Kylie May

In high school she thought the engineers life was out of reach. Engineers are mostly men – would she be accepted into their ranks? But it never crossed her mind to give up. She knew who she was and what she was capable of.

Meet Kylie May…

I was always an engineer in the making, even if it took me a while to realise it. My folks are from the town of Gawler – a semi-rural outer northern suburb of Adelaide – and our family of five lived on a small holding with livestock. My two older sisters and I attended Trinity College, an Anglican day school.

Ours was a musical family but we also loved sport, and weekends were always busy with local and district tennis matches. One of our favourite pastimes was ‘going up the river’ [the Murray] and I have great memories of long weekends and summer holidays spent swimming, getting sunburnt, and mucking around in boats.

In my final year of school my parents built a new house and I became absorbed in the building process. I’d had early aspirations towards architecture during school, but soon realised I didn’t have the flair for design. What interested me most was the numbers behind the scenes. Observing the construction of our new home, I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’.

Getting an education and working hard was ingrained by my parents. It was an inherent family value that I embraced well before high school. When it came to researching higher education options I stumbled across Engineering and it appeared to align perfectly with my fascination. For me, engineering was about putting a rationale to all of this curiosity that I had.

I chose University of South Australia because of its reputation for offering a practical, hands-on as well as technical education. I was genuinely honoured when I learnt I had been awarded a scholarship available to women studying engineering. It felt good to know that donors believed in women practicing the discipline and were backing my pathway.

I commenced a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with only two other girls and we formed a friendship and offered one another support. It was an overwhelming experience showing up and starting with 145 males!

The more I studied, the more I realised that this was my calling, but I didn’t have the best grades for the first two years. The extra push came because I needed a distinction average to be eligible to undertake Honours in my fourth year. I badly wanted to show my family I could do anything and prove to myself that a female could make it too. Years of being outnumbered by males in classes created a desire to be as self-sufficient as possible. I knew I could do it if I pushed myself, and I did.

Civil Engineering facilities at UniSA

In addition to financial support the scholarship offered three months of paid vacation employment at the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. For me this was the most valuable aspect. To gain work experience in the field that I could include on my CV and valuable networking opportunities was such a bonus. After placement I went on to complete Honours. The scholarship really helped me believe in myself, that it was possible for me to succeed.

My first job after university as a graduate engineer was for Fulton Hogan at its bitumen plant. On my first day I was absolutely terrified. I felt completely out of my depth – a young girl in a laboratory full of males. Even though I was an ‘Engineer’, I knew nothing compared to my highly skilled colleagues, many of whom had years of experience.

But I was not deterred. I was given the opportunity to work on the Northern Expressway as a Site Engineer and on a project for the removal and replacement of the King Street Bridge at Glenelg over the Patawalonga River. I was in charge of permits, inspection test plants, quality control, and environmental issues, and I also gained experience in contract management.

However, it was in obtaining my next job that the value of the scholarship was fully realised. After two years at Fulton Hogan I was offered a role as Traffic Engineer at the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Those connections made three years earlier during the scholarship placement had paid off. It was a stark reminder that I wouldn’t be where I was without the belief and generosity of others.

I worked for three years at DPTI in Traffic Investigations and as a Planning Engineer in the Network Unit team on Black Spot projects and the Main South Road North-South Corridor management plan. In 2014, I accepted a role at the City of Adelaide in the Asset Management team, managing and planning roads and footpath renewal programs. Twelve months later I was offered the position of Project Manager, a role in which I have served for the last five years.

I love the responsibility of managing a project end-to-end – I have worked on creek rehabilitation, landscapes and playgrounds among other things, and it is so rewarding when I see the success of a project being enjoyed by local families.

I am doing so much more than I ever imagined I would back at university and am thrilled that I’ve come this far in a traditionally non-female environment. It was only possible because of the willingness of others to get behind my dreams and ambitions. I firmly believe that generosity can make a huge impact. It can be the jump start that someone needs to pursue their passions and change the world.

Kylie May

I wouldn’t be where I am today without that scholarship. Someone believed in my future, ignored the stereotypes and encouraged me to be the best I could be. I am inviting you to do the same. By making a donation to this year’s Scholarship Appeal your help can be a game-changer.

By giving to the University of South Australia’s Scholarship Fund, your act of faith ensures a better tomorrow for those who need a little extra help today.

When you give, you are saying with your actions that this is important to you – that you are getting behind students like me.

Generosity takes conviction. With everything going on in our busy lives, it requires a certain strength of character to think of others.

Right now, there are deserving students with worthy dreams and aspirations, and whatever personal challenges they may face I can assure you a scholarship can be the one thing they need to change their life forever.

Will you support them?

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