Following up from her winning scholarship idea of giving ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ a zero-emissions makeover, we had the pleasure of catching up Aurecon’s Sam Stojanovski for our latest instalment of the Next Generation Q&A.

An enthusiastic champion of rail’s benefits, Sam shares her excitement in the new technologies changing industry and the real impacts rail makes to people’s lives. As a future mentor, she also reflects on the joy that comes from connections with colleagues, especially on those “days where you want to rip your hair out because your CAD froze”. Take her warning to “always have auto save on” and like Thomas the Tank Engine 2.0, get ready for rail’s new and improved adventures “Peep! Peep!”

Sam Stojanovski, Civil Engineer, Aurecon

Your scholarship entry to last year’s inaugural Rail Decarbonisation conference focused on a makeover of Thomas the Tank Engine into a zero-emissions train*. What inspired this idea? What progress have you seen in this area? What more is required?

As a child, one of my favourite shows, as I am sure for many, was Thomas the Tank Engine. Through research and internal meetings at work, I’d been hearing about hydrogen trains coming more into the picture, especially in Germany who were the first to have a hydrogen train and are looking at retrofitting and reusing old trains to suit hydrogen battery. This made me think about why not choosing a clever cartoon from my childhood that is recognizable by all and making a witty story about him. I feel there is a lot of work to still do, but I know many organisations within Australia are looking at the future of rail and decarbonization.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working in the overhead wiring and structures area in the NSW Sydney Trains System across multiple projects – specifically the Transport Access Program (TAP) projects which aim to deliver safe, modern and accessible public transport infrastructure across the state.

Tell us about your career path leading up to your current role.

I started working as a junior project engineer in my third year of university at a horizontal directional drilling company. I was fortunate enough to work on many projects across New South Wales and I gained a lot of experience learning AutoCAD, designing underground assets, reading standards and plans, and conducting surveying and extracting the data. This role gave me the opportunity to use my university knowledge in the practical field and gain knowledge outside of university. Then in my final year of university I landed a career within the rail sector working in overhead wiring and structures.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Or, What is something that surprised you about this industry?

Honestly my colleagues. I have been able to enjoy work with stressful deadlines because I always have my colleagues to fall back on to have a laugh. I have developed close connections with them, and they make work more enjoyable.

I also enjoy designing and seeing my work become a real-life project in front of me. I get satisfaction from seeing it through and accomplishing projects. Even when there are days where you want to rip your hair out because your CAD froze… so always have auto save on.

The rail industry is actually one of the most efficient systems to move people from place to place but I think, even I don’t stop to think “wow – I am working on something benefiting people or take appreciation of the work I do”.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy to crotchet/knit and go to the gym.

Where do you hope to go to next in your career?

I hope to build up my technical experience in the rail and structures sector to be able to mentor and teach others as they have done for me. Also to see the new technologies coming into the field and how they can assist us, especially the whole talk of robotics and AI playing a huge part.

Sam attended our inaugural Rail Decarbonisation conference on a scholarship. Informa Australia is proud to offer scholarships for young rail professionals to attend all our conferences. Visit the event websites for more details.