Spotlight on a Regional YWP: Mitchell Farlow
Regional AWA members have always been important to delivering water and sewage services across the country. This Spotlight article is part of a series highlighting the experiences and contributions our regional members make to their industry and communities. In this interview we learn about Mitchell Farlow, Engineering Officer at Goldenfields Water County Council.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I am originally from Bankstown in Sydney’s western suburbs. I studied at the University of Sydney and completed a chemical and biomolecular engineering degree which I graduated from in 2020. I always had a passion for chemistry and biology and completed my degree because it meant I could enter the workforce doing what I loved and solve problems in these areas.
I started at Goldenfields Water County Council as a graduate engineer at the start of 2021, and by the end of that year, I was promoted to Engineering Officer. It’s been great working at Goldenfields. I’ve found working in a regional area, especially in a smaller team, means I’m exposed to a large variety of work. Throughout my time so far, I’ve worked on the demolition of the previous water treatment plant in Jugiong, replacing large 600mm diameter stop valves, designed water mains for new developments within the Council area, captured and updated GIS data, and helped update Council’s asset register. It’s been a great opportunity to learn so much in such a short time.
Q: What brought you to work at Goldenfields Water County Council?
It was just by good fortune that I found myself at Goldenfields Water. In my final year at university, USYD had on offer scholarships to complete our honours thesis for an industry partner's project. I applied and was placed at Goldenfields Water, completing my thesis on water quality issues they were experiencing, namely water discolouration. This involved investigating the causes of water discolouration, how it could be rectified, and the cost-benefit analysis of each solution developed. Given the restrictions on resources in regional areas, especially for a utility that services 2000 people or so, large scale solutions such as upgrading or building new treatment plants can be unfeasible, so finding cheaper and easier solutions are often key in regional areas. I found that once I moved out to Temora, I enjoyed the lifestyle out here as well as the variety and type of work involved, so I decided to move permanently, even buying a house recently! I find working in regional utilities is great, as you often have extra responsibilities and work opportunities (given the smaller teams in regional areas) and there are more opportunities to be promoted within the organisation.
Q: What is the best thing about working in a regional area?
I find that there are a lot of benefits. The lifestyle outside of work is really attractive, and I find I often spend my weekends travelling around and exploring some of the smaller towns and attractions around the area. I also find that work is more enjoyable – with smaller teams, younger engineers have to take on extra responsibilities and learn pretty quickly. It also means I get to work on a larger variety of tasks and, as a result, develop my skill set much quicker.
Q: What is the most difficult thing about working in a regional area?
One thing I find is that working in smaller teams means you get exposed to much more work but also means you have less experience to learn from as you have a smaller support network. I work in a team of four engineers, which means there is a smaller variety of experience to learn from and a smaller knowledge base. I find that some problems involve engaging and relying on consultants, and learning what I can from them.
Q: What moment/achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
Because I’ve only just started my career, there isn’t any one work accomplishment I could say I am proud of. I am proud of taking the leap of faith and moving to a regional area, five hours from my friends and family. It was a little difficult at first, but I don’t regret it at all as the experience has been very rewarding, allowing me to develop my career very quickly and work on projects I didn’t expect to.
Q: If you could go back five years, what advice would you give yourself?
“Just don’t be afraid to try new things”. You don’t know what will happen as a result, and, generally, the most intimidating decisions are the most rewarding.
Regional YWP’s are making a difference in their local areas and the industry as a whole. If you are a YWP living, working, or studying in a regional area and would like to get involved or share your story, please find more information on our Young Water Professional page. NSW members can contact your YWP Committee Regional Representatives:
Trevor Sultana | Trevor.Sultana@outlook.com
Brendan Dagg | Brendan.Dagg@ghd.com