Engineering always on her mind
Hairdressing and engineering might seem like an odd career couple but for Gaynor Palmer they have been a perfect fit.
As a child, she loved watching her father take things apart, handing him tools and learning how things are put together.
“Engineering was always something I was keen to do. I had tried to get into it straight from high school and an engineering business took me on for a year before they went bust,” said Gaynor, who grew up near Taree on the mid north coast.
After that she found it impossible to get back into the industry and moved to Sydney to pursue her other passion, hairdressing.
“Back in those days it was always the guys that got the engineering jobs,” Gaynor said. “Women were automatically rejected on the basis that they were women. That put me off for a long time. Nowadays those sorts of attitudes have changed.
“I think the more females we see, the more females will be comfortable in the industry in future.”
Gaynor persisted with her engineering dream in Sydney. By day she cut people’s hair and at night she studied structural engineering at TAFE. Her hard work paid off and she decided to return to the North Coast to enrol in the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Civil Engineering at Southern Cross.
“Studying engineering I call on my skills from hairdressing a lot: communication, negotiation, problem solving, working with people and using knowledge to apply to individual situations.”
Gaynor said the degree had brought amazing opportunities such as a scholarship with the Coffs Harbour council, energy research with PhD students and a scholarship-funded study trip to Japan.
“The degree is so comprehensive, every subject is better than the last, with a very strong environmental focus. We have the best and newest equipment and our super small class sizes mean we get lots of one-on-one time with lecturers,” she said.
Gaynor said the degree was also opening her eyes to the possibilities within the construction industry.
“I would love to make road base sexy and made of only sustainable materials. I want to get people talking about it and researching it to create a new system that doesn’t take so many resources out of the earth, yet can be flexible so that if you want to change a road you can move some part of it.
“My dream job would involve putting a green wall on everything and to work robots into every job that I can. I’d like to incorporate sustainability as a natural part of each project.” she said.