Owen Huang can thank his alumni mentor Denis Dowling for giving him the confidence to apply for his current job.
“I’m currently interning with Rail Projects Victoria,” says Owen, who is juggling work with a Master of Electrical Engineering.
Owen Huang (left) has felt more confident making career decisions since being mentored by Denis Dowling (right).
“I saw the opportunity come up but I didn’t initially have much information on it, so I came to Denis asking for his opinion. He encouraged me to pursue it and said it would be good experience to be part of such a large infrastructure project, and to gain exposure to different engineering disciplines.”
Owen met Denis through the STEM Industry Mentoring Program. The program connects Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology and Faculty of Science students with alumni and industry professionals from within the University community.
“The main reason I signed up was because I was seeking career guidance,” Owen says. “I saw the mentoring program offered to match you with somebody working in a similar field to what you were studying, and I thought that hearing those experiences firsthand would be valuable.”
Owen and Denis met up for six informal sessions, held once every few weeks. At each session, Owen would update Denis on what he was studying, and where he saw himself going in terms of jobs and future study options. Denis would then give feedback based on personal experience, and what he’d seen in the industry.
“He’s been in the engineering field for over two decades, so he’s experienced a lot. It was great to hear him weave in personal anecdotes and contextualise everything for me,” Owen says.
Insights from a successful career
Denis has forged a successful career in engineering and is now the Chief Technical Officer at Raedyne Systems, which helps global electricity transmission network owners inspect their infrastructure.
“We use high resolution cameras to photograph transmission lines, then run deep learning networks to analyse the images and find the faults in the assets,” he explains.
Denis decided to volunteer his time as an alumni mentor because he was immensely grateful for the opportunities his education had provided. But not having been a formal mentor before, he wasn’t sure what to expect. He asked people in his network for advice and came to discover that just being able to share his experiences with a student would be immensely valuable.
“At this stage of my career, I thought it would be a useful way to give back and help some students find a path from their studies into the workforce,” Denis says. “Still, I did initially wonder what sort of support I could provide. I’m not an ‘expert mentor’, I’m an engineer!
“But I figured out that my main role was to just listen to Owen’s questions and be present when he described what he was after.”
Denis and Owen initially met on Zoom, then shifted to meeting at a cafe on campus. Owen was keen to hear about what working as an engineer looked like and, because Denis had a wealth of experience in recruiting, he also appreciated gaining insights into what employers were looking for.
“Owen was also interested in what specialisations he could potentially pursue in his degree,” Denis says. “And my advice to him was that your specialisation should really be what interests you, and where your passions are in studying. You’re not automatically going to exclude yourself from a job by following one specialisation path.”
The flow-on effects of mentoring
Being an alumni mentor has had an unexpected benefit for Denis: he has gained fresh insights into how his children, who are currently students at university, approach their study and careers.
“I found it was much easier to talk to them about this and discuss the sorts of things that young people are doing. It was great to get into the mindset of a student.”
Denis Dowling (left) and Owen Huang (right) at the Telstra Creator Space.
Being a student mentee was also a new experience for Owen, and he says he strongly recommends the program to other students. He’s also considering signing up to volunteer for the University’s peer mentoring program, as a mentor to other students.
“Mentoring gave me career insights, which can be lacking when you’re in a purely academic environment at university. It’s good to get that complementary advice, as well as the advice you get from your lecturers. I feel like it really rounds you out.”
Learn more about the STEM Industry Mentoring Program.