What is in a title? When you’re an engineer, a title could mean a lot.
Stephen Howe spoke to Mel & Dom about his observations of a worrying situation in the engineering industry where engineers are chasing the grandiose role title, even if their experience doesn’t equate.
Don’t play into this phenomenon of “job title, scope creep” that I think is a disservice to the industry and to the individuals and clients
Steve grew up on a mixed farm in South West NSW where he says people are practical and pragmatic. There were a number of influences which pointed out to him growing up to become an engineer.
He was smart in school and had been leaning towards surveying or engineering drawing. But his dad suggested they speak to the local MP for some advice, and the MP suggested that if Steve was doing so well in school, perhaps he should consider going up a level into engineering, really push himself.
Another factor in his decision was his maths teacher. His teacher’s father was a civil engineer and she thought Steve would go well in that industry.
And finally, Steve remembers watching the TV show, The Walton’s. A character had just come back from the war and was waxing lyrical about the American ARMY Corps of engineers, saying they could build anything.
I didn’t actually know any engineers whatsoever
Extra discussions during the episode
Future: Steve provided a very detailed SWOT analysis!
Strength: “we value facts, we like to apply and improve their collective wisdom and we, we like practical problem solving”
Weakness: “we can have one dimensional thinking”
Opportunity: “radical and innovative disruption. We can help with that.”
Threat: “if that society itself really doesn’t believe in objective truth and science, then where is the role of a profession that bases itself on objective science?”
Advice: Stay in a role to get solid, practical knowledge… but don’t be afraid to embrace career changes.
Keep learning, keep being committed to learning
Ancient Rome & medieval Europe
Their ingenuity, the quality and resilience of their infrastructure and perseverance.
Sir William Hudson & General Sir John Monash
… impressed me in terms of their drive, perseverance, eye for detail and the impact they had on Australia.
Steve Howe received his bachelor of engineering in civil from Swinburne University, with first class honours. And his Company Directorship with an order of merit from the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He has also just commenced a Master of Professional Engineering Leadership.
Steve is currently holding the role as Director of Engineering and Program Services Management Systems for the Level Crossing Removal Project, which is part of the Major Transport Infrastructure authority, within the Department of Transport.
He is an experienced manager of multi-disciplinary teams delivering frontline services and projects, in sectors as diverse as consulting engineering, civil contracting, property development, local and state government engineering, community housing, and building materials plus extensive work as a professional company director in community based not-for-profit health and disability services organisations.
Dominic De Gioia is the Director of a multi-discipline engineering firm, Epicentre Consulting Engineers. He is a mechanical engineer with specialist experience in hydraulic engineering.
Melanie De Gioia is the Podcast Producer for Engineers Australia and the Director of Ramaley Media.
Together, Mel & Dom launched Engineering Heroes on 20 June 2018
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during the Podcast, Season 5 Episode 12
It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Steve Howe
Steve: [00:00:00] And it just sort of intrigued me, because I didn’t actually know any engineers whatsoever. I wasn’t mentored by, had no exposure to any engineers personally during that whole time. So it was all third party suggestions and influences. Nothing direct.
[00:00:15]So in the end I chose one of the two sandwich courses going in Australia, at that time. There was only what’s now UTS. I was new South Wales Institute of technology at the time and Swinburne, they both had sandwich course structures where you’d get out into industry during the course.
[00:00:30]Dom: [00:00:30] Talking about the sandwich course sort of brings back memories. Cause I, I did the sandwich course at UTS, sort of, not long after it became UTS and I don’t think anyone offers it anymore and it’s kind of sad because, it was one of those courses that I think UTS, when I went through had an unemployment rate of something like 90, 92 or 95%, because everyone basically switched to part-time after either their first or their second component of the sandwich course, because they go work with someone and inevitably the people would say. Well, you’re here! Stay! Because just kept going. And, it was really good to give you that understanding about engineering sort of before you really got into it. Then you had that practical knowledge as you were going through those final years of theory as well.
[00:01:15]Steve: [00:01:15] Yeah, certainly the engineering reputation was that they produced industry ready engineers.
[00:01:19] Dom: [00:01:19] So when you finished at Swinburne, do you remember what your first project that you worked on as an engineer was.
[00:01:24] Steve: [00:01:24] absolutely. Yes. I got a job with a mid sized structural consultancy called Bonacci Winward who operated out at punk road in Richmond. And my first job was what was called 181 exhibition street, which was a, about a 14 story hotel slash retail development. With the then deepest hole in Melbourne.
[00:01:43] So it was a seven and a half, seven and a half basement excavation. So I remember going to site visits for that. And it was quite interesting going so deep into the ground with all these soldier piles, holding up these really deep excavations and as an interesting one, cause the development bus halfway through and the site set there with a big hole and nothing else for about a year.
[00:02:02] So another developer took it over. So that really tested the the temporary works out. So that was my first Derby project lasted couple of years.
[00:02:09]And ironically, I now overlook it from my office the city.
[00:02:14] Mel: [00:02:14] And what was your role? What was, what was the task that you did on that
[00:02:18] Steve: [00:02:18] I was a design engineer, so graduate design engineer. So I was doing lots of design of concrete floor structures, lots of high strength concrete, sort of modeling kind of work, hand-in-hand with, , a specialist consultant out of Sydney. And feeding that through to the senior engineer. He was one of the owners and, yeah, so, you know, the usual graduate whipping boy tasks of lots and lots of repetitive hack work.
[00:02:43]One of the interesting tasks I had again, as the graduate whipping boy was to move Kevin Winward’s Porsche to avoid the parking inspectors, inspectors fines in the little streets and laneway is in Richmond. So that’s that’s other duties as directed. You don’t get every day.
[00:02:58] Mel: [00:02:58] Should put that one on your CV. So where whereabouts have you ended up now?
[00:03:04]Steve: [00:03:04] So now I’m at the level crossing removal project, which is part of the major transport infrastructure authority within the department of transport in Victoria. We’re a major project delivery entity of the Victorian state government.
[00:03:19] Mel: [00:03:19] So you’re, you’re removing level crossings? Oh,
[00:03:22] Steve: [00:03:22] Yeah.
[00:03:22] Mel: [00:03:22] sort of train thing?
[00:03:24] Steve: [00:03:24] Trains and road traffic. So it’d be where the level crossings and boom Gates where lots of accidents and near misses and traffic snarls happened. So yeah, we’re funded to remove 75 dangerous level crossings around metropolitan Melbourne.
[00:03:39] Mel: [00:03:39] All right. how far along are you?
[00:03:41]Steve: [00:03:41] I think we’re at about 46 removed out of the 75 and most of the rest are in flight, so to speak in terms of the contracts being led and either design or delivery underway. So yeah, good progress. And I think we’re going to remove that one every four weeks on average in 2021. So it’s a really hitting the . Peak delivery part of the program at the moment.
[00:04:03] Mel: [00:04:03] Sounds, it sounds busy.
[00:04:05] Steve: [00:04:05] It is, it is I play a very small part. There’s a lot of other people doing lot of that frontline work and hats off to them.
[00:04:12] Mel: [00:04:12] So what sort of role are you doing in this.
[00:04:15]Steve: [00:04:15] Mine’s more of a back room role looking at systems that are used by the engineering and program services teams. So that’s the, the other support teams like land and properties, sustainability, urban design, planning and environment. And yeah, all the engineering team. So we have a matrix structure.
[00:04:31] So we have people embedded in the alliances and we have program kind of level people at headquarters. So we provide support in terms of access to information, out to our embedded people and then do the alliances themselves. So they, they need access to all sorts of documents and information. So part of my role is to make that easier.
[00:04:50]This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed in recent years, partly to do with the high churn and demand for engineers across the nation and also ambitious young engineers who don’t mind pushing themselves forward and progressing aggressively up the career chain.
[00:05:17]So I’ve noticed that, in recent years people seem to get more grandiose, or senior sounding titles a lot earlier than they used to. And I’ve talked to senior engineers in different parts of the industry, you know, say in construction, you’d get a young graduate join as a, as a site engineer.
[00:05:35] I want to quickly progress on to be project engineer, project manager, senior project manager, construction director, project director, et cetera. So they want to zoom up the charts and they’ll jump around quite quickly to, not only get more money somewhere else, but to get the, the grander sounding title.
[00:05:54] So, you know, I’ve met “senior engineers”, so called, with three years experience. I’ve met principal engineers with 10 years experience. Whereas, you know traditionally I would have expected a senior engineer to be someone with 10 to 15 years and he might go from graduate to experienced engineer or some other sort of middling title, and then you’d eventually become senior and maybe associate or principal or other kinds of titles. But everyone wants to zoom up the charts as quickly as possible. And companies seem willing to accommodate this phenomenon by pinching someone who’s hitting a ceiling, or a perceived ceiling where they are, and uh, not only give them more money elsewhere, but give them the title they seek.
[00:06:32] And I think that that’s not actually serving anybody because if you’re a client and you want to deal with someone who’s actually got the experience and been through enough failures and embarrassments and whatever to know what the mistakes are and what to spot. And you get put through to the senior engineer, who’s got three or four years experience.
[00:06:50]It’s not actually helping the customer. It’s not even helping necessarily the person with that senior sounding title, because then the expectations are put on them by various people, their, their bosses, their clients to, to actually know as much as their title implies.
[00:07:06] And I see this, in a little way, as being a reflection of what else is going on in society whereby you get the rise of nonsense titles and the eroding of meaning of words. I had to laugh at a recent example where Tesla’s Elon Musk announced that he’s going to be called the techno King of Tesla and, and he’s, and his CFO is now the Master of Coin.
[00:07:28] Mel: [00:07:28] Oh my.
[00:07:29] Steve: [00:07:29] Now he can get away with that because he’s a, he’s a billionaire and he can forge his own pathway. So when you’re at the top of the tree, I guess you can call yourself the Grand Poobah or whatever. But you’ll notice this, if you look in seek and other places, you’ll see roles like sales evangelist,
[00:07:43] Dom: [00:07:43] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:07:44] Steve: [00:07:44] What the hell does that mean?
[00:07:45] I mean, what’s wrong, what’s wrong with what’s wrong with salesperson, sales manager? Do you really need to have it’s sounding as funky as all get out? You know, who’s that impressing? So, so I see this sort of rise in nonsense titles and blurring of words and the meanings of words as a kind of background factor to how young and upwardly mobile engineers can push for and get titles that, honestly, I don’t think they deserve and doesn’t serve them or their clients. And that’s why I call it sort of “job title, scope creep” that it’s it’s not a good idea.
[00:08:19] And then in terms of what to do about it, how can you stop it?
[00:08:23] Well, it’s a bit of a market led phenomenon, in some ways. But I was thinking about analogies in other industries. If you’re working in a hospital, And you’re doing a medical degree and you do your internship and then you become a registrar and then become a consultant, et cetera. You can’t jump ship to another hospital and have them put you into that different category if you haven’t got the right experience. You just kind of get recruited into another place with more money that gazumps the kind of earning of those titles. You, you literally have to meet the competencies before you let them move up the rung. So, I see the same need in the engineering profession and maybe in part the national trend towards different legislations to enforce registration of engineers, might in part deal with this or could lead to dealing with this. It’s certainly got that span of control and supervision aspect to it. But maybe it needs to go the next step further and actually develop a consistent set of gradings of engineering titles across the different industries that actually, you know, you need to fit into this box and tick off these competencies before you are allowed to call yourself, or be recruited into, the next role in the seniority pecking order. And that would, that would hopefully prevent the senior engineer with three years, experience phenomenon.
[00:09:45] Dom: [00:09:45] Yeah, I agree completely, because it is a massive problem, we see it. And it’s unfair to some of the younger engineers too, because they do jump around to, for money, which unfortunately we’re losing engineers in the industry because they burn out because of that as well. So I know of examples where you’ll have engineers that will move across to a company and they’ll be given the role of senior engineer and their wage will jump $20,000. And of course, for $20,000, you also then need to provide a lot more work that can supplement that. Which comes down to the fact that if you’re a senior engineer, part of the, the reason you are a senior engineers, because you can do things far more quickly than you could when you’re a junior engineer.
[00:10:28] So. You may be charging a lot more money, but you’re doing it in half the time. Whereas you’ve got these poor engineers who are still doing it in twice the amount of time, but their chargeable rate is much higher. So the pressure becomes so large that they eventually get to the point where they end up walking out the door and going into something else.
[00:10:45] So we’re kind of doing ourselves a disservice in the long run to by allowing it to happen.
[00:10:51] Steve: [00:10:51] Yeah, I’d agree. And they just haven’t had the diversity or depth of experience. So even if they’re doing 80 hour weeks to live up to the higher expectations of the role and the money and the charge rate or whatever there’s just no substitute for breadth and depth of experience. And you need to have worked in a few different industries, as I said, have, have a few failures, hopefully not catastrophic for yourself or anybody else, but you learn more from your failures or the failures around you than you do from your successes. And I think that just does come with the accumulation of time.
[00:11:22]And that as much as anything is what your clients are, or whoever it is that’s employing you, is paying you for is that accumulated experience. And it doesn’t do you any service as an employer to to give some of the more grandiose title. Give them more money, if you need to, just to compete in the marketplace and get the resources you need, if you can afford them.
[00:11:41] But don’t play into this phenomenon of “job title, scope creep” that I think is a disservice to the industry and to the individuals and clients.
[00:11:49] Mel: [00:11:49] Yeah, it doesn’t sound like it’s helping anyone really, besides a bit of ego massaging. So um, but you, you touched on a solution there, which is all tied into perhaps the registration side of things. So can you expand on that a little bit?
[00:12:04] Steve: [00:12:04] Yeah, look, being a Victorian based engineer. I’ve been following the Victorian legislation push that Engineers Australia have been behind for some years. And obviously we’ve got the RPEQ precedent that’s been around for a very long time. New South Wales has put through similar legislation, I understand. And so I’ve read a lot of the background documents about that, that talk about, say the, the span of control of, of engineers and providing engineering services requiring judgment and and all the definitions that go with it. That will basically make an offense to, to do things beyond your capacity and beyond your scope and what’s implied in your registration.
[00:12:40]If the kind of work you’re doing is the kind that the registration legistration governs. So there, there is obviously a point at which you are allowed to practice and be registered. So that itself is a threshold of significance for, for this issue. Because I guess if you haven’t passed the threshold that allows you to be registered and supervising others, then that would partly um, resolve this problem.
[00:13:06]It won’t necessarily resolve it once you’ve reached that threshold because the title creep issue continues to escalate once you do get registered. But it would have placed moderate it to some degree. I think one issue with that legislation is that it doesn’t cover all industries, or all aspects of all industries, where engineers are working.
[00:13:26]And we’ve yet to see it in practice. So because that’s the thing is about five, five key areas that it covers. So., There may be gaps in, in how much control that can really exert in this space. But well, I’ll be interested to see how it plays out in the medium term. I’ve got to progressive roll out of this and it’s you know, probably trickier in some of the linear infrastructure type industries. I think it’s very, it’s probably come largely out of the building industry where it’s makes more sense. And it has like two other things in Victoria, like the, you know, the Victorian building act and registered building practitioners, and those things we’re very familiar with.
[00:14:01] And as, as you go further and further from the buildings sphere, it gets a little bit hazier to understand how it applies.
[00:14:07] So you know, if you’re a mining engineer or working in traffic modeling or rail signal design or commissioning. I don’t think it’s as obvious for some of those ones. They’re just as important in terms of engineering risk. But yeah, I think because it’s sort of come out of the building focus and try to adapt itself to other spheres of engineering, I think there’s a, there’s a potential for, it to miss some of that. So there might be a few waves of it before we get it right. But I think it’s got potential to help manage this issue.
[00:14:34] Dom: [00:14:34] Yeah, I think like any engineering, it’s an iterative process. So it’s a matter of at least they’re starting somewhere and then I can keep going through. Cause I know even for my discipline where I’m mechanical by degree, but I mainly do hydraulic services and fire services. And particularly hydraulic tends to fall between the cracks because it’s not quite civil, but it’s not quite mechanical.
[00:14:56] So when legislation comes through in relation to The skills that you need to adhere to, then they don’t sort of sit neatly within a box. But I hope that over the coming years, they’re the sort of things that will start to pick up. I agree with you in that it is a good way to start the ball rolling because, I became chartered, I think it was two years ago now. So I had 20 odd years of experience by the time I did that. And I can remember doing the interview and then getting to the end of the interview and thinking to myself, if you are someone who’s just sort of only got a couple of years experience, there’s no way in hell you be able to get through this interview, because it was really a case of me rattling off.
[00:15:32] I’ve done this project, this project, this project, and this project. Whereas if you’ve only got sort of a handful of projects that you have experience on, then it becomes very, very clear that you don’t really have that competency to be managing other people or overseeing other people or making those key decisions as to whether or not something is, is right for use and designed correctly.
[00:15:53] So it is good to have that level of of assessment there to, to make sure that the people have those competencies before they, they take on those roles.
[00:16:03] Steve: [00:16:03] Yep.
[00:16:03]Dom: [00:16:03] So, what are your thoughts on the future of engineering, where do you think engineering’s going?
[00:16:08]Steve: [00:16:08] Well, it’s an interesting one. In traditional engineering fashion of the, I’ve done a SWOT analysis on this question. So let me think.
[00:16:14] So well in terms of strengths of engineers and how that impacts the future. Well, I think we value facts, we like to apply and improve their collective wisdom and we, we like practical problem solving. So I think that that helps us to adapt for the future.
[00:16:30] A weakness would be that we can have one dimensional thinking. You know, we’re very good about things and less good on the soft skills and people and communications, and those things are becoming increasingly more important in a changing world.
[00:16:43] I know courses and employers are getting better at teaching these other skills. So it’s not like we’re unaware of them. But it’s one of those things, you know, does engineering attract the kind of people, or make them in one dimensional or two dimensional ways?
[00:16:57] Um, The opportunity I see is a strategic move for engineers over the longterm, into what I see is the higher value being placed on natural capital.
[00:17:07] So, you know, around the world, you can see trends like food and water shortages, extreme events. And I think engineers, because of that Desire to innovate and do practical things that serve society. I think you know, radical and innovative disruption. We can, we can help with that. And we can help make more resilient, adaptable, and recyclable infrastructure.
[00:17:31] So so I think there, the challenges are the world’s going to have issues with extreme weather and shortages of natural assets. So we’ve got a big role to play in in handling that uncertainty and complexity and, and making the things that we are involved in work better to, to meet those needs.
[00:17:47] And the threats I would see to engineering as a profession in the longer term. Partly internal and partly external internal, I would see there’s a danger with digital disruption and AI, where we could lose our place and our identity and the value chain, which is to make technical judgements on complex matters. The more we outsource that to AI or are impressed by the apparent power of digital engineering. Those things are really helpful tools, and I’ve been involved in plenty of projects implementing those kinds of things. But you can also be bamboozled by the glossiness of them and actually lose the thread of the time on the engineering principles. And anything, anything goes wrong. It’s always, someone’s missed Mr. Principle. It’s not that they didn’t have a wonderful model and they just misunderstood how to apply the model. So. So, yeah. As, as we put more intelligence into the models, interpreting the models and making sense of them and applying them, we could paint ourselves into a corner of of being less relevant because of the power of the models and the power of the AI.
[00:18:47]Another internal threat, I would see, sort of part the internal part, the external. But a globalized distributed workforces. Again, the engineering legislation sort of touches on this a bit about the span of control issue. I think without sufficient mentoring and control of engineers who are coming through we will have a fragmented under- skilled industry.
[00:19:09] And when the people who, you know, Got the experience spread across not only the country, but across the world, the older models, where you would sit under an engineer with 20 years experience and they would teach you and and correct all your stupid mistakes and tell you their stupid mistakes and so forth, that just gets harder to do with distributed workforces and very mobile workforces who are going through a lot of churn.
[00:19:33] So there’s the potential for shallowly mentored engineers. So that’s that’s an internal threat. That sort of in part due to global phenomenon. And the external threat, I would say to us as a profession in the longer term is, we live in the context of postmodern societies typically in the West and media which doesn’t value truth, except for use for selective facts for embellishing or promoting certain narratives. And they use science when it suits a narrative and they ignore science when it suits a narrative. Or you get unbalanced you know, one side of the story on a particular issue. And so engineers are very much about applying judgments using facts and science, as well as the, you know, the softer softer skills and the other perspectives that must come with working in a society. But if, if that society itself really doesn’t believe in objective truth and science, then where is the role of a profession that bases itself on objective science?
[00:20:36]I think there’s a danger there that marketing and spin and media people become more important than people who use facts to produce real things and real benefits. And we could lose our identity that way as well.
[00:20:47] So in summary, I’d say that the future seems to be more uncertain for engineers. But the world needs us more than ever.
[00:20:55] Mel: [00:20:55] my gosh. I’m just going to say, wow. Thank you all. We have never had somebody answer that question as detailed and thoroughly, as you have just done. I love that you’ve done a SWOT analysis on it. That’s brilliant.
[00:21:09] Steve: [00:21:09] Maybe it’s partly a factor of that. I’ve just finished the, I was just finishing the strategy module of the masters I’m doing at the moment through through Griffith uni. So a lot of these concepts have been bouncing around my brain over the last six weeks of this strategy module.
[00:21:22] Mel: [00:21:22] Yeah. It’s almost like you just need that, that one little section, the answer to that question about the future of engineering, you could just, that that could be in itself an entire paper. That was just so well presented and thought out. I just,
[00:21:36] Dom: [00:21:36] I loved your thoughts on particularly the threats. Because it is, it’s. One of my greatest concerns is that everyone just wants the bullet points these days. They just want the splashy headlines. So rather than actually looking at the data and working out what is going on, then… yeah, it tends to be people just sort of being happy with what they’re told. So, they’ll take whatever information is put in front of them quickly and easily, and grab that and run with it rather than actually think about what’s going on. So, which is a concern for engineers is a very large concern for engineers, I suppose.
[00:22:09] But just on that, what would you say to engineers who are just starting out.
[00:22:15] Steve: [00:22:15] Yeah. Good point. I think given the things I’ve talked about in some of the themes we’ve been discussing I would suggest don’t jump around too much in your formative years. I would say get some deep practical knowledge. Now sometimes it’s not your choice. You can be working in an industry that has a downturn or employer that goes through a problem or M and a, or You know loses a bunch of clients or something.
[00:22:35] So, you know, and if you’re in engineering long enough usually at some point you’ll be out on your ear through no fault of your own. Certainly happened to me a couple of times over the journey. In your formative years stay somewhere for a while to get that depth of experience and mentoring from people who have been around for awhile.
[00:22:51]But I counter that with also be willing to take career left turns and embrace them. So whether you initiate them or they’re initiated through a lack of choice, you’ve got to find something different to do. That itself can help you develop adaptability and resilience. And those are important qualities to have as an engineer and as a, really, as a professional.
[00:23:10]Or a person in any profession if you’re working in a trial any service industry or whatever, those are still good qualities to have. But I think because if we, as engineers, are going to have to produce more resilient, adaptable infrastructure, it doesn’t hurt to be resilient and adaptable ourselves.
[00:23:26]We’ll produce things that are like us. Um, I’d say keep learning, keep being committed to learning. And I would say probably two other key pieces of advice , and this is something that I probably got, Oh, no, probably halfway through my career when you start to get into some of these management training, sort of professional mentoring programs at some employers there hadn’t really been posed to me early on in my career, but that is.
[00:23:48] As soon as you can, work out whether you want to go down the technical specialist path or the management generalist path, because that’ll dictate the sort of career choices you invest your time in and your further training in. And, and, and so forth. So cause I think people can, if they’ve got no idea on what their preferences and strengths are, and it’s always good to work where your strengths are, and make them your preferences if you can you know. Recognize what you’re good at and what you enjoy. So if you think. Yeah, I want to be that chief technical engineer, you know, when I’m in my late career, then choosing a pathway and further learning that supports that because it gets harder and harder to move back and forth between the generalist or management path and the technical expertise path the further you go into your career. So I think, you know, whether it’s sort of three, four, five, six years in from graduating. By that time he should have had a little bit of depth and breadth to be able to work out which way I’d like to go. And yeah, don’t, don’t wait for the 15, 20 year Mark before you think, hang on.
[00:24:50] I would’ve liked to have stayed in their technical path, but I drifted into management and I’m really, I’m really missing the technical.
[00:24:56]The other, other thing I would say to engineers just starting out is to do something totally unrelated to engineering. Ideally locally, that crosses barriers and sort of extends your comfort zones.
[00:25:08]I know engineers Australia has been pushing for the last 15, 20 years to promote the image of engineers, the value of engineers. And we maybe had a bit of a chip on our shoulder that we were, you know, playing second fiddle to the lawyers, doctors, and other professions of the world.
[00:25:23] And even the, you know, the accountants and management consultants were getting more glory than the engineers because we’re so laid back and usually self-effacing. So we need to be more visible and well-rounded in society. But I think a good way to do that is, is for society to be exposed to engineers in non-engineering ways.
[00:25:42]When I say that, I mean you hear things like engineers without borders and that’s great. But it’s sort of still more engineering. And now it’s engineers taking time off from there engineering to do some engineering. So I, you know, I, I, I’ve enjoyed being involved in all sorts of community groups and initiatives, et cetera that have zero to do with engineering and just meeting people from different walks of life, working on something together.
[00:26:05]And these are usually voluntary things, but not always. So getting out there, being visible people understand, Oh, you’re an engineer. What do you do? And also just, you know, showing them the human face of engineering. Being a contributor in society in a way that extends you and extends and exposes you know, the visibility of engineers to society.
[00:26:23] So those that’s something I’d also suggest to engineers. Don’t, don’t just live for your career and yourself, get out there and do something else, and it will be good for you, as well as good for the profession.
[00:26:34] Mel: [00:26:34] Again, brilliant points like, Oh, that’s such great advice there, in all of those things, especially that last one. You really made me think and wonder, it’s like, where’s he going with this? But then it’s like, yes, yes, of course.
[00:26:48] So um, just to finish off, we’d like to ask a few questions. So what’s a piece of engineering. That’s impressed. You.
[00:26:56]Steve: [00:26:56] I have to go back to um, ancient Rome and medieval Europe, I think. I, I haven’t been to Rome itself, but I’ve been to the UK and, and seen some of the the ancient infrastructure there. So you’ve got to admire their aqueducts, roads, tunnels, fountains. You know, the Romans okay.
[00:27:14] Yes, they had I had the resources of slavery and empire to help make it happen. But I still, you know, their ingenuity, the quality and resilience of their infrastructure and perseverance, you know, they just didn’t let anything get in their way. You know, let’s build a wall coast to coast.
[00:27:29] No problem. Yeah, let’s go through that Hill or go over that Hill around that Hill with this largely straight road. Let’s bring water 30, 40, 50 miles to a capital city. And a lot of that infrastructure is still standing today. You know, I’ve seen TV specials that looked at the early pots, the lands, you know, the additives in the cement from volcanic ashes and other things.
[00:27:50] And uh, it’s just astounding that they would experiment that with technologies and make resilient infrastructure and And if it took 20, 30, 40, 50 years to build something, and then that’s why medieval cathedrals were same sort of thing, you know, where they but blended aesthetics function and faith.
[00:28:05] And sometimes, you know the stone has started building. It there’ll be that their grandson would put the finished finishing touches on, on, on the cathedral uh, 50, 60 years later. That’s vision and perseverance and engineering that’s lasted the test of time. So those things are very impressive.
[00:28:21] And now our design codes talk about 50 and a hundred year design lives. Well, those, those ancient cultures leave that in the dust.
[00:28:29] Mel: [00:28:29] Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:28:31] Dom: [00:28:31] particularly how now, where we’re so focused on environmental initiatives. And we’re looking at things that happened so long ago where they had it, right? Like they were sitting up home so that they harness the sun at certain times and then harness prevailing winds and things like that. And you think, where did we go wrong?
[00:28:48] Somewhere in the middle of that, we seem to forget all this and then had to start again, but it was amazing the engineering behind it and the
[00:28:55] Steve: [00:28:55] Oh, yeah, they had they had under-floor central
[00:28:57] Dom: [00:28:57] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:28:58] Steve: [00:28:58] Rome. I mean, who’d have thought that. So yeah, I think you know, they obviously had lots of things we would deplore as cultures as well, but from an engineering point of view yeah, that sort of stuff does impress me.
[00:29:09] Dom: [00:29:09] So just to finish off, is there an engineer that you admire?
[00:29:12]Steve: [00:29:12] I’d say a couple not current engineers. It did have some good mentors in across the journey. Especially as a young graduate that I’d say that two, that again, impressed me in terms of their drive, perseverance, eye for detail and the impact they had on Australia, would be Sir William Hudson, who you know, ran the snow mountain scheme got to take your heads off.
[00:29:33] He was a Kiwi engineer, not an Aussie.
[00:29:35] Dom: [00:29:35] We claimed them anyway, down. When you look at us, we always clap.
[00:29:39] Steve: [00:29:39] Um, and General Sir John Monash you know, famous world war one general and founder of the SEC, state electricity commission of Victoria. And I think he was also a vice chancellor of, I think, Melbourne uni.
[00:29:52] Those engineers uh, achieved a lot and were just you know, forces of nature apparently to, to just inspire people around them and push through and be across the detail. Be accountable.
[00:30:03]And hold people accountable to, to make things happen. So yeah, I think those are kind of inspiring people. Again, I didn’t really know about them growing up, so they’re not part of the influence factor as to why I got into engineering. I was unaware of them until I was an engineer. But then you, you read about them and see what they were able to achieve, and quite astounding, really.
[00:30:21] Mel: [00:30:21] Yeah. And ties in that what you were talking about that Rome that clarity of vision. Um, It sounded like those two engineers would have had to have achieved what they did. So thank you so much for joining us tonight. It’s been a really great conversation.
[00:30:34] Dom: [00:30:34] has been wonderful. Thanks for that.
[00:30:37] Steve: [00:30:37] It’s been my pleasure to be part of it. I was surprised and flattered to be asked, but happy to be part of it. And and hopefully uh, listeners to the podcast can reflect on. On some things in their own profession and and then benefit from it. So thank you for the opportunity.
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