Paul Brandis may have begun his civil engineering career in Perth, but when he moved to Darwin he truly began to see its positive impact upon other people, their communities and lifestyles.
Brandis relayed his epiphany moment to hundreds of his peers on stage at the 2018 Northern Territory Engineering Excellence Awards held at SKYCITY Darwin’s beachside pavilion, after being awarded the title of Young Professional Engineer of the Year.
“The big thing that stood out to me [after I moved to Darwin] was the sense of community,” Brandis said, during his acceptance speech.
“As engineers, everything we do, every decision we make, is about the community. We might be working for a developer, but ultimately the developer is delivering infrastructure for the community.”
Brandis says he felt a great sense of honour and was very humbled to have been selected for the prestigious award, and later invited to the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards in Melbourne.
“I think it’s great that Engineers Australia is providing opportunities to celebrate and recognise the efforts and contributions of our next generation of industry leaders.”
For the past five years, Brandis has worked as a civil engineer for Byrne Consultants, which is involved in designing civil projects across the NT in the areas of land development, roads and intersections, stormwater management, water and wastewater.
Brandis has been involved in the design and construction of Henbury School, a purpose-built high school in Darwin for students with disabilities. The project was recognised with six awards at the prestigious 2017 Master Builders NT Excellence in Building and Construction Awards.
With assistance from Charles Darwin University students, he has also created an NT-first, automated sediment control system for converting dirty stormwater to clean water using chemicals to drop out suspended sediments.
“At Byrne Consultants, we get exposed to a diverse range of opportunities, which allows us to fast track our professional development and avoid getting pigeonholed,” Brandis says.
“It’s great working for a place that values working as a unified team to deliver high-quality engineering outputs with a community focus.”
Brandis was selected by the consultancy to develop new subdivision development guidelines for the NT’s Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, to ensure a uniform approach to subdivision across the Territory.
“We’ve had to consider a variety of contexts, including types of infrastructure, degrees of remoteness and regional differences in environmental conditions.
“It has been extremely rewarding to seek feedback from subject matter experts on the NT’s existing standards and to gain insight into current industry innovation.”
Brandis believes he has always been an engineer at heart. As a kid, he was constantly pulling apart his toys and gadgets to investigate how they worked. Then, in school, he began to feel a natural inclination towards mathematics, science and work that involved problem-solving.
Curtin’s civil and construction engineering degree provided him with a fundamental understanding of key engineering principles and, more importantly, encouraged him to pursue a commitment towards lifelong learning.
“Most careers require a level of continued professional development and engineering requires an ongoing commitment to keeping abreast of emerging industry practice. If we don’t have the tools to keep up, we’re going to fall behind fast.
“Curtin’s engineering degree has a good mix of theory based and practical based classes. There’s no better way to learn than getting your hands dirty!”
Brandis believes his decision to get involved with additional activities, including the Student Ambassador program and the John Curtin Weekend enhanced his university experience and set him on the path towards community-focused engineering.
“These programs gave me a point of difference when securing engineering work placements. But the most rewarding part was being able to make a difference to the lives of prospective students and offer a helping hand to rural communities.”
While Brandis returns to Perth annually to visit family and friends, he confesses he very quickly fell in love with the NT capital since moving there for work and doesn’t think he’ll be leaving any time soon.
“I honestly think Darwin is Australia’s best kept secret,” Brandis says.
“It’s got all the perks of a small town in terms of community spirit and taking 10 minutes to get anywhere, but also the perks of a major city in terms of work and recreational opportunities.”
Alumni Innovator series
This story is part of our Alumni Innovator series, which recognises Curtin and WAIT alumni who’ve thought outside the box and excelled in their field.