Tony's Career Journey
My early career development was probably best described (like many) as opportune. Having been relatively successful in sciences and maths and coming from a rural upbringing, engineering appeared as a logical direction. An ‘extended’ university period was followed by an introduction to the engineering at Palmerston North City Council (1984 – 87). Here one learnt that having a degree didn’t give you any status and practicality and pragmatism drive most solutions. This period did however provides two key learnings; success requires relationships and technology is a disrupter.
The 1987 Edgecumbe earth quake provided the opportunity to switch from public to private sector and delivered that ‘seat of the pants’ experience managing site works in highly constrained and dynamic reconstruction of the Edgecombe dairy factory. Bruce Henderson Consultants Limited (BHCL) had full responsibility for the rebuild and at the peak there were some 70 design staff and 30 site staff focused solely on getting the plant into production. Engineering is not just about the design; it is a key contributor to the economy.
From about 1990 the focus moved of Edgecume into public sector infrastructure supporting mainly the water sector. The emergence of CADD and GIS had a significant impact with the drive for improved efficiency and information management. It was during this period (1990 to 1995), still with BHCL, that the subtleties of local government become apparent. The complexity of managing multiple stakeholder expectations whilst providing cost effective and reliable solutions reinforced the need for relationship skills and highlighted the need to translate engineering rationale into simple everyday risks and reward.
1996/97 was the most significant career (re)defining phase. Firstly I successfully climbed out of a very dark place generated by over work, self imposed unrealistic accountability and a naive understanding of leadership. This markedly improved my self awareness and determined that my aptitude and character was best suited leading and managing rather than engineer design. This transition was quickly tested by my first experience of merger and acquisition when BHCL was bought by Duffill Watts and King Ltd (DWK). This phase taught me of the need to take charge (control), not taking anything for granted and the benefit of developing a road map for one's career.
Fortuitously this ‘transformation of self’ was reinforced through DWK securing a long term partnering contract with Western Bay District Council (WBoPDC) for asset management, capital and operations of all the potable, waste and storm water systems and services across their district. Having worked the Council to develop the model DWK went onto partner with WBOPDC for some ten years until 2008 when cycle of in/outsourcing brought these services back in house.
By this stage I had developed the managerial and leadership as the regional manager for DWK. When DWK sold the business to Downer EDI I soon took up a role as central region manager based in Wellington. This expanded and in 2009 is appointed Executive General Manager and Director for NZ reporting to the Australasian CEO of consulting for all the NZ consulting brands , a role which I held until later 2012. This period consolidated the relationship, business acumen and organisational design skills and extensively widened my industry and leadership networks considerably.
In 2012 after extensive rebuilding of the Spiire brand (the rebranded DWK group of companies) I left to left to pursue a role on the Client side of the infrastructure business. My advisory consultancy with Auckland Transport rapidly turned into a soft change management role title Manager of Value Management before I took up my most recent role as the General Manager Assets and Maintenance; a role responsible for all vertical and horizontal assets of AT.