Meet Sarah: Chemical Engineering graduate working at Tesla

Perth born Sarah Maryssael always dreamt of studying at Melbourne but it wasn't until she received a National Scholarship that she could turn that dream into reality. After completing her degree she then secured her dream job at Tesla in California.

The road to Tesla

During my Chemical Engineering degree, I developed my passion for the resources sector following a field trip to Newcastle where I saw my first open pit coal mine and a summer internship with ExxonMobil where I spent time on an offshore oil platform in Bass Strait.

The exposure I got during my time at Melbourne led me to a career working as a process engineer for Vale in New Caledonia, commissioning and ramping up of one of the largest and most technically challenging nickel operations in the world. I then went on to complete my MBA and returned to Australia and spent a couple of years with BCG in strategy consulting for major mining companies.

Today I work for Tesla and am based in Palo Alto, California. I manage a team that is responsible for procuring the critical minerals that power Tesla’s batteries such as lithium, nickel and cobalt. I am fortunate to work for company that is leading the electrification of transport and the transition to sustainable energy.

The best part of my role is that it lies at the intersection of mining, sustainability and technology and is truly global in nature since Tesla’s minerals are sourced across every major continent in the world. As many in the industry say, we are transitioning from the age of oil to the age of minerals (and batteries)!

My Melbourne engineering degree gave me the confidence to deal with a range of different complex, ambiguous problems at each stage of my career, from optimising operating conditions to improve plant performance to analysing the market forces that influence the price and availability of the commodities we buy.  Tesla is a company that believes in first principles and breaking down a process down to the most fundamental parts – something that was core to the approach and foundation I received at Melbourne.

Chemical engineering always had some of the highest representation of women compared to other engineering departments in addition to Dr Sandra Kentish’s leadership. Only after I left did I realise how important this was to me as I tried to establish myself as a young female engineer in male-dominated industry like mining.

“University of Melbourne were the best years of my life where I forged the strongest and most important friendships I still have today.”

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