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IPWEAQ Member: Tom Bradshaw

Tom Bradshaw, BBD Engineering.

Tom Bradshaw is a specialist water infrastructure engineer with over 21 years’ experience in infrastructure planning and design, asset and project management, operations, development assessment and the construction industry. During his career, Tom has worked for consulting engineering firms as well as for municipal and local government.

Tom recently spoke to Engineering for Public Works (EPW) talking about his personal career path, and both the challenges faced and satisfaction received from a career in public works engineering.

EPW: Please tell us about yourself and what makes you tick.

Tom: I was born and raised in Townsville, North Queensland, where I completed my Bachelor of Engineering with Honours at James Cook University. For most of my career I’ve worked in the water industry, mainly in the implementation of major water supply infrastructure for municipal authorities and private industry. I’m driven by the sense of achievement when a major project I’m involved in is brought to life. My son is currently a first year engineering student at university so I’m also enjoying passing on my knowledge to him.

EPW: Where has your career taken you?

Tom: I’ve been fortunate enough to attend two study tours to Europe during my career, one of which was the very first fellowship offered by the IPWEA in 2006. I was absolutely stoked to be the recipient and recommend my fellow IPWEAites apply for it.

I started out as a graduate engineer in Townsville with GHD in 1994 and now run my own business — BBD Water Engineering. In between I’ve worked with the likes of SKM (8 years), John Wilson and Partners (6 years) and TRILITY (4 years) and also had a taste of local government (2 years) early on in my career. Council life provided me with some solid practical skills in the water industry as well as some valued friendships and contacts. From a professional development perspective, the years working with TRILITY at the Douglas water treatment plant were a highlight but nothing beats starting my own business.

At first, thinking about the risk of a self-managed business versus the comfort of receiving a regular pay cheque as a consultant at a major consulting firm was a bit nerve-wracking. But thanks to some advice and support from a colleague and close friend of mine I managed to grab myself by the scruff of the neck and sneak a few nice project commissions and create a few client contacts. Since the initial stages of setting up the business in April 2015, my clients have supported me, for which I’m greatly appreciative. It’s rewarding being your own boss and making the decisions that impact on the development of your own business.

EPW: What challenges have you faced that have been similar to or different from having worked for both consulting engineering firms as well as for municipal and local government authorities?

Tom: I recall on many occasions working with consulting firms being frustrated as to what I could do and achieve in my role as an employee and being knocked back when I asked to do something that was not within the ‘business as usual’ model. I look back upon these times as a lesson learnt exercise and think now if I make the decision to do something, I wear the consequences if it goes pear-shaped.

In regard to local government and thinking outside the square the usual response was ‘you need to weigh up the outcome against the possibility that your solution may not be in the best interests of the community that you provide a service to’. This I could understand at the time and I became somewhat reserved in what I actually asked for. I currently attend most, if not all, of my Queensland-based IPWEA conferences and regularly ask my fellow members if it’s still the case that staff who are wanting to progress are still hindered by the community-orientated approach to engineering. The feedback is generally mixed. Some of the regional organisations are hindered by the level of funding available, which is understandable, and you need to make do with what can be afforded.

EPW: What do you find most satisfying about working as an engineer in public works?

Tom: The broad range of opportunities for engineers. In my field, I get to see projects whereby water is transformed from a disease-ridden and dirty state to a standard that’s fit for human consumption. When I see my input into projects of this nature producing the desired outcome for my client it’s a real motivator.

EPW: What advice would you give public works engineers early in their career?

Tom: Get a taste of what the various engineering industries have to offer and don’t take the first job that comes up just because it pays well. What you do early in your career generally can’t be reversed so make sure you get it right the first time.

EPW: What do you appreciate most about your involvement with IPWEA?

Tom: The opportunities on offer and the fact IPWEA is always coming up with ideas that generate interest in industry and make you look forward to the next event.

EPW: Any other wise words to share?

Tom: There’s no age limit on changing or learning. The old saying that you can never teach an old dog new tricks is a myth.

Tom Bradshaw Qualifications:

- Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering – Hons), JCU 1994

- Registered Professional Engineer, Qld – RPEQ 13409

- Member of Engineers Australia – MIE Aust.

- Chartered Professional Engineer, Australia – CP Eng (Aust.)

- National Professional Engineer Register Australia – NPER

- Hazardous Areas and Confined Space Accredited, 2014

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