Embracing the spirit of adventure

WGA AU | Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec - Photo: Embracing the spirit of adventure

How long was your secondment for? 
I originally came up for a project which was meant to be four and half months. It was a remote site supervision role on a 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off roster. I ended up being there in total about a year and a half. I was really enjoying my time in Darwin, so after that initial project I decided to stick around.

What made you decide to take on a secondment to the Northern Territory?
I was keen for a challenge and didn't know too much about the NT, having only visited briefly when I was around 10 or 12 years old. We were bound to a hotel during a small cyclone at the time, so I didn’t have the chance to see much.

The site role was also something different to what I am used to, so I thought why not. My part of the job was going to be completed throughout the build-up and wet season which I heard mixed reviews about, so I was looking forward to finding out for myself.

Can you share any exciting projects or initiatives you were involved during your time there? 
The project I originally came up for was for the construction of a road and some other infrastructure for an air-force bombing range in Delamere. It was an active bombing range, and we’d often see fighter jets flying overhead. Each work area would have to be cleared first, and it would always be interesting seeing them return with bomb debris or unexploded ordnance.  

Outside of this, I thoroughly enjoyed my chance to work on two marina lock gates. Not something I’d seen before with Perth’s small tidal range. Seeing these large water retaining structures from basin level gives you an appreciation for robust engineering and construction! 

I was also involved in a few sundowner events for the Northern Chapter of PIANC (The World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure). Darwin has a great group of people who stay involved and push the cause. They run some great events and I’d encourage anyone who goes up to keep an eye out.

How did the uniqueness of the Northern Territory impact you as an individual and an engineer? 
A lot could be said to my time on-site during the wet season. Navigating lost time due to weather, along with job-sites being a couple hours apart with no service in-between taught me some good lessons about organisation and planning ahead. On top of it all, it gave me a real appreciation for the people who work in these remote conditions year after year.

Any specific challenges you encountered while working there? 
The remote work on-site in Delamere through the build-up and wet season was a new challenge for me. Obviously, my experience dealing with working in humidity, pales in comparison to the people physically completing any of the construction work, but it was something I had to get used to for sure. Navigating sideways rain, flooded job sites and lightning fires also certainly added a bit of spice to the job!

How do you think your experience in the Northern Territory will contribute to your professional growth as an engineer? 
Being put out of my comfort zone has always proved fruitful in my experience. I’ve learned new ways of doing things and approaching problems (both technical and people-wise), and it often gives me appreciation for something I probably never thought about before – often helping regardless of the discipline I’m working in. As a maritime/structural engineer being dropped into a remote NT road construction job, there’s been a surprising amount of lessons learnt that have translated into the work I do now. If nothing else at the time, it makes for a good conversation!

What advice would you give the others considering a secondment or work experience? 
If you’re considering it, just have a go while you can. I’ve spent some time in other offices too, and there’s a lot of support and great people that will make the experience as easy as it can be. The time will fly by, and you’ll be happy gave it a shot.

Where else would you like to consider a secondment to? 
I’d consider a secondment just about anywhere. I’m more attracted to a place if I haven’t been there before.

What was the experience in terms of expectations vs the reality of taking on this secondment? 
I didn’t really know what to expect – it’s hard to judge anywhere until you’ve been there yourself. I knew that it would be warm, I knew that it would present some new challenges, and I knew that I’d have a good time if I just made the most of opportunities that came along. All these things were true, but there were also some nice surprises along the way. Outside of the office environment, Darwin had a very transient feel amongst younger people. People would come and go quite frequently, but this meant that it was very easy to socialise and meet new (and interesting) people. Something that I hadn’t experienced in larger cities which can often feel a bit “cliquey” at times. It was a nice surprise.

What were the 3 best things about this secondment? 
Experiencing the lifestyle up here, the impressive country the NT has on offer and Darwin’s market culture has all been a huge highlight, adding to the great people I’ve met and the interesting project experience. Certainly, one of the most rewarding things I’ve done to date.