Belinda Wadeson

Belinda Wadeson

WADESON Patent & Trade Marks Attorneys
Belinda Wadeson
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Belinda is registered as a patent attorney and as a trade marks attorney in Australia, is registered as a patent attorney in New Zealand, and is the founder of Wadeson. She has a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) and a Bachelor of Arts from Monash University as well as a Master of Intellectual Property Law. From strategic direction to tactical implementation, Belinda Wadeson delivers a powerful combination of real-world engineering know-how and specialist patent, design and trade mark skills. She is an experienced operator and a highly regarded expert, including as a former Director of the Monash University Commercialisation and Intellectual Property Advisory Committee. Belinda has clients from a range of industries (water, power generation, bulk material handling, construction, media and entertainment) and global jurisdictions. She is renowned for her high quality, practical and relevant advice, as well for knowing what's really important to her clients.

Answers by Belinda Wadeson

Hi Jane
The difficulty with your question is that ‘mechanical engineer’ is such a broad term. It’s a bit like ‘health worker’ – yet a surgeon, a nurse, an ambulance driver, a family doctor, radiologist all do such different jobs.  A mechanical engineer could design pumps, could oversee quality control in a factory, could do high level math on bolted joint strength for turbines or boilers, could work in a very small consultancy or factory designing either products or production lines, or for a multinational company or a high tech outfit like NASA, or become a sales engineer, or an academic. You could (often) become a project manager or team leader, rather than remaining a designer.  It’s already a generalist degree – other similar degrees are the ‘other’ engineering degrees (civil, electrical, mechatronics, chemical, environmental etc) or as you have identified the ‘applied science’ type degrees.
If you are concerned with getting into the ‘right’ course, you need to set a goal to assess ‘right’ against – do you want to work in local manufacturing or travel the world, do you want a ‘project manager’ type role, or do you want to work in a particular industry (mining, medical devices, packaging) or to design robots or space stations?  Obviously some jobs will take 10 or 20 years experience to actually obtain, but if you look at the job you think you want to have after 5-10 years experience, and then go look at the qualifications people doing that job have, it is likely there is a ‘common’ degree and to an extent a common career path (working for a corporate first, or experience in a particular aspect of an industry, or a postgraduate degree at one of a small handful of top end universities).  
If you are not yet sure of your direction and are looking at ‘keeping options open’, try to think about the big picture and longer term such as: availability of jobs (probably fewer jobs for theoretical physicists than for design engineers), immediate and long term pay levels in that line of work (civil pays less than mechanical, as a rule), gender based issues  including pay, promotion and workplace flexibility (could be fewer issues in large corporates, but not always). What percentage of the board or top management is female? If women cannot get to the top in that organisation, long term it is not a ‘great’ place to work.  Also look on the internet for other factors people use to ‘rate’ occupations and jobs against each other.  I’d write all your thoughts down on paper – something to keep referring to.  Then do a ‘generalist’ engineering (or physics) degree that gives good options in each of those areas – this is part of setting up to succeed rather than to fail. 
I can’t comment on the situation in Malaysia, but certainly in Australia, if you want to work as a mechanical engineer, you are going to need a mechanical engineering degree to get your first job. I have no doubt there are transferable skills and knowledge in physics degrees and that such people could do the job – but consider, as an employer looking for a graduate mechanical engineer – you receive 200 resumes. 179 of them are from people studying mechanical engineering. ‘Wrong course’ resumes won’t even be read properly, let alone assessed into ‘no / maybe / definitely interview’ stacks, which is my own technique for first cut sorting (whether or not fair to the candidates, it’s what happens. You can’t spend an hour on each one).  If I get half a dozen in ‘definitely interview’ I won’t even go back to the ‘maybe’ pile until after interviewing the first group and deciding none of them were suitable.
I will even go further and say that employers are going to look for demonstrated interest in their particular industry, for example from the electives selected in the degree and from any work experience / internships completed.  That alone will move a resume ‘up’ one stack!
On the other hand, you will no doubt find plenty of examples of people who have transitioned from, say, applied physics, to mechanical engineering, during their career. Say they start out working in research on a product that involves cutting edge optics. The employer might prefer a physics scientist. As the research becomes a commercial product, the person may be doing the same job as a colleague who has an engineering degree.  However, this is chance rather than intention.  If you wish to be a mechanical engineer, I’d recommend that is what you study.
Best of luck


Dear Anees,

Resume books (or the internet) will give you a lot of information and tips on how to write your resume, what to include, that you should try to find out the person’s name etc. E.g. try the classic ‘What Color is your Parachute’. Rather than repeating what these books/sites will tell you, I would make some recommendations from a different angle:

Put yourself in their shoes:

Think about what the person receiving the cover letter really wants (not just what they are supposed to want). If it’s an HR manager (any larger firm) they want a list of candidates they think the manager would accept, that they don’t have to spend a lot of time on (they are going to be more concerned about the new senior hires, new HR program being rolled out etc). 

This means they want candidates that tick boxes.  If the advertisement doesn’t list the boxes, try the boxes from the resume book. Use the words from the advert in your letter/resume. If the cover letter doesn’t grab them they won’t read the resume. So you probably have two paragraphs to convince them you should be on the list and tick – anyone I know sorts into ‘no’, ‘maybe’ and ‘yes’ piles before even looking into the resumes. The maybe pile only gets looked again at if there are less than 5 in the ‘yes’ pile – because they have to give the manager a list. 

The cover letter should use succinct, clear language and be totally error free (don’t forget to spell check the ‘Re:’ line!).  If you can make a sentence shorter, do so!

This means the cover letter needs to be short on waffle – you don’t have space to waste. I’ve seen letters with phrases like ‘It’s my objective to obtain experience with delivering superior customer service in an xyz environment’. My response is ‘so what’. I already know the company is an xyz environment, and claiming you want to do xyz doesn’t mean you can do it, or tell me anything other than ‘I want this’. Maybe it just demonstrates you understand what the company does – but you’ve wasted important real estate right up front. Every candidate ‘wants a fulfilling career’ etc.  My question is ‘why should you have it over the other 200 people’. What I’d rather read is ‘I won employee of the month 3 times last year in my customer service front desk role at McDonalds’. Now you’ve told me some facts, which happen to demonstrate a relevant point (if customer service is involved – e.g. in an engineering sales role). You could use the same facts to demonstrate you are a hard worker (implied by being the winner), that you have good people skills, that you are organised and efficient – whatever attribute you think they are looking for.  ‘I am organised and efficient, demonstrated by winning employee of the month 3 times in my part-time role at McDonalds’.

Of course, at the start of your career, you often don’t have these kind of facts to put in front of them. For an engineering job, you might point out ‘I received a credit average in (subject vaguely relevant to job) and am keen to start using this knowledge in the real world.’  ‘I am very organised and have put in place a new member management system in the student society’. ‘I use my initiative. I wrote a software program to manage orders at the pizza parlor where I work part time’. I.e. try to support claims with facts, or at least most claims.  If you claim to have attention to detail, but make a typo, you claim one thing but demonstrate another. 

Then think about what the engineering manager wants.  I have people volunteering to work for me, for free, all the time, but I’ve never taken one on. The time it would take to supervise them would cut into my own time so badly I’d be losing a lot of money, and the work they could do for me won’t be very valuable. Most people don’t realise this until they have been the employer, and that attitude comes through (not helpful). Of course, in a lot of situations the employer is getting a chance to try out a possible graduate hire, but that doesn’t take away from today’s situation, you will be taking the manager’s time. So, demonstrating that you don’t need close supervision is a good thing.

E.g. at abc job, I was instructed to do efg. (a broad instruction or outcome).  I put together a proposal of 3 options with costings, including sourcing possible suppliers and delivery time frames (it could have been buying a new office printer, the point is to demonstrate you understand business process and can plan it by yourself). My manager approved an option and I …(liaised with another department?). If a manager can tell you to organise a new printer, and you come back with ‘here are the sensible choices, which one shall I arrange’ you have saved time instead of costing it. Even though it has nothing to do with the ‘real’ job of engineering.

Plan ahead:

What do you really want, strategically, long term. Do you want to get into a large corporate company with a graduate program? International? Which industry?  Don’t just jump at any old job (but any job is better than none). Researching a company is a lot easier these days than 20 years ago. Do it. Work out where you want to work when you finish your degree. Then work backwards – what do I need to get there? If you need to ‘pad’ your resume to get that job, you need to find part time jobs, student societies etc, and turn them into measureable outcomes you can put in the resume ‘I organised and ran 15 student events as Secretary of the xyz’. OR, I arranged for seminar by (visiting academic) to be given. I put together a proposal for approval by the Dean.   The seminar could just be given by someone in business as part of one of your subjects – ask a lecturer if they could present next term for half an hour and arrange it – demonstrates initiative, networking, organisation – and the lecturer can prepare one less lecture for the term.

Managers and HR people will want a list of candidates who demonstrate they understand how the world works simply by the way they put together the letter and resume – you were smart enough to identify what they wanted and how to meet their needs – which makes you useful to have around. Remember that being hired isn’t really about the person being hired (graduate programs etc will talk about you, a lot, but they are trying to make sure all the top candidates apply so they can get their pick) – it’s about filling a role and about making the person doing the hiring’s job easier.  You have to join the dots for them about why you are the best candidate.

Best of luck



Hi Maria,

I'm an Australian patent attorney with a mechanical engineering degree with honors (which I understand may be like a Masters in the US, anyway its 4 years of technical study. I also did 3 years of history and languages).
I can't answer your question about pharma manufacturing. I can say that, at least in Australia, the patent attorneys I know are split between those with degrees such as mine and those with a PhD almost exclusively along technology lines.

The chemists, biochemists and geneticists all have a PhD before they start studying to become a patent attorney. Conversely, the electrical and mechanical  engineers mostly do not have a PhD - perhaps due to a perception that those in this field with a PhD live in ivory towers and are not practical. What the good engineers do have is at least a few years solid industry experience - which means they can relate to clients and understand their inventions well. Manufacturing experience is invaluable. They can read the drawings easily, understand why something was done in a particular way etc.  Have a look at the profiles of attorneys at my firm to see what I mean in terms of background/experience.  

As a chemical engineer, you straddle the divide. My advice would be to look at the profiles of attorneys in larger US firms, who have less than 10 years experience (attorneys with 30 years experience may only have a technical diploma!)and see what their background is. If they are chemical engineers practicing in pharma etc, they may tend towards a PhD. If they are more towards gas/oil or other industries, they may not. You should look at whether their practices are what you want to do.  

Don't forget about patent agents - they are not attorneys as such. They have all the training needed to draft and prosecute patent applications at the USPTO, just not in Court. The pay is not usually quite as good, but I understand you don't need the law degree as such (remember I'm in the Australian system, not the US!) And of course, law degrees are very expensive, both in time and money.

Becoming a patent attorney/agent is all about getting that first job - you have to have the qualifications the firm wants. So, looking at job advertisements for patent attorneys would be another excellent way to go, try for a jobs board that is pure patents.  If you can get the first job without the PhD, that's the way to go! Once you're qualified, other firms are much less likely to worry about whether you have a PhD or not, as becoming a patent attorney is not easy to do. Remember starting at a bigger firm is good for the resume as you will be presumed to have better training than with a very small practice.

wishing you the best of luck

Belinda Wadeson