Petra Quartullo from Caringbah Selective High School teaches violin to kids as young as five – now she’s adding another string to her bow with guaranteed entry into her first preference at UNSW.
The 17-year-old is “super happy” with her ATAR results, and is even happier to find out her selection rank has secured her a place to study a combined engineering and commerce degree.
Petra says that like a lot of millennials, she’s been uncertain about what career to choose.
“It’s a massive issue and something my friends and I talk about a lot. There are so many new jobs being created and with such rapid developments in technology, who knows what new careers will be around. But it’s also really exciting," she says.
“We had good advice from our school which was to study the subjects we enjoy the most. That’s the most important thing.”
Despite topping Year 10 Engineering and winning the Engineers Australia Outstanding Achievement award, Petra decided to focus on humanities for Years 11 and 12, driven by her love of history and English and, more recently, economics.
Also in the mix was extension maths, and after taking part in the Women and Engineering camp at UNSW earlier this year, her decision was made.
Most people don’t realise how incredibly diverse engineering is – as an engineer you can work in health, humanitarian aid, tech or product development, as well as the more traditional areas.
UNSW Engineering has above-average female enrolments at 22%, up from 19% in 2010, but the University has been actively recruiting women and has set a goal of boosting that rate to 30% by 2020.
“It’s really encouraging to see the proportion of female engineering students increasing every year,” says UNSW’s Women in Engineering Manager Dr Alex Bannigan.
“The industry is desperate to hire more female engineers because it’s now well recognised that a diverse workforce is better for business," Bannigan says.
"Most people don’t realise how incredibly diverse engineering is – as an engineer you can work in health, humanitarian aid, tech or product development, as well as the more traditional areas.”
Petra says she didn’t understand just how broad the profession was until she went to the camp.
“I went in not knowing what I was going to do but at the end of the amazing week where I had opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with engineers, I was 100% sure I wanted to pursue engineering. It’s so important for our society that more women study and work in engineering," she says.
“I am attracted by the problem solving and team work. I also want to study commerce as it helps to have a holistic and real-world idea of the economics of the work we do.”
While Petra may have shifted her focus away from the humanities for the moment, one thing she won’t be giving up is music and teaching violin to kids, including students at her former primary school. “I hope to expand my classes as a way to help support me through uni. Teaching is so rewarding, I love it. You should see the 5-year-olds!”
This year, 15 women in engineering program scholarships were on offer, 10 sponsored by industry. These scholarships are valued at $10,000 per annum for the duration of the degree.
A new ‘Head Start’ scholarship program is being announced for commencing students in 2017. The top 60 female students will receive a Start-up Award of $3,000. The merit-based awards are for students with ATARs over 95.