Engineered to succeed

PACCAR Australia chief engineer Noelle Parlier is driving Kenworth and DAF into the future. Originally from Kirkland, Washington, she has held the role of chief engineer at PACCAR Australia since October 2018, however her work with the truck manufacturer began much earlier.

While studying her Electrical Engineering and Physics degree at Seattle University, she was required to partner with a business to work on a design problem. “Kenworth Truck Company is in Kirkland near Seattle, and every year they sponsor a team of engineers to undertake a year-long project at Kenworth. I was very fortunate that I had that opportunity to work with the Kenworth engineering team,” Parlier said. 

After graduating, she spent a year working at a ski resort in Montana. “Once I got tired of trying to save money from pay cheque to pay cheque, I decided it was time to get a real job,” joked Parlier.

With that, she returned to Washington in 2004 and secured a job at the PACCAR Technical Centre in Washington, in the powertrain team.

Parlier also got her truck licence in 2010 and moved to the Kenworth Division in 2013, before securing her current role at PACCAR’s Bayswater facility in Melbourne, in 2018.

As chief engineer, Parlier is responsible for leading the team of engineers in designing Kenworth and DAF trucks.

“Securing this role here in Australia has been a fantastic experience for me professionally and personally. I moved my family over here to do it and they’ve had a fantastic time too. It’s been great to learn about the different products and different requirements here. There are many things that are the same and then others that are quite unique to Australia,” explained Parlier, adding that there’s so much opportunity in this industry for those who are passionate. 

“There isn’t a high percentage of women in engineering. Then you throw the truck industry on top of that and you get a double-whammy. But I think there’s a lot of opportunity for women in both industries. And both industries need women because you need that diversity of experience and thoughts. From an engineering standpoint, that diversity helps us to put together better solutions for our customers.

“I don’t think there are any barriers for women in the industry, instead I see it as opportunity. I’ve had people ask what it’s like being the only woman in a room full of male engineers – and it’s something I hadn’t noticed until it was pointed out. And it doesn’t bother me at all because I like to be unique. Being unique means there’s more opportunity to be noticed.

“The sense of accomplishment I feel in knowing that I went against the grain with my career choice makes me really proud. If you feel like it’s going to be hard to achieve, when you do achieve it, it’s so much more rewarding.”

When Parlier chatted with Big Rigs, she was about to head to Brisbane to deliver a new prototype truck, which will begin undergoing field tests. Though she didn’t reveal too much, she said a launch was due around mid-year.

As passionate as she is about the job and the PACCAR brand, Parlier says what she enjoys most about her role is the people. “It’s the people I work with, the customers, the dealers – everyone is so passionate about the product. We’re designing something that people use to make a living and feed their families. At PACCAR, it’s a positive work environment, where we’re really trying to produce something for the betterment of other people who are continuing to deliver goods across the country. Without it, Australia would stop. The saying that trucks keep Australia going is so very true,” she said.

“It’s a huge responsibility to make sure that I help to keep the PACCAR brand strong. That’s exactly what my team is all about. I need to protect that brand and make sure that my team is doing what it can to keep that legacy alive.”

Parlier has also been nominated as a finalist for the Women in Industry Awards, with winners to be announced during a dinner event in Melbourne on April 7. “When I look at the other women who are nominated in the manufacturing category, it’s such an honour to be included alongside them. I’m very excited about the event,” she said.

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