Have you ever wondered who is behind the scenes making sure you can connect with others through your phone, the radio or your laptop? Or who ensures our emergency services can communicate effectively to provide help to those in need?
The answer is engineers who work in the telecommunications industry! And to support the vital work they do, structural engineers like Jean Lu are required to ensure all the necessary infrastructure is in place to support the telecommunications equipment needed by services such as first responders. 

Growing up, Jean was passionate about architecture, especially famous buildings from around the world, and amazed at how these masterpieces were designed and built. In high school she was interested in math and physics. She also wanted to learn about the technical side of structural design and construction so naturally, she chose to study Civil Engineering with Architecture at UNSW.

We asked Jean what her life looks like now and why she recommends engineering to high school girls.  

What type of engineers work in the telecommunications industry? 

The discipline of telecommunications engineering is concerned with telephone, data networks, radio and television broadcasting, satellite and deep space applications. In the industry, telecommunications engineers can be divided into more detailed aspects such as radio frequency engineers, wireless architect, spectrum engineers, transmission engineers and so on.

To design and build a telecommunication base station for radio networks, it requires input from engineers from all different disciplines, not only the telecommunications engineers, but also electrical engineers, civil engineers and structural engineers.

What does your job look like day to day?  

I work for NSW Telco Authority within the NSW government. NSW Telco Authority operates and manages the Public Safety Network (PSN) to deliver radio communications for frontline responders.  

Working as a structural engineer, the heart of my job is to ensure that the structures supporting the telecommunications equipment (such as buildings and towers) are safe and reliable. Apart from the technical aspects of the role, being an engineer requires coordination and discussion with people in a variety of roles in the organisation and externally such as project delivery, asset management etc.  

My day-to-day job includes reviewing the design drawings for telecommunications base station, liaison with the design contractors and mobile tower manufacturers, working on design guidelines, mentoring junior and graduate engineers and so on.  

How is the work that you, and other telecommunications engineers are doing, shape a better future? 

Working for the government agency who operates and manages the Public Safety Network, we deliver mission-critical and operational communications for Emergency Service Organisations (ESO), essential services, government agencies and local councils who deliver a range of frontline services. 

We align the connectivity programs and deliver improved connectivity for citizens across our state. During disasters, we work with emergency services and telecommunications carriers to protect critical radio communications assets for frontline services. 

NSW Telco Authority is currently delivering a major project to improve the state-wide coverage and quality of ESO radio communications by upgrading existing radio communications base stations and building many new sites throughout the state.

What advice do you have for young girls considering engineering as a career?

Although the engineering industry is largely male dominant in Australia, being a female engineer for the past ten years, I am always given equal opportunities in the workplace, have been recognised for my contribution and always receive help from colleagues. There are great opportunities and support provided for women in the workplace in engineering fields nowadays. You will also see great representation by women in senior and leadership roles in these industries.

If you are interested in math and science, pursuing an engineering degree in university will help you to develop the skills in problem-solving, communication and how to apply math and science in developing and improving the society we live in. 

Find out more about Civil Engineering with Architecture at UNSW.