Dane Lennon is a Research and Development Engineer at Campbell Scientific Australia. He understands the importance of never giving up. After a dismal final year of high school and then spending several years in the Australian Defence Force, Dane went on to study a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at JCU and earn an Academic Medal. Now living his dream in his role as an engineer, Dane is passionate about designing and developing products that serve both local and global communities.
What made you pursue a career in Engineering?
I knew I enjoyed math and science and I wanted to pursue a career that not only interested me but also provided opportunities for professional development and growth. Choosing engineering wasn’t just about the money, it was about selecting a role where I could continue to improve. You’re always learning and developing skills in engineering and that was important to me because I wanted a long-term career that challenged me.
What subjects did you study in high school?
During year 11 and 12, I began selecting subjects that provided me with the broadest opportunities for my future. This included studying advanced mathematics, physics, science and advanced English.
What was the highlight of your university study?
I actually didn’t do very well in my final year of school. However, after several years in the Australian Defence Force, I decided to pursue a career in engineering and I ended up graduating from JCU with Honours and an Academic Medal, which I'm very proud of. It just goes to show that your final year results don't define you, nor does what you choose to do straight after high school. Compromises may need to be made but if engineering is where your passion is, then get out there and give it a go! I encourage anyone who is on the fence about starting a university course to try it out for one or two semesters before deciding whether you like it or not.
What was something you overcame during your university study?
There are two things that students studying engineering need to overcome: the workload and the leadership requirements. Your workload can seem incredibly high — but not unachievable — and so an engineering degree requires a lot of compromises. There is going to be late nights and early mornings but it is worth putting in the effort. There are also many times where you will be a member of a group for practical assignments and assessment. During these times you will need to step into leadership positions and it definitely wasn’t something that came easily to me. Public speaking isn’t my strong point and I had to develop both my leadership and public speaking skills during my time at university.
What is your favourite or the most rewarding part of your job?
I love being able to see physical evidence of the work that I do. Engineers are often responsible for designing and producing physical things that are eventually released to the community. It is an engineer’s responsibility to ensure this product meets the design standards for safety and performance and this is ultimately what sets engineers apart from other roles and duties. We design, develop, and maintain products and services that the community (both locally and globally) need and use on a daily basis. I love seeing the results of my work and knowing it can help the local or global community; that's what gets me up in the morning.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part is also the most interesting and exciting part. As technology is always changing, I am always learning and adapting. It's difficult because there is always something I need to study before I can complete the task, but this is also what keeps the role of an engineer interesting.
What advice would you give a student interested in a similar career path?
I think a lot of people are discouraged from engineering because there is a stigma attached to the career choice that you need to have a high IQ in order to be successful. While it’s important to have strength in science and maths, I think the bigger question you should ask yourself is “How passionate (or committed) am I to pursue this career (and why)”. If the answer is “very committed” than everything else will fall into place. Compromises will need to be made during your university studies, but if you can commit to this, then it really isn’t about how smart you are, it’s about how prepared you are. Ask yourself "Why do I want to pursue this career?" and keep this reason close to you while studying.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I work in a Research & Development role and so my typical day starts with several casual discussions in my team about the daily tasks ahead for the current project. Once we have all settled down, with a strong coffee, we each begin working on the tasks delegated to us. The project is usually broken down into hundreds of smaller tasks, some with weeks of allocated time. Most tasks are interrelated so throughout the day there are usually lots of discussions in our team as we develop, debug, and fix parts of the project. About 70 per cent of my time as an R&D Engineer is spent troubleshooting a problem with the rest of the time consumed with designing a solution.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by the possibility of developing a new and innovative technology that can help the community. It is my hope that as an engineer, I can provide products and services that, in some small way, will improve the efficiency and sustainability of the human race and its interface with global resources and the environment.
Are you looking for a challenge that could lead to a rewarding career? Consider what you could do with JCU Engineering.
Want to follow in Dane's footsteps? Find out what your post-uni journey could look like at Campbell Scientific's career-focused webinar on Tuesday August 4th at 11am. Register here.
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