The decision to become an engineer
e-tech: When you were in high school, what made you decide you wanted to be an engineer? Evans: One of my motivations for the career that I chose was that it was the best match for my interests in math, physics and chemistry. I was the only woman in my class so things have become better since then. Now I have a BE (Elec) and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wollongong in the field of industrial automation.
e-tech: Why did you decide to support Robogals?
Evans: In Australia, which is similar to other developed economies, the number of women in engineering is in the order of 10 to 12 percent. In the Australian education system young women drop out of science, math and engineering fairly early in their secondary [high school] education. So I am the Chair of the Advisory Board for Robogals [an international student led organization that aims to encourage more girls to make engineering their career].
Robogals has two significant objectives: one is to excite and encourage girls from 10 to 14 to continue with their involvement with math and science to understand just how much fun it is; and the other is linked to opportunity for young women in university to take up leadership roles in the Robogals organization. I see them as such an inspirational group of young people who set up a scheme out of an idea, out of a dream and made it real. To the extent that I can support them in what they want to achieve and help them continue to do the fantastic work they are, I think it’s absolutely worthwhile.
When I was in school the number of women was around three percent and now it’s 10 percent so there have been small changes. It’s a puzzle for everyone why girls are not more interested. I don’t think there is any good reason. I think part of it is that engineering has an image problem. It’s seen as not a very glamorous place to be, if you pick glamour as an important criterion.
It’s a range of things that effect girls’ choices. I think it is within the education system. Young peoples’ parents may not understand what engineering is. Engineers can be quite shy of taking public positions so they’re not in the media and they’re certainly not in any television shows that people might watch for entertainment. I think knowing that engineers are involved in all of the cool apps that we use would be a surprise to a lot of people.
Impressed with global reach
e-tech: Tell us a little about your work with the IEC, especially the work that you did in the early days of Conformity Assessment.
Evans: When I was with Standards Australia as a Project Manager in the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to attend a number of IEC CAB [Conformity Assessment Board] Council meetings as the Australian Delegate and to attend the IEC plenary meetings in Delhi and Singapore.
At that time, we were setting the framework for that whole scheme. It was a great opportunity to work with leading economies to figure out what was the right way to set-up the conformity assessment scheme and the conformity assessment board. It was a very important time to be a part of the development phase.
I recall being impressed with the expertise and depth of commitment of the delegates from all over the world. This experience inspired me to become an active promoter of the importance of standards.
Standards are the seed
e-tech: How long have you been working with International Standards?
Evans: As an engineer I have been using internationally aligned standards right from the start of my career with the Electricity Commission of NSW. At the Commission the specifications for new equipment included performance and testing requirements to international standards. More recently at Cochlear Limited we complied with the requirements of IEC 60601-1 3rd Edition, as well as many others.
e-tech: Given your background as an engineer, what do you hope that Standards Australia can do to help fellow engineers?
Evans: Innovation is such an important part of industry. You get a good understanding of the processes and just how interesting it can be working in innovation. Standards give your engineers, technicians and managers the chance to focus on the creative side. Standards take away the need and the time it takes to set-up processes so that they can take advantage of industry and international best practice. They can focus on the parts that are unique to their business. There is a nice link between innovation and standards for that reason.
I want to ensure Standards Australia excels in the provision of contemporary, up-to-date and internationally aligned Australian Standards, to provide the engineering profession with the best available technical knowledge. Armed with this knowledge, Australian businesses will be in the strongest position to compete globally, innovate, and grow market-share.
We also want to educate in the broadest sense. We’re talking to governments about how standards can help small to medium size enterprises. We’re giving companies access to world’s best practice so that they can be as efficient and as effective as possible and then focus on the innovation.
Linking innovation and industry
e-tech: In your new role as Chief Executive Officer of Standards Australia, what do you see as your priorities?
Evans: Standards Australia is in great shape. We have an excellent leadership team and wonderful, dedicated staff who are excited about our role in the national and global economy. I’ll be very focused on maintaining and advancing this position. I want to enhance our Young Leaders Program, which is about developing the next generation of standards development commitment members. I’m also keen to further develop our links with industry, especially the leaders of industry, to ensure we are continuing to support the private sector with the tools we need for a strong, modern, competitive economy. Equally, I will be focusing my efforts to ensure our partnership with governments at all levels continues to advance innovation through a shared understanding of the value of Australian Standards.
Standards must reflect real needs
e-tech: What are some of the challenges that Standards Australia faces?
Evans:We are in a competitive and fast-paced region of the world with rapid advances in technologic innovation, so we have to make sure we are keeping pace with that change. This may include partnering with research and academic institutions to stay abreast of the technology trends. We have to ensure our standards portfolio reflects real needs in the community and the marketplace. So we will never grow complacent, despite our strong position today.
With music in the background
e-tech: If there was only one thing that you wanted people to know about you, what would that be?
Evans: I enjoy classical music. Ever since I was about 6 I learned piano and I now find it a wonderful relaxation. If I’m doing things I prefer to have classical music on in the background. I find it does lots of things. It’s calming, it’s exciting, and I guess the language of music speaks to me at different times.