in life because it’s shaped who I am today. It’s given me a huge amount of appreciation, not just for biomedical engineering but for engineering in general.”
One and a half years ago, Coverdale decided to bring her long-standing passion to Engineers Australia by applying for an office bearer role.
She now serves as Chair of the College of Biomedical Engineering Board and says it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience so far.
As an office bearer with Engineers Australia, Coverdale is determined to increase general understanding of biomedical engineering and further elevate the standing of the profession within engineering.
“I’m trying to bring greater awareness of the critical role we play within a team – whether that’s a clinical, engineering or manufacturing team,” Coverdale said. “I’m really passionate about providing education about what we do and how we add value to the community.”
She said holding an office bearer role is helping her edge closer towards this goal.
“There are so many opportunities to share the work happening in biomedical engineering with the community,” she said. “When you volunteer, whether it’s on a board or committee, you interact within the broader engineering community.
“You also get great exposure to various biomedical engineering activities and developments, whether those are in research or in industry. I’ve found that really beneficial. It’s been a fantastic learning opportunity.”
Dr Nick Fleming, Engineers Australia’s National President and Chair, is looking to design and implement more flexible and rewarding models of volunteering to meet the needs of roughly 2000 office bearers and volunteers at Engineers Australia.
“We see enormous untapped potential in our membership,” Fleming said. “Participating in Engineers Australia expands professional networks, amplifies knowledge, develops leadership skills and offers ways to give back that can be hard to find in day-to-day work.
“Volunteering is also great for mental health because of the social networks we form and the positive feelings we enjoy through giving back.”
Although Coverdale says there are a range of skills required for success as an office bearer, there are two particularly important skills that stand out in her mind:
1. Ability to put on the ‘Engineers Australia hat’
“I think the biggest challenge a lot of people face is that they find it difficult to mentally separate their office bearer role from their professional one,” Coverdale said. “But you’re representing Engineers Australia and you need to be able to act in the best interests of the Engineers Australia community.”
“It’s critical to be able to step aside from what you know and have experienced.”
2. Openness to different points of view
“You need to corral a range of perspectives to inform your priorities,” Coverdale explained. “Being able to manage a group of people who might have different priorities and trying to align them all under one banner is key.”
Fleming adds some other critical skills to the mix.
“Being collaborative and a good communicator are the top skills of our most effective office bearers,” he said. “They are also passionate about engineering and Engineers Australia, and willing to share their expertise and their time to benefit the profession.”
For Fleming, ensuring there is a diverse composition of office bearers is a key priority.
“A diverse organisation is a robust organisation,” he said. “More than half of Australia’s engineering workforce is born overseas and we want to ensure migrant engineers have access to support and networking opportunities to help them make the most of their professional life in this country.
“We are also very keen to increase gender diversity in the profession to attract more women into engineering.”
Express your interest in becoming an EA office bearer.
Applications close Saturday 23 September 2023.
Sophie has produced written and multi-media content across a range of industry publications and news outlets. She loves learning what makes people tick and bringing their unique stories and experiences to life.
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