Australia, Buildings and Places, INWED, People Spotlight

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a technical director from our Buildings + Places business line in Australia, and providing an insight into their inspiration and work.

Rebecca is passionate about all aspects of healthcare — the planning and design of new facilities to meet increasing healthcare demand, the repurposing of existing facilities to meet changing needs, and assisting healthcare clients in understanding and managing their assets. With 22 years of experience in project delivery, including over 18 years dedicated to health-related projects, Rebecca has been involved in some of the most significant and complex healthcare projects delivered in Victoria. Her experience has included leading large, multidisciplinary teams delivering building engineering solutions for hospital, research and education facilities.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry

Growing up, I enjoyed most subjects at school. I recall a government campaign in high school called ‘maths multiplies your choices’, encouraging girls to explore maths at high school level. While I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to study at university, I did decide to keep my studies broad, and included maths and physics. I really enjoyed these subjects and began exploring opportunities for a career founded on these subjects, ultimately enrolling in a mechanical engineering degree. My studies in fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and heat and mass transfer led to an interest in building design, and following discussions at a university career fair, I discovered the world of building services! I joined AECOM as a graduate engineer in 1999 and have continued to work in the industry ever since.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?

I have had the privilege of being involved in a range of significant health projects in Victoria, including the Thomas Embling Hospital expansion, leading the PPP bid phase for the Frankston Hospital Redevelopment, and several strategic masterplan and feasibility study projects.

AECOM’s has a strong track record in the health sector and is committed to providing critical social infrastructure to improve community wellbeing. I experienced this during my early AECOM career with projects including the Austin and Mercy Hospital redevelopment and the Royal Women’s Hospital redevelopment, where I had the opportunity to work closely with one of my mentors John Colquhoun.

I particularly enjoy working on multidisciplinary projects — we have a strong culture of collegiality and collaboration across all disciplines and markets.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

I am fortunate enough to have been involved in the design of several significant hospital projects, which has always given me a sense of making a positive contribution to the local community.

In 2015, I was seconded to the Department of Health and Human Services as a technical and engineering services manager for the Monash Children’s Hospital. The feeling of contribution and understanding of the positive benefits to the local community was even more meaningful. As a mother of a child who has attended the existing hospital as an inpatient, I could see how the new hospital — including its large patient rooms, increased access to natural light and views, kid-friendly interior design and positive distractions — would lead to improved outcomes for patients, families and staff.

One memorable feature of the design is the diagnostic imaging department. It has several design features that make it more appealing and less threatening to children. Features include, the diagnostic ambient experience, including specialist lighting and themed images and sounds, which provides patients with positive distractions and a calming environment as they undergo imaging procedures; the toy MRI which helps young children become familiar with what is involved in the procedure; and the mock MRI which allows children to practice keeping still for the procedure. These tools have been found to significantly reduce the need for children to be anaesthetised for the imaging.

Share a piece of career advice

One of the biggest challenges of my early career was not understanding my purpose. I was exposed to many different experiences in the early years, but I questioned my suitability as an engineer. I found my passion and purpose when I had the opportunity to be involved in a hospital redevelopment project — and the rest is history. I’ve since had the privilege of being involved in several exciting and significant healthcare projects. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that my career is a marathon and not a sprint. My advice to others would be to take the time to explore different avenues, make the most of new opportunities, and eventually, your passion will become clear.

Originally published Jun 15, 2022

Author: Rebecca Eyers