Sydney Metro Means: This Engineering Life
Articles, Blog

Sydney Metro Means: This Engineering Life

September 14, 2019


It is a real privilege to come along and share
a bit of a perspective with you around what I’m doing and the journey I’ve been on
as a civil engineer since I graduated
many, many, many years ago now, I can say that. I can see one person that’s probably
from my era, at least, in John, who’s been working on
the Sydney Metro Project actually out in the north-west
in recent times. Reflecting back to when I was
in engineering, I’d have to say
it’s great to see a more balanced room,
with more women. I think it was a very tough time from a female participation
point of view and it’s a big, big agenda
that we’ve certainly got in trying to encourage greater
diversity within the team. so it’s really good to see,
coming into a university lecture, that there’s a great participation
of women. So I encourage you to keep at it
and stick at it because I think we had
a huge drop-out rate in the early years of engineering
when I was doing it. I am very humbled to come along. I have to confess that I didn’t go
to the University of Sydney so I didn’t know very much
about Professor Roderick. So I did a little bit of study
before I came along, just to check out
what the Distinguished Lecture was sort of born from, and certainly he was a very, very
successful, driven individual. I can’t compare myself too much
to him. There was one element
in the narrative that I read on the website that I think I can share
in common with him, which is that he was, apparently,
despite being very driven, quite a shy person. And I can tell you that that is
very much aligned with me as well. So coming out and doing
sort of public speaking is not the thing that I jump
out of bed to go and do. Particularly, I do
a lot of public speaking because it’s part of the job and I know it’s a really
critical part of the job but going out and doing it
is not the thing that excites me. Having said that, I’ve got a bunch of graduates
that work in our team and one of the things I enjoy
more than anything in the job is to sit down and actually
have a chat with graduates. So I’d love to hear some questions
from you at the end of the discussion today, some feedback, any questions you’ve got
around career development, where you might go when you leave
university and so forth. It’d be good to have
a bit of a conversation so please be prepared for that. My aim tonight
is to share some perspectives. I guess, having been on a career
journey for more than 20 years since leaving university, just giving you some perspectives
on some things I’ve reflected on looking back to where I was at
at that particular point in time as I stepped out of university
into the workforce. I’ve got a civil engineering
background, first and foremost, and that’s where my pedigree is, although I did do
a Masters of Finance in the journey to diversify my thinking
in that space. But I worked both
in the government sector, where I have been
for the last decade or so. I worked for global engineering firm
Arup for about 10 years as well and I got a really good
breadth and range of experience. Had a bit of time in a little
boutique project management company somewhere in the middle
around that as well so had a good sort of breadth
of experience along the way. All of it’s been really good, not every moment of it
particularly enjoyable but when I sort of reflect back
on the journey, there’s some things in there
that I think have served me well when I have applied those so I would like to share those
with you at some point in time. Now, I reflected on
when I left university where my head was at
and did I have this great plan and have I delivered on that plan. I can’t actually remember
what the plan was, if I had it, to be fair to say. But I know that my head was
very much along the lines of should I specialise in something
in engineering, pick a winner and really focus
and develop a huge skill set in a particular area, or should I go into
a more general area related to engineering
in some way and develop my career
and my skills through that? Or, in fact, I was actually
at a bit of a crossroads about whether I should do
engineering or whether I should take the degree
and jump ship and go and do something
quite considerably different. Just not quite sure of my own feet
at that particular point in time. I’d say to you if you’re in any
of those head spaces, it’s fine. If you’re in a head space
where you want to specialise, go for it, because we absolutely need some
really highly qualified specialists. If you want to generalise,
go for it – we need some really good
all-rounder people that have got a civil engineering
background because it’s a fantastic degree and a fantastic foundation degree
to have for a range of different things. If you choose to exit engineering,
not a problem at all. I think, in a way,
you’ll use your skills and you’ll apply them
really well in other industries. I’ve crossed paths
with a lot of civil engineers who haven’t done
a lot of civil engineering but they’re fantastic operators
and highly successful because of that foundation
they’ve got in engineering. So it’s great to have
those questions at the moment and, you know what, when you first
leave university you can experiment
with all of those. I guess that, before I give a bit
of background to what I’ve done, there’s three things that I want
to leave with you tonight that I think have served me well
when I have been successful or at least helped to guide me
in things I’ve done. The first one is that
whenever I’ve done something, in an engineering sense – I would implore you to think about
why you’re doing it. Not just what you’re doing
or what you’re building but behind it – why is it that
you’re doing that particular thing? It will serve you really well
if you’re in design, construction, anywhere in your decision-making if you really deeply understand why you’re doing
the thing that you’re doing. I’ll unpack that a little bit more. The second lesson
that I’ve reflected on is embrace the diversity of the
workforce that you find yourself in. You’re working here at the moment
in amongst a lot of engineers but when you get out
into the workforce you’ll cross an enormous number
of professions. Don’t dismiss that. Embrace it. And, actually, really learn
from those professions because it will make you
a better professional and a more rounded professional and allow those professions to influence your thinking
dramatically. They’ve all got a lot to offer
and certainly, I think, for me, one of the things that’s really
helped me to be successful is to get a lot
of different thinking as well as some really good
engineers around me. And the third one is seize
every opportunity you possibly can. They pass you by sometimes
and a few of them I let go and think, “Man, I should’ve
had a go at that.” But every one of them,
when I’ve taken a bit of a risk, sometimes I’ve failed,
sometimes I’ve failed big-time, but it’s always been worth it and there’s some great lessons
out of that that have served me
really well. Engineering for me, I think,
just to start where I was as a kid, I grew up in Botany,
so not very far from here, down on the northern foreshores
of Port Botany. When I was really young,
there was no port and there was only quite a small
airport back in the 1970s, to give my age away
a little bit. And I actually witnessed
an absolute transformation, in an engineering sense, of that whole northern foreshore
of Port Botany with the construction of a port,
the whole dredging of the bay, the delivery of a massive port
in that area, and also the construction,
in the latter years, of an additional runway
for the airport. So my house that I lived in
was on a little hill in Botany – it was the only hill in Botany. I could look over the bay and I could see every day
construction. So I think it was inevitable,
in some way, with a bit of a bent
towards construction, that I would find myself
years later involved in massive infrastructure in and around related to transport
in some form, because it was very much
front and centre for me. This is just a bit of an air photo of actually what’s been happening
in more recent times but I lived somewhere
in the middle of that screen and literally I rode my bike down. Site security wasn’t quite as good
in those days. On the weekend you could go for a
wander around the construction sites without too much trouble,
and touch and feel the gear. I don’t think you can do that
quite as readily anymore. The other bit of my personal history
which I’ll draw on a little bit is within my household. My grandfather, who I never met,
unfortunately, ’cause he died before I was born, had worked on the Harbour Bridge and on the southern arch
of the Harbour Bridge, basically doing the riveting. And just to pick the photo, he’s on
your right, with my grandmother. It’s the only photo
I’ve actually got of him because photos weren’t
quite as popular as the days we’ve got…
before iPhones. They were pretty rare. So it was a bit of family pride
to have been a part of that. My dad had every Harbour Bridge book
you could think of. Every sort of book that was about
the construction of the Bridge floated around our house and I couldn’t help but
sort of be influenced by that and the contribution
that had been made and the pride that we felt
as a family that we’d been part of that journey. Now, on the left is
the chief engineer, architect, of that entire bridge program,
Bradfield. So very much front and centre
in all those books was an engineer that had
a massive influence on Sydney. He’s talked about a lot. But for me, as a kid, it was just part of how Sydney
had been brought together. So I think the combination
of where I was living and what I was seeing there
and some family background – those two things came together to almost make it inevitable
from a pretty young age that I was going to do something
in construction. I contemplated architecture,
I have to confess. I contemplated architecture
for a few minutes. But I moved pretty quickly
into engineering when I thought
a bit more deeply about it. And civil was probably my passion
from the very beginning because it was the big
construction-type things that really interested me, not withstanding
my dad was a mechanic and I thought a little bit about
mechanical engineering as well. And even when I got into engineering I never went near electrical,
I must admit, never went near it, because I think the marks were
even higher for that at the time, even though there was
some interest in it for me. So, I think just sort of
stepping forward to start to get into a theme
about the first thing I said is when you step out
into the workplace, I’d encourage you
as much as possible to focus on the why
you’re doing something rather than just the what. So John’s sitting in the middle
of the audience here. He’s actually just come off
a construction site on Metro which I’ll refer to
in a little while and he could describe to you
in absolute degree not just the what but I know he can
describe the why as well and how important it is to Sydney. This bridge was, you know,
a game-changer for Sydney, without a doubt. It was a major construction feat
in its time – really transformed the accessibility
across Sydney, without a doubt. There’s plenty of photos – it’s out front and centre
for everyone to see today. But I think the story,
when you get into it, that’s lost behind that is why the Bridge,
as opposed to what the Bridge was in terms of an engineering feat. It was much more about
a transport system that Bradfield designed and that’s often lost in the history because everyone focuses
on the iconic Bridge. But front and centre for his plans were actually to develop
a transit system for Sydney and a transport system for Sydney
to underpin its growth. So anyone that worked on the Bridge,
why were they there? Not to create an iconic bridge. They were there to create
the backbone of a future city. And that drove Bradfield. When you look at the history,
it absolutely drove him. And the Bridge was just essentially
a spin-off of that in the way he went about it. He went through debates
of tunnels and bridges and locating it in one spot,
locating it in another but he was absolutely determined
and driven by the why, which is “I want to help Sydney grow
in the long term.” Now, you can take that at the macro but you can also take it
at the micro. You might be designing a bridge
in the future and it might just be about the what. “I’ve got to put a bridge.
It’s got to span from A to B.” But I would always encourage you
to ask the “Why is this bridge going here?
What’s it about? “What’s its purpose?” because you’ll think more laterally
about the solutions that you can bring to the table
if you understand the why. So don’t ever get dumbed down into
the “It’s just about the what.” Always be challenging, and if people aren’t answering
that question, you’re probably
in the wrong environment. I’d push hard to go to places where people are very interested
in the why because you’ll bring innovation,
you’ll bring smarts, you’ll challenge, you’ll improve, you’ll make things
absolutely better. In terms of the ‘why’ for Sydney,
wow, what an outcome – not only a bridge but a mass
transit system, a railway system, that serviced us for
getting on to nearly 100 years now. And it’s actually getting to a point where we’ve stretched it
as far as we can but it’s absolutely underpinned
the growth of that CBD. If you go back 100 years, it looked
absolutely nothing like that and it couldn’t look
anything like that without someone like Bradfield
saying… ..really understanding why
he was doing what he was doing. So that’s a lesson
I’ve reflected on. I’ve found myself sometimes
spending a couple of years not realising
I haven’t focused on that but they’ve probably been
the parts of my career I don’t think I’ve done as well. But when I actually reset my head and think about
why am I doing something, then that’s when I really crack in and probably feel like
I do much better as an engineer and as a leader. The second thing
I said to reflect on is embracing diversity of skills
and diversity of workforce. So I had a great opportunity
working in Arup in the 1990s. I’m looking at this group thinking,
“What’s the age demographic?” And some of you wouldn’t have
even been at school at the time that the Showgrounds
were getting built, back before the Olympics. But this was… I’m not sure when
this particular photo was taken but it was completed
back in about 1998. I was pretty fresh
out of university, got the opportunity to work
on site on that job, get involved in the design
and then work on that site. It used to be an abattoir. It was converted into
the new Showgrounds, which used to be out near the SCG but they were relocated here
in advance of the Olympics. And it was the centrepiece for getting the whole Olympics
infrastructure up and going. We wanted it done
two years before so it could be a test event
and so forth. I went in thinking, “This is an engineering job –
just get in and built,” but what I found really quickly was the mass of people
that were involved and the diversity of people
that were involved. In a showground environment,
there were all of these user groups like the dogs, the cattle, the flowers, the cakes
and all that sort of thing. There was a very diverse user group.
All had very special needs. And we had to respond
to all of that. And then we obviously had
architects involved but we also had a whole range… And the most critical thing
in this entire job was pedestrian modelling
and how people moved around. You can see the crowds
in this particular event. So how people moved
became the fundamental driver about how the whole site
was laid out. The engineering,
the technical engineering, really became a secondary thing. And it took quite a while for the
team to get their head around that. But it was probably
my first real insight to realising, as an engineer, you’re operating
in quite a dynamic environment and you need to actually understand the hierarchy of where you sit
in a decision-making process, and respect that
and challenge it sometimes, but that it will vary
from project to project and it’s actually
important to embrace it rather than resist it
or push it away. Because there’s a tendency
sometimes, as an engineer, and I’ve done it myself, to go, “I’m pretty clear
on what I need to do. “I’m just going to crack in
and do that and push pretty hard,” and then you realise that you’ve
actually not taken on board the broader set of thinking. So that was a very early
career lesson for me. I’d encourage you to – not withstanding
you’re a civil engineer and you’ll work with
a lot of civil engineers when you step out in the workplace – look for opportunities where there’s
a really good cross-section of different skills and disciplines. And I don’t mean just mechanical
and electrical, by the way. I mean, you know, go really broad. I had a great opportunity
to work on a big proposal for Sydney-Canberra
high-speed rail which actually never got up. So a bit of an example
of a failure, in the end, but we spent nearly two years
of technical engineering work designing up a concept to get
from Sydney to Canberra. And we haven’t been
the only one to do it – there’s been a few others
that have had a go at that. So nearly two years
of my engineering career was spent doing that. And we were really focused
as an engineering group in laying all of that out. We had financiers involved. We had
rolling stock providers on board. We all thought
it was a great idea. And at the last minute, the leader of the consortium
that had been put together – and we’d spent tens of millions
of dollars on this – thought it would be a good idea to get an end operator
that would run the trains involved to have a bit of a look at the
business case we had and everything. And we actually brought someone out
from the UK to have a look at that. And they had a look in Sydney,
they had a look at the concept and went, “This is a fantastic idea.
It’s really good. “We’re just going to go down
to Canberra “and have a look
at the market down there “and then we’ll come back and sign
up to be part of your consortium.” A couple of days later we got
a phone call from the airport and they were on a plane
heading home because they very quickly assessed
that from the proposition we had, that there wasn’t a business in it. They’d gone to Canberra.
Canberra was not Sydney. And they thought Canberra
was another Sydney. And they very quickly realised that in fact
there wasn’t a business. Now, we’d spent two years
working on that, only to have someone come in
with a really fresh set of eyes and a diverse perspective and completely change the game
on us overnight. So that was the massive lesson
for me is when you’re going,
go out and test and look for that diversity
of skill, diversity of thinking, because otherwise
you can find yourself going down some blind spots
really, really quickly. So, at the moment, look out
to whatever your plan is – look to work with financiers,
look to work with lawyers, look to work with commercial people, quantity surveyors,
communications specialists. I’ve got one right here
in Chris Grima, who works with me on the team. I had a pretty early entree doing some work
on the Pacific Highway, duplicating part of that, and we went out and did
some community consultation. And that’s a really hard thing
to do, going and talking to people
about wanting to acquire properties and decide on routes. I went in behind a couple of
communications specialists and was absolutely blown away by their capacity
to engage with people, to draw out information,
to be empathetic, and to deal with that
whole situation, whereas an engineer comes in
and thinks, “Pretty clear
what I’m going to do.” So that, once again,
was a real eye-opener to having a bit of diversity
of thinking and skills in and around
a particular issue. The third thing that I said
to reflect on as a bit of a life lesson
is to seize the opportunities. Now you might wonder why I’ve got
a little country photo up on the screen. When I started at UTS, I chose what was called
in those days a sandwich course – I’m not even sure whether
they offer it now – where you study for six months and then you got to go
and work for six months, which I thought was pretty good because I needed a bit of cash
on a fairly regular basis, so that was quite helpful for me. Maybe that was the real rationale
why I went to UTS, ’cause I don’t think that was
on offer at Sydney at the time. But we were actually in a really bad
spot economics-wise at the time. There weren’t many jobs
going around. Knocked on many doors of construction companies
and design firms to see if I could get a six-month
sort of crack in the workplace with only six months of uni
under my belt. Couldn’t get a job anywhere. Found a little job
down at Yass Council, just outside of Canberra – I think population of 4,000 people, 2,000 kilometres of road networks
to look after, a little sewerage system that looked
after the town and so forth. Two engineers and they wanted someone to come in
and help them out a little bit. So, desperate for cash,
I went and did it, thinking, “I don’t really want
to live in the country “but at least it’s only three
or four hours’ drive from Sydney “so I can come home on a weekend,”
and that sort of thing. But I went in
with a head space of “This is just something
I’ve got to do,” but I came out of it
completely blown away just with the opportunity
that I was given. Because there was only
two other engineers, I got to do just about everything
you could think of as an engineer, as though I was fully qualified. Now, I had two great mentors. And I always look back
with huge fondness to go, “That really
set my career up “in terms of thinking
about public infrastructure,” ’cause I just got to see the full
gamut of looking after a community. And that chief engineer
knew his job was to keep the farms moving
and to keep that community moving. He was really clear about
that objective from the get-go and that had an influence
on my career. Now, if I’d turned my back on that
because I wanted to stay in Sydney, I would’ve missed out on that. So it’s funny how little things
pass you by. And I reflect and go,
“If I hadn’t done that, “where would my career
have ended up?” I only spent six or seven months
down there but it did shape the direction. I talked about that Sydney-Canberra
high-speed rail job. There was a couple of options
in that project to work on and one of them was to lead up
a bit of the design work and the other one was to be
a bit more administrative and help project-manage
the consortium along the way, and I wasn’t quick enough and I ended up with the
administrative job in that space. But what I found out was I got to sit at the table
of the consortium that was making all the decisions about where they would invest
their time and effort as a business, rather than simply as a sort of
an engineering design aspect. And out of all of that
my whole eyes opened up – and I shared with you
that experience about the whole thing
falling over when the operator turned up – my eyes were opened up
to the bigger picture of where engineering fitted in
and the contribution it had to make but also that it was
about a business. So I rolled on and
did a Masters in Finance to help strengthen my skills
around that, without wanting to abandon
my engineering background and what I wanted to do. But if I hadn’t actually picked up
on that little opportunity as well, then I would’ve missed out
on that experience and it would’ve actually
probably undermined what I’ve been able to do
since that time. So I’ll talk about
a few life lessons and I will come back
and reflect on those. But probably something else
that I’ve thought about was that I was trying to put myself
in your shoes and think ahead 20 years about what
your work experience would be like by the time you get to my point
in the career. So I looked back to do that first and I looked back a long way,
given that I talked about Bradfield. This is actually a photo of the construction
of the underground in Sydney. Now, anyone that’s working in… In fact, great to have a couple
of light rail people here because you know how hard it is to
work in and around the Sydney CBD and in the south-east at the moment. 100 years ago, deadset it was a bit
easier in terms of construction because you had a bit more space. There weren’t quite as many
community issues around. There weren’t as many sensitivities. You tended to have
a little bit more imprimatur just to get in and build
along the way. That is Hyde Park, I think, so you can imagine
trying to do that in Hyde Park today and what sort of reaction
you may actually get in there. This is actually up at Wynyard,
York Street. So imagine trying to do this
to York Street and Wynyard Park today. So they pretty much shut the
northern end of the CBD down, dug a hole. So this is even a bit more dramatic than what’s going on
in George Street with the light rail at the moment. So there was a political license
and available opportunity, I think, for Bradfield to go in and go hard
to create this sort of thing because the city wasn’t as busy,
let’s face it. Public infrastructure, there was more of an imprimatur
to get on and make things happen. It would be fair to say
if you fast-forward to now – and I’m in the middle
of responsibility for removing a number of buildings
in the CBD to put a station in – the shift in challenge
has gone forward enormously. So we’ve got these really highly
constrained sort of environments in which we’re working. We’ve got to basically do
what I’d call… Instead of open-heart surgery, like Bradfield had the opportunity
to do, we’ve got to do
keyhole surgery in and around. Now, Bradfield
had a lot of labour and he had a lot of
available workforce and willing people to come and work. Interestingly for us now, we’re really struggling
for construction workforce. As societies
become more professional, we’re losing the opportunity to get
people on the construction front. So one of our other big challenges, apart from greater community
expectation and tighter space, is also, as engineers, thinking differently
about how we build things because you won’t necessarily
have the same workforce available to do things that Bradfield
would’ve had a long time ago in terms of just general labour
that we had. And that’s something, I think, if I look forward for you
in 20 years’ time, you’re probably going to be
more challenged by things like that. This will be nothing compared
to what you’re going to confront in terms of constraints, and as an engineer,
you’re going to have to get smarter and think differently around it. There’s lots of new technology
coming through. I’m amazed even at just
little things like being able to use drones
for inspections on things that we’re starting to bring in just as little subtle innovations
in the work that we’re doing. You think about 3D printing
and new materials and so forth and what’s coming in. There’s massive opportunities
to do more off-site manufacture before we take things onto site,
as civil engineers, and that will be an enormous
sort of positive to safety. It’s innovation to construction
speed, to cost efficiency, and those sorts of things. So while I’m saying to you
you’ve got a bigger challenge than I’ve confronted
in the last 20 years, I think you’re also going to have
some awesome tools to work with if you’re prepared to push
and innovate over that time and make the most of it. So…talk a little bit about what I’m actually working on
here and now, Sydney Metro. As was said at the intro, I’m responsible for delivering a new 66-kilometre
fully automated metro line from north-west Sydney,
through Macquarie Park, the lower North Shore,
under the Harbour, through the middle of the CBD,
around Waterloo. There was actually a proposal
for a station I think within 100 metres or so
of here early on in the scheme but it ended up going over
to Waterloo instead. And then moving out to Sydenham
and out to Bankstown. So, yep, it’s just another train – that would be one way
of looking at it – but it is fundamentally different
to what we’ve got here in Sydney. If you’ve travelled overseas, you’ve definitely travelled
on an automated metro somewhere, if you’ve been to Singapore,
Hong Kong, Paris, some parts of London network
and so forth. It’s not out there
in terms of at a global scale but it is very different
for Sydney. So I’ve been working on this job
since 2011. I should say that it wasn’t an easy
start getting into this role, and in fact if I go back and reflect
on opportunities and failures – I talked about my opportunities. I actually had a go at trying
to build a metro line in the city back in 2006, 2007, 2008. I was actually a chief executive of an agency in government
set up to do that – pretty young at the time so felt quite honoured
to have that opportunity. But somewhere in the middle
of all of that, policy changed
and it was cancelled. So I’d seized that opportunity and then had it sort of fail
right in front of me, had to lay off
a couple of hundred people, had big impacts on industry
and so forth along the way. But I look back on that and go, “That set me up so well
to do the job “that I’ve been able to do
since 2011 “because I learnt so much
out of that failure.” So we’re in the middle
of a major delivery. It is fair to say, I think,
it’s been a massive challenge but also a massive honour to sort of have led the project
from its very conception in 2011 up to where we are now,
and we’re within a couple of years of bringing the first train
into service. The first part will open
between Rouse Hill, Cudgegong Road, and Chatswood in 2019,
in the first half of 2019, and then we’ll extend that service
under the lower North Shore, through the city
and out to Bankstown in 2024. In terms of where it’s up to
with construction, building a 4-kilometre viaduct that’s getting very close
to completion. It’s got a cable-stay bridge
on a curve, on a grade – the only one
that’s been built like that for a railway in Australia
to date. There’s been so much
engineering expertise just to go into
that 200 metres of structure so that we can do a long span. We’ve got four kilometres
of viaduct. We’ve got about 16 kilometres
of twin tunnel to support that north-west area
as well. Well advanced
in the civil engineering space and that’s been really critical to set us up to bring in
and do the station fit-outs, put the rail track down and get ready
to bring the trains in. Just beyond Rouse Hill,
we’ve levelled a major site and put in a new, modern
stabling facility to stable trains. It’ll be fully automated so trains can drive themselves in
of a night, know where they’re stabled and then they’ll be driven out
in the morning – they’ll drive themselves
back out again. So quite a fundamental shift
in the way you operate the system to what we’ve actually got today. We can run high capacity,
high frequency. We’ll have greater safety features,
like platform screen doors so you can’t accidentally
fall onto the track or lose a pram over the edge
of the platform and those sorts of things. So some really big innovations
that we’re bringing in with that. The ‘why’ of that
is very much similar to the narrative around Bradfield in supporting the future growth
of Sydney. It will be the backbone
of a lot of growth in and around
the Sydney metropolitan area. To make that a success, but, the diversity of the team
that I need is unbelievable. I have got a huge number
of engineers working for me, lots of specialists,
from electrical, civil, mechanical, signalling engineering, a whole host
of acoustic engineers and so forth. So there’s a lot
of technical work in it. But around that, a lot of planners, communications people,
like I referred to before, financiers, commercial people,
contractual people, lawyers. And the team is absolutely critical to being able to shape, drive
and deliver something and make it as best
as it can possibly be. So just going back to that point
that I made before about it’s a life lesson
of embracing – that’s one of things
I’ve tried very hard to carry
into this particular project and this particular concept. So this is a little bit of a session
we did as a team about 18 months ago. Unfortunately you probably
can’t quite see it but we pulled the team apart. We made sure no two engineers
got to go next to each other, so we had to put engineers
and comms people and financiers and lawyers
together. And they each got set a task
to sort of build a little bridge and see how they could work together
to do that and it was a fun event. But it was just a bit of a test of how you get people with
different skills and diversity to come together and work together
to create something extraordinary. Now, it was interesting to see
who succeeded and who didn’t. Not necessarily
the best technical person was the one that was actually able
to succeed – it was those that were able
to get themselves together, work together
to make a success of it. So just a little anecdote, I guess,
but very critical, I think. If you’re going to work
in public infrastructure and deliver major
public infrastructure you’re going to be part
of a pretty diverse team. So get your head into that,
embrace it and make the most of it. The last one is, I guess,
seizing the opportunity. I’ve talked about
seizing the opportunity from a career point of view, in terms of an opportunity
passes you by, grab it, run with it. I think the other thing is
when you’re in a job and you’ve got a bit of capacity
to do it, make the most of what you’re doing and push the bounds
as much as you possibly can. The easy thing for me and my team
would be, with the Metro, is just to focus on building
the train line and just leave it at that
and deliver a great service. And that will be really good. We will absolutely deliver that. Lots of challenges
along the way. I can’t say every day
has been a breeze. When you’re doing
major civil construction there are a few hiccups
along the way and I’ve had my fair share of them,
there’s no doubt. You don’t have to laugh too much
there, John. There’s no doubt that there’s been
plenty of those. But we will have
a great metro service in 2019. But if we don’t push the bounds, make sure that it connects
very well with the transport system, including light rail at Central,
for example, then it will not be
a successful metro service. And if we don’t really engage
with the surrounding areas to make sure that the development
and the places around the stations work really well as well, then we’ll have
missed the opportunity of what we’re actually trying
to create with this Metro service. So in building a diverse team, we’ve actually also built
quite a diverse perspective on what success looks like – fantastic train service,
but look further than that. I think that’s the future
for major professions. They will need to be able
to diversify, work really closely together, to make sure that they make the most
of the public investment in these major
infrastructure projects. So that’s a bit of an overview
of some career perspective that I’ve got and also a bit of insight to where I think your challenges
are going to be as engineers as you leave and go into
the workforce going forward. I guess those three themes,
just to reinforce around – always focus on the ‘why’
about what you’re doing. Embrace the diversity
of the skill sets that are out there
in the industry when you get in
and start working on things. And make the most of every
opportunity you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to fail, I’d say. If you don’t have one or two
failures along the way, you won’t have learnt
within that space. You may feel like you’ve lost
a year or two of your life but somewhere in there that’ll
actually be a bit of a gem for you in your future jobs. So I’m really keen to get
some questions going, a bit of feedback and discussion, so I’m happy to throw it open
to the floor and thanks very much. I’d like to ask you, what do you think the big change
for the past 20 years… Like, what kind of skills or
opportunities you need to get for the civil engineering,
civil engineers, in the past and now? What’s the big change for you? Mmm, OK. I’ll have to confess
that when I graduated there wasn’t even a concept
of email, so there’s some, um… The world has changed quite a bit,
I have to say, over that time. I think it is around your capacity
to work with others, so I guess it’s coming back
to that theme I talked around. The world’s gotten
a lot more complicated. You can’t just, I guess,
lock yourself in a little box and do your little bit. You’ve actually got to engage,
listen, understand, what people are looking for
in a job that you’re doing, really absorb that in and then take all that information
and create solutions as an engineer. Has that always been there?
It’s probably always been there. I just think the demands
and the expectations for that… And if you really want to
get involved in some great projects as a sort of engineer, I think they’re the sort of skills that are going to make
the difference between you getting
those opportunities and not getting those opportunities. So, you know, just work on those… They may not come naturally. My natural operating style,
to be quite frank – I said I’m shy. My perfect day in the world would be to go into the office,
say hello to everyone on the way in, go and sit in the corner,
sit in front of the computer and just do my own thing. That would be awesome,
absolutely awesome. (AUDIENCE LAUGHS) I’ve come to realise, but, that if you want to influence,
if you want to drive great outcomes, you’ve got to get outside
your comfort zone and push yourself. You’ve got to go and do things
like this. So I do leave the corner
of the office occasionally and go and have a chat with people
and engage. So that’s, I guess, an example where your natural style
may be to do something and it’s OK to be like that
but you’ve got to push yourself to get out and engage with people
and listen to them. Thank you so much for the talk. The complexity
of any of these projects is completely mind-boggling and so this has definitely outlined all the interactions that happen
between the professions. But also, I was thinking,
in terms of the city, you know, as academics we sit
and do our models in the university, and it would be great to have
some perspective on, when such a thing is planned, what are the interactions
that are considered in the housing market,
on the land values, on the… You know, around the actual
employment centres, where new markets would emerge. So in the sense of how values
interact with transport, how does that happen? It’s actually a really, really
important question. And I think cities around the world
have struggled with that, around where they put
their investment in transport infrastructure
and other public infrastructure and how it interacts
with land use. And Sydney’s had a bit of
a chequered history around that. I think sometimes
those investment decisions get quite politicised. There’s been some pretty strong
intent in the last 5-10 years to get above that. I think we’ve got
a Greater Sydney Commission that’s out at the moment
driving a bigger-picture view about what we want
the shape of Sydney to be like over the next 20, 30, 50 years. And that’s, I think, providing the best framework
I’ve seen for a long time about decision-making on investment. But the sort of thing
we’re doing with Metro will absolutely shape the way
Sydney grows. The north-west of Sydney
will be so different to what it currently is. I mean, it is still
a very growing area but if we hadn’t put Metro out there
it would’ve grown very differently and it would be much more
car-dependent. One of the things
I’m really proud about is I know that a kid that’s
growing up in the north-west today – I don’t know if there’s anyone
from the north-west, but your chance to actually stay
and live in that area is very limited because just about every dwelling
out there is a four-bedroom house
with a four-car garage. And as a 21-year-old, 22-year-old,
if you want to leave home there’s not a lot of housing choice
for you. You’ve got to go somewhere else
in Sydney to live. You’ve got to move away
from your family. But with the Metro going in, you’ll have the opportunity to live
in a smaller apartment without a car and you won’t need a car
’cause you’ll have employment, retail, jobs and education
all over the north-west of Sydney to travel on in mass transit. That’s the sort of change
that you can have. But we do need organisations
like the Greater Sydney Commission to set that agenda
and work within that, in answer to your question. So it’s hard… It’s iterative, it’s very iterative, but it’s not a case
of then just saying “This is how it’s going to be,”
and you go and work it out. I think they tend to say,
“This is how we’d like it to be,” and we’ll go back and say,
“Well, that’s very hard to do,” in terms of where you might want to
put a train line or a motorway or something like that. They’ll take that feedback on
and they’ll revisit their plans and it’s quite an iterative thing. There’s a lot of nuance to it. You do need a wide range
of professions involved. I think, in the same way
I’m saying to engineers, “You need to embrace
more diverse skills,” planners also have to do that
as well. I think there’s been a tendency
for planners to go, “We know what it is
and this is how it’ll be “and everyone else
can just take it.” They’re under as much pressure
as we are to bring the inputs of a lot of
other skills and professions in. Can I ask you,
you’ve been very positive and you’ve painted a good picture
of opportunities and it’s true, it’s all there,
but the flip side of that – what would you be worrying about? What keeps you up at night
about infrastructure, about transport in Sydney, where we’re gonna be
in 10, 20, 30 years? Or if it’s all good,
just tell us that. But what I really want to know
is what we need to watch out for as we move through
and embark on our careers. Yeah, no, it’s not all good.
It’s not all good. I think Sydney suffered from
a lack of that planning that I was just asked about,
I think, for 20, 30 years or more, you know,
for some decades and having a really integrated view. So we’re playing a pretty
significant amount of catch-up with the investments going on. I think everyone
would have to acknowledge that there is a lot of investment
going on in transport infrastructure. That’s a real positive. But to me it feels like
we are playing a catch-up to a generation that’s been lost and we’ve got to keep
that momentum going. So there is a whole city-shaping
perspective here about what sort of Sydney we want and that’s a big public debate
to be had about how much density we want
around mass transit versus scattering. And I’m concerned in that that if we end up
with too much scattering, it’ll really continue to reinforce the fairly highly dependent
car use across Sydney, and Sydney can’t afford
to continue to be like that. We’ve got to create better choice and I think Metro, light rail,
some of the other big investments are the foothold for that. But in the same way, 30 years ago, we had tiny pieces
of a motorway network which has now become
a full orbital in Sydney. I’d like to think that we’ll have a much stronger mass transit,
light rail, Metro network, upgraded Sydney trains network
over the next 20-30 years. That’s the opportunity
that I think is there. If we don’t seize that, then I think Sydney’s going to be
a tough place to live, I really do. I think people will get
quite isolated. We’ll get much greater disparity
than we’ve already got in terms of living standards
across the city as a result. I think there’s a tendency
for people to think that they’ve solved
the problem. So I’m going to go within
my own team, so I’ll be a bit harsh on elements
of my team sometimes. Yeah, we solved the problem,
we know what we need to do, we’re going to get on with it, without being prepared to take in
sort of feedback about what some of the issues
might be on that and evolving it
and adapting it. So I think, traditionally,
big projects, the idea was
let’s define what it is, lock it, load it, deliver it. And on these big projects,
along the way, you realise that you maybe
hadn’t got something right and you need to be prepared
to adapt. And within your own team, there can often be quite
a resistance to that because they’ve taken
quite a bit of ownership of what it is that they’ve designed
right up front, and not prepared to sort of concede
or adapt around. So big picture,
Metro’s really good. When you get into the detail of, say, a station location
at Martin Place or Town Hall, my team thinks
they’ve nailed the solution but we’ve still got quite a bit
of design work to do and interaction to do and we’re going to have to change
that design quite a bit. So they’re one of the challenges
I find, is that people tend to want to jump
to the solution too quickly and not be prepared to continue
to work it and finalise it. What would be your dream public
transport infrastructure project for Sydney, one that, you know – there’s a few on the drawing board
at the moment but one that might be done
in 30 or 40 years down the track or something that’s sorely needed
that’s just impossible but would be amazing if it existed? (AUDIENCE LAUGHS) If you’d stopped
at the first part of your question I would’ve said I’m already working
on the dream project. (AUDIENCE LAUGHS) Because, quite frankly, I feel like
it is a huge privilege to be on it. I’d have to say that if I stick to
a mass transit type of concept, because I think Sydney needs it, we need to see the development
of more of a grid across Sydney. So at the moment,
everything’s quite CBD-centric at a mass transit level – everything tends to focus
in and around the Sydney CBD. What I’d love to see in the future is something that starts
to criss-cross Sydney more, because our motorway networks do it
and our road network does it but we don’t have great mass transit
doing that. So whether it’s something from
southern Sydney, around Hurstville, through Bankstown, Parramatta
and Macquarie Park or through Olympic Park,
Macquarie Park, but more north-south, it’d be great to see
something like that happen because I think that would
really change the ability for people
to move around Sydney because they can suddenly
start making travel choices and interchange
at various locations. So it’d be pretty cool
to work on something like that. I have to say,
30 to 40 years out from here, I’m not sure that
I’m going to be the one that’s going to be doing that. I think it’s the people in this room
that are going to be doing that so I wish you well with it. (APPLAUSE)

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