For Reza Akbarzadeh, the sky's the limit when it comes to his career.
Since dreaming of the stars as a young boy with a passion for astronomy, the 27-year-old Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering graduate is now reaching for them in his role as an electrical rotational engineer for major rail freight operator Aurizon.
Reza graduated from Griffith University in 2016; now he manages parts of the electrical overhead construction work for the Central Queensland Coal Network for Aurizon, based out of Rockhampton.
As a youngster growing up in Iran, Reza’s eyes were glued to the heavens, fuelled by a desire to study astrophysics. However, upon migrating to Australia, he realised a degree in electrical engineering could take him on an equally exciting journey like others before him.
“My father is an electrician, and I also discovered along the way that Neil Armstrong and even Mr Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson, all have a degree in electrical engineering,” he says.
“But in all seriousness, as an electrical engineer you can basically go anywhere in the world for work where there is electrical power.”
“With the support and education I received from my lecturers at Griffith, I was able to seize the opportunity and get straight to work.”
Apart from the practical enticements to the Gold Coast campus – proximity to beaches, shops and public transport, along with more intimate class sizes affording one-on-one time with lecturers – Reza says studying at Griffith exposed him to various areas of study and helped prepare him for a career in electrical engineering.
“As engineering positions are becoming increasingly competitive, it is an advantage to experience and acquire a versatile background. This diversity of knowledge can also lead to a better chance of career progression,” he says.
“One of the biggest things you think about after uni is, ‘Well, am I going to get a job?’ I ended up finishing my graduation on a Saturday and walking into my first job on the Monday. With the support and education I received from my lecturers at Griffith, I was able to seize the opportunity and get straight to work.
“Even though electrical engineering can be a highly technical role, I’ve learnt that soft skills are valued highly. I had no knowledge of trains before my role at Aurizon; it’s all about what I’ve learnt at Griffith. I’ve built on top of that and expanded into a specialised area.”
Reza has also set up the Reza Akbarzadeh Engineering Scholarship, as a way of giving back to the university that helped put him on the road to a rewarding career.
“As a student, I found it difficult to balance work, study and extracurricular activities,” he said.
“An unexpected bill could mean spending more time working and less time performing engineering-related works. So, as a way of giving back to the community, I decided to set up this scholarship to enable and encourage students to do more at university without worrying about their finances.”
In his current role as an electrical rotational engineer for Aurizon, Reza is hard at work planning, completing risk assessments and engaging with internal and external stakeholders.
But it’s also allowed him to enjoy the daily spectacle of seeing massive freight trains, coal mines, and drag lines operating in the vast beauty of central Queensland while continuing to think big for his future.
“I’d like to get into project management, and major projects like the Cross River Rail in Brisbane would be amazing to be involved in – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on something as huge as that,” Reza says.
“In the next five years, I want to keep learning and works towards more of a project managerial role. But as a fresh engineer from Griffith, I certainly have an appreciation for what I’ve gotten to do and see every day since graduating.”