Like a lot of high school students, Rebecca Wadlow knew what she liked – and what she was good at – but wasn’t sure how she could turn that into a career.
It wasn’t until she began investigating university options with her engineer dad David that she had the light bulb moment, one that set her on course to become a design engineer at PACCAR Australia, and at the cutting edge of what our trucks will look like in the future.
“It was my dad who said to me, ‘you like problem solving, you like your science, you like your math, you like figuring things out, and being creative…engineering, let’s have a look at what courses there are and go from there,” recalled Wadlow, now 31.
“As soon as I found the course that I studied, which was product design engineering at Swinburne, I was like, ‘yep, this is exactly me, it’s got everything; maths, science, engineering, management, has all the business parts as well as the creative side too.”
The other big turning point for Wadlow, who came from a non-trucking background, was doing the industry-based learning phase of her studies with Cummins.
That’s how she got to know about PACCAR.
“I thought ‘wow, trucks are pretty cool. They’re huge and there is so much involved in them’.
“As soon as I applied for a graduate position there and had my first interview and actually had a tour of plant, I was walking through going ‘wow, yep this is the place I want to work at. This is something I want to learn; this is something I want to see; it has everything there.”
During her four years in the graduate program, Wadlow rotated through the quality team, then manufacturing/engineering, before moving on to dealer development and a sales engineering role.
“Very early on I could see how important it is to know your customers and know what’s going on in that side as well as the manufacturing side, because without customers, we don’t have any trucks to build,” she said.
“I felt very lucky to be able to see so much of the business and how different things operate, and how everything works together.”
Today, the design engineer works full-time at the ever-expanding Bayswater plant in PACCAR’s product development/program management team.
“Essentially that means working on future trucks,” said Wadlow.
For obvious commercial reasons, Wadlow can’t give away specifics but said every day is different and every day she is learning something new.
“It’s exciting to be able to have the opportunity and be involved and have my say in what the future should look like, and how truckies interact with our trucks. Not many people can say that.”
As for her advice to others interested in following in her footsteps into the industry, Wadlow’s message is to be open to new experiences and try different things.
“I wouldn’t have found PACCAR without Cummins, and the only reason I knew about them was because I put my hand up at Cummins and said I want to check out some more things.
“I never thought I’d be a truckie girl, but this is where I am now and I absolutely love it.”