REFOCUS is a short episode where we revisit some of the key ideas from some of our previous guests on the podcast.
Engineering Heroes with Dan Taylor
This week we refocus on the message presented to us by Dan Taylor
be a Kevin McCloud of engineering
Being reserved at the start of your career is expected, but there comes a time in every engineer’s career when they must recognise that it’s time to actively and loudly promote the work they are doing and the expertise they have gained.
Dan has been a part of the COWI Transportation team since September 2019, Prior to that he has had extensive experience working in New South Wales and Australian Road, Rail and Infrastructure projects.
Dan is a Structural Engineer with 15 years’ experience specialising in bridge and structures design with experience in all aspects of bridge concept, detailed design and analysis through to construction across a range of business lines and international geographies.
He has been associated with the detailed design and delivery of major projects across a variety of disciplines including complex bridges, road, heavy rail, light rail, water, maritime, and dam infrastructure. He has successfully delivered projects to approval with TFNSW on a range of technically challenging projects.
Dan has site experience and managed relations with major contractors and stakeholders during the construction of major infrastructure, bridge and earth work projects. He has successfully delivered complex design packages from concept to construction stage whilst integrating the inputs of other disciplines and various major stakeholders.
Dan’s detailed design projects include precast segmental balanced cantilever bridges, composite steel concrete signature pedestrian bridges, prestressed and post tensioned girders with in-situ concrete decks and steel truss designs. Analyses techniques include grillage with moving and dynamic loads and 3D nonlinear analysis, Dynamic Analysis and FEA verification.
Dan has successfully managed teams of engineers, and technicians to meet tight deadlines of project delivery in a variety of methods including Design and Build, Alliances, and MCC contracts.
Dan has a strong philosophy of getting the basics right from the very start and agreed with both the contractor and client best interest. – this ensures a solid foundation for the project and a delivery on time outcome.
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during REFOCUS 1 Podcast episode
It is not 100% accurate.
REFOCUS: Engineering Heroes
Dan: [00:00:00] we’ve got to stop being humble and we got to be bolder. And by saying that, I mean.. Look, I see it in infrastructure all the time, that we design and we construct these amazing things, big roads big railways logs, huge bridges and wharfs and all sorts.
[00:00:16] Yet we don’t really put the people on a pedestal who did them. if you look back, way back in the 1800’s and stuff, you got to household names like, you know, Brunel and Stephenson and these amazing old engineers in Victorian era. When even now, if you look at architecture, for example, where you can pick up a magazine on applying and generally someone amazing will be profiled in there, Norman Foster or Grant Gery, or everyone knows of those people, they’re household names.
[00:00:45] So it’s not Foster and Partners. It’s like, Oh, that’s Norman Foster. You know, there’s a subtlety in that where people go, they know who these people are. They know they can see their face. So. Well, I think that they’re really great self promoters and we really should take a leaf out of that. I mean, and their business models, they really rely on the ability to sort of showcase what they’ve done, be critiqued and then get their profile out
[00:01:10] Mel or Dom: [00:01:10] Yeah. And they have portfolio work that’s and that allows them to get more work. And do, do engineers do that? Um, do they typically try, go off the previous projects they’ve done before? I think people ever really understand or know just what it takes for some of those projects that they’ve done.
[00:01:27] So yeah, it is, it’s a, it’s a massive problem because there’s some amazing feats of engineering out there and not to detract from the architects, but some of those beautiful buildings that are out there that are so well known wouldn’t be standing up if it wasn’t for the structural engineers who went in behind them or, you know, the services engineers who put everything together.
[00:01:47]I mean, we always say in regards to hydraulics, it’s behind the wall staff. and it’s almost as though our engineering disappears as well because no one realises it’s there because it works so well. And it’s so hidden, but there are these brilliant minds who are doing these things that you should be being given the accolades that they deserve along with everyone else.
[00:02:07]Dan: [00:02:07] Yeah. I mean, I think some of these people tend to be buried inside big companies. So rather than say, Oh, that’s, you know, Dom De Gioia’s job, it’s that’s EWFW you know, or that’s such and such inside such and such. So there’s no reason why it can’t be Dom De Gioia of EWFW You know, it’s, I think it’s a subtle change,
[00:02:30] Mel or Dom: [00:02:30] I mean, it’s one of those things where it comes down maybe to IP. Where usually a lot of contracts nowadays. It’s like, if I create anything while I’m working with your company, the company owns it because I will move to another job and that’s a known. I will one day move to another job, but they want to own that.
[00:02:50]Dan: [00:02:50] but yet at the same time, I think that sometimes if you are person of company A, then when they want to rehire a company, I’ll say, I want that person
[00:02:59] Mel or Dom: [00:02:59] Yeah, exactly.
[00:03:00] Dan: [00:03:00] company. Cause they were great and they’ve done all this stuff. you know, some of the smartest scores and girls, sorry that I’ve worked with are so humble. there need to be combination of really great promoters and really great engineers as well. And so I’d put it in perspective, you know, roughly with numbers, you looking at. You graduate 25, it takes about 10 years to get pretty good at a general sort of sense. Another 10 years to be a specialist in some sort of field, like big bridges, something like that. So if you’re going to retire about 60 cause I reckon I’ll be knackered by 60.
[00:03:37] So that gives you a bit of 15 years when you’re at the top of your game. Right? So if you’re just waiting for work to walk in the door, When you’ve got 15 years left at the top of your game and no one knows about yet, you’re this amazing person who’s so clever and could do all this stuff. Well then that’s when you gotta say, that’s the time that’s when you, your profile should have been high enough, or then the people know who you are
[00:04:05] You haven’t got long. You know, you’ve, it takes a long time to be really, really great. It’s like the 10,000 hour rule, you know, if you want to be a great spin bowler, you need to put in the time to get really good. And they’d be at the top of your game.
[00:04:17] Mel or Dom: [00:04:17] And was that a cricket reference.
[00:04:19] Dan: [00:04:19] Absolutely.
[00:04:19] Mel or Dom: [00:04:19] Okay.
[00:04:24] Dan: [00:04:24] You know, and now some of these big mega projects that you’re talking this jobs in Sydney at the moment, $13 billion.
[00:04:30] So like the Western Sydney airport. that’s an eight, nine, 10 year job.
[00:04:34] So just think about that in terms of your career. if you’re on that job for 10 years that’s, it, that’s
[00:04:40] Mel or Dom: [00:04:40] That’s a chunk
[00:04:41] Dan: [00:04:41] of work, you know? So it’s important to sort of swallow the humble part, show people what you can do, you know, be a, be a Kevin McCloud of engineering,be an Instagram star of engineering.
[00:04:52] Mel or Dom: [00:04:52] I’m a little fangirl for Kevin McCloud. So I like that, it really that’s…
[00:04:57]Dan: [00:04:57] It’s spreading the word and being really generous with your knowledge. it’s no good cooped up inside your head. You sort of trying to explain to people about why we do stuff in pedestrian dynamics or construction staging. That’s you know, that’s what you got to, you got to share.
[00:05:10] Mel or Dom: [00:05:10] Yeah. It’s funny with engineers was thinking were, most of the ones that I’ve met are one end of the scale of the other. they’re either willingly give up their time and their knowledge, and they’ll quite happily impart as much as I can with other people around them, and then you get these other people that just won’t part with anything.
[00:05:27] Like they, they won’t train people. They, they don’t want to let people know what’s going on. They won’t confer with colleagues. And I think we need to be more of the sharing end, because it’s only through gaining knowledge through other people that you can sort of take that knowledge and put your own twist on it or rethink it or develop it or do whatever to it.
[00:05:47] That’s just going to make things bigger and better. And yeah. it just evolved to, to be something that you never would have even thought what you could, you could do. .
[00:05:54]Dan: [00:05:54] And, you know, people think I’ve learned over the years, that people aren’t silly. You know, we can’t hold back information, thinking that’s far too complex for someone to understand, if you just break it down and say, well, this is a reason why we’re doing something like this.
[00:06:07] It seems obscure from the outside. But, you know, we might be talking about fatigue design on a bridge or something and you just break it down and you can describe what fatigue is, it’s just bending something over and over again till it gets brittle. And that’s sort of. That’s it
[00:06:21] Mel or Dom: [00:06:21] so what’s your solution?
[00:06:23] Dan: [00:06:23] I, uh, I struggle with a solution,
[00:06:27] um, because it is it the industry, because it’s so. This kind of idea of the humble engineer where you’ve just got this bank of knowledge, you just quietly say, well, I think we should go in this direction. You’re always sort of, you’re not, shout from the rooftops. This is exactly what we should do and I’m right. you know, and everyone else is wrong. You never do that. You know, you got to sit back, listen to other people, offer your opinion and say, you know, this is probably the best way to go. And we’ve got to get out of that kind of pullback mentality somehow. but it’s funny because. At the same time in engineering say you were trying to lead from the front, get his huge profile, about being an engineer and you hadn’t really done much, what’s the rest of the industry going to say?
[00:07:12] Like, you’re not going to say, well, this Joe Smith and here he is,
[00:07:15] Mel or Dom: [00:07:15] Well, they’ll just wait for you to fall flat on your face
[00:07:17] beautiful, flat on your face or something
[00:07:18] Dan: [00:07:18] Yeah, exactly, exactly. And that’s the internal grapple that you’ve got to have done enough of your craft to have a fair or idea about everything, about what you’re doing. And I don’t know what that void is, you know, that, that switchover point, and that’s the hardest thing, or I’ve never been able to resolve this sort of thinking when do you know enough?
[00:07:38] Mel or Dom: [00:07:38] Going to say, it’s that timing? That tipping point. When, like, when are you the expert?
[00:07:43] Dan: [00:07:43] Yeah.
[00:07:49] Mel or Dom: [00:07:49] if you, you’re, you’re always learning though as well. And you know, even if you’re the top of your game, you’re always learning from somebody else. And you might feel like you’re not there yet when actually people are learning from you as well. But, um, yeah, so I agree. There’s, um, the point that it happens.
[00:08:08] You know, I’m 42 and I can still remember, it was probably about two, three years ago now. I was sitting in a merging thinking band. I was still so young or anything. Yeah. And then I kind of looked around the table and I realized I was probably the oldest person there by about 10 years and the greyest person there.
[00:08:27] Um, and it’s just gonna, Oh, hold on a second, actually I’ve been in this industry for a while then it’s like,
[00:08:33] Dan: [00:08:33] Yeah.
[00:08:33] Mel or Dom: [00:08:33] just
[00:08:34] Dan: [00:08:34] Yeah,
[00:08:35] Mel or Dom: [00:08:35] so. Yeah. And it takes that long before you even become self-aware that you you’ve got all that knowledge behind you, that you are the person that can answer those questions. And hopefully he’ll be out on those projects and lead those projects.
[00:08:48] And I suppose, maybe that’s the point where you start going, Oh, now I need to know, I know that there’s another generation coming in that. Yeah, I’m going to be taking over that. Now my opportunity to offer it to the Sage advice that I possibly can and sort of lead with the projects that I’ve got under my belt.
[00:09:06]I think you’ve touched a little bit on the solution though. That’s why I was wondering if you had realized, cause Dan was saying that engineers need to be able to communicate out like it take, uh, a complex concept, like the design fatigue, fatigue design, and break it down and, and then take it to the next step and go I’m, you know, I can do this.
[00:09:33] And you know, this is my specialty and that’s half the reason we started this podcast was to give engineers an opportunity to explain how good they actually are. they need a voice and they need to know how to communicate. which is a skill that it’s being asked for now, but traditionally has
[00:09:55] Dan: [00:09:55] Yeah. And it’s hard too, because you spend in your, or this is probably a more traditional sense of engineering, but you’re really spending your first 5, 10 years, you know, saying, just learning. Just go and go and learn stuff. go and get good. And that’s fine. And that’s all, I don’t know if it’s still like that.
[00:10:13] That’s what it felt like when I graduated, it was just sort of make mistakes and get better. And then, you know, it’s, you got to put that time in, but maybe people learn faster now.
[00:10:22] Mel or Dom: [00:10:22] I know, I doubt that. Well, I still think, yeah, I always thought it was like, it didn’t seem to matter what you did. It was almost as though you were doing a trade. And it takes four years. So you come out of university, you realize that you learn quite a bit of stuff at university, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to what you’re you’re doing.
[00:10:40]and so then you got to learn, well, you gotta learn it from the beginning. Yeah. It takes about four years before you start realizing what’s going on. And one of ’em. I can’t remember who was the Andrew that we’re talking to. We’re talking to someone earlier in the podcast and he was saying they Al is a, it’s a real problem, because there’s such a shortage of engineers, a lot of the younger engineers end up getting pushed along faster than they really should.
[00:11:02] Yeah. And so they end up in positions where they should have spent a bit more time actually learning their craft before, you know, trying to take on larger projects that they’re just not going to be able to carry out.
[00:11:15]Dan: [00:11:15] it feels a bit hairy when you sort of, you know when you can see that
[00:11:19] sometimes and you’re like, this is nuts. I mean, I think that’s part of being senior is that you recognize that and you sort of. You just say, look, I think we might need to take a close look at this, be careful. Yeah .
I’d like to thank everyone for listening to another great episode of Engineering Heroes as we present the new dawn of engineering challenges for Engineers Australia. your hosts have been Melanie and Dominic De Gioia. You can view this episode show notes or learn more from our podcast by visiting our website, www.EngineeringHeroes.com.au
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