Alumni in Conversation: Kanchana Perera
Kanchana Perera completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) and a Bachelor of Computer Science in 2005; and then a MBA from the Melbourne Business School in 2013.
Her interest in engineering and the convergence of engineering fields has led her from an internship in Switzerland to a career in renewable energies in Asia and Australia.
We caught up with Kanchana recently and asked her a few questions about her time at University, and what she’s been up to since.
Why did you choose to specialise in Mechatronics?
Mechatronics was a new course at the time I had to choose and I found the combination of fields that it covered; mechanical, electrical and computer science to be very appealing and interesting. It was also appealing to studying them as they converged.
What did you enjoy most about the course, and what advice would you give to any students?
I found the course difficult and challenging but I loved that it pushed you to your limits and you had to find a way to work together as a cohort to study, to solve problems and to get through the workload.
I would recommend every student getting some work experience early in the course so you can recognise the important skills the work force needs you to learn.
Did you do an internship?
I did an internship with Alstom Power in Switzerland as a monitoring and diagnostic engineer. I moved to Baden in Switzerland for six months and was responsible for maintaining a monitoring system that looked after a fleet of heavy duty gas turbines.
How did you get to your current position?
My first role was as a graduate Engineer, through the graduate leadership program with ABB, a multinational company in power and automaton technologies. This saw me work across engineering, project management and sales across Australia and Asia.
Following on from this I joined GE (General Electric), working as a specialist in substations and smart grids, across the Asia Pacific region. My work involved understanding customer drivers, and launching products and solutions into the region.
Following on from my MBA studies I joined the renewable energy sector in a commercial sales capacity and currently work across finance, legal and strategy.
Can you describe the sector you work for?
I work in the renewable energy sector, across the diverse Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
The implications of climate change, social responsibility, smart grids, wide scale uptake of electric vehicles has led to a varied and thriving renewable energy industry across the region.
The Renewable energy sector is well placed to support a low carbon economy into the future.
What is your current position?
I work for Senvion, one of the leading international manufacturers of onshore and offshore wind turbines, in commercial sales.
I currently manage the commercial aspects of large scale wind farm deals in Australia and the Asia Pacific. The deals range from small community wind farms and pilot projects in the order of $10 – 20M AUD to large scale wind farm developments worth $1.5B+.
Describe your job and a day in your office.
Reporting into the CEO, I work within the sales team to prepare pricing and contract evaluation papers to present to the Board of Directors to seek internal approval for submitting proposals to clients.
I work with the sales team and clients and liaise with treasury, legal counsel, accounting, technical and projects to identify risk factors and formulate a commercial solution that meets the client’s expectations.
Each of my days is quite varied. Some days I am preparing financial pricing models and cash flows or putting papers together for the board for internal approval for a wind farm.
Other days I could be taking a longer term market outlook and looking into things like the policy impacts on renewable energy growth in Australia or researching new market opportunities that may exist across Australia and Asia Pacific for Wind energy.
Then sometimes I might work on the operational side, tendering out for civil and electrical works, optimizing project schedules for construction and looking at wind speeds and cyclone paths across the region to look at project feasibility.
What do you find most exciting about your job?
I find the diversity we face across the markets in Australia and the Asia Pacific region to be most interesting. This diversity of markets means we get to work across different economies (developing and developed) as well as different political and consumer drivers to find technology solutions that ultimately meet the energy demands of residential, commercial and industrial communities.
What is the most useful piece of career advice you have ever been given?
To keep in touch with those I have studied with and being involved with them as a network you maintain; which can be a great source of knowledge and opportunities.
What do you see as the exciting new developments in your field?
As our energy mix changes and consumer preferences for energy usage changes across the region, it will be interesting to see the technological changes that will take place across different renewable technologies.
Can you describe the impact you are having on society through your work?
Everybody uses energy; it is an integral part of our lives. In Australia it’s all about how we reduce emissions and become more energy efficient and socially responsible as a country. While working across Asia the solutions you provide actually give people access to electricity that they otherwise would not have had, which significantly increases their quality of life.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Play sports, running, swimming, go hiking in the mountains. I’m also currently studying classical Ballet.
We’d like to thank you, Kanchana, for being one of our alumni in conversation and sharing your thoughts and insights!