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GHD Australia

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Patrick O'Neill

Be open to everything

What's your job about?

GHD’s Adelaide Water Team is one of SA Water (the local water utilities) trusted partners for engineering design. The team works closely with SA Water, among other clients such as government departments, councils, and private companies, to deliver world-class water and wastewater infrastructure to the South Australian people. That means working through every part of the design, from initial investigations, through to detailed design documentation that can be used by construction companies to build infrastructures such as tanks, pipes and treatment plants. Everything that results in water coming out of your taps, or wastewater being taken from your drains is something that the team might work on.

Personally, my job mainly consists of 2 things: Engineering design and the management and coordination of projects to deliver outcomes for our clients. In a standard week, I would typically work on multiple projects at different stages of design development. This could be anything from undertaking calculations to determine key design outputs, to developing sketches of infrastructure to be designed, to interacting and communicating with both the GHD team and externally with clients and stakeholders. For example, on a recent project, I had to gather information from a client, undertake a hydraulic assessment of a new tank structure, coordinate with GHD staff from other teams to undertake structural analysis and develop design drawings with the help of in-house Design Technicians.

Completing a project is a team effort and there is support from staff with plenty of experience and expertise on the matter at hand.

What's your background?

I grew up locally in Adelaide, completing all my schooling and university studies locally. From an early age, I always had an interest in STEM subjects, in particular Physics and Maths, so the decision to choose an engineering degree after completing school was a reasonably straightforward one. At University, I completed 2 years of my Undergraduate Degree, before taking a Gap-Year, in which I joined the Australian Defence Force for a year. This was a completely different experience to anything I had done before and really helped me develop and grow as a person and make some great friends from all over the country. 

Upon returning from the year off from study, I returned to complete my degree. In the summer before the final year of my study, I undertook a placement at SA Water, working with their Water Security and Supply Team for 3-months. I had always found Water subjects from my degree most interesting and enjoyable and this placement really cemented my interest in the Water Sector.  During the last year of study, I started applying for Graduate jobs both in Adelaide and across the country in this sector and was lucky to have received an offer to work at GHD in my home town. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely. Our team is full of a diverse range of people from different backgrounds. We have people from both interstate and overseas, with different ethnicities, genders and personalities. 

To succeed in this role some important skills are:

  • Communication – The role involves communicating both formally and informally with internal staff, clients and stakeholders
  • Teamwork – Every project involves working with a team to achieve the outcome
  • Initiative – Being open to and looking for things to get involved in allows you to gain some great experience and work on a diverse range of projects

What's the coolest thing about your job?

For me, the coolest things about my job would have to be the opportunities it provides. I’ve had the opportunity to see things I’ve designed to be constructed, and have worked on projects that have impacted the water and wastewater systems that I use in my day-to-day life. I’m currently on an international placement in the USA, working on water and wastewater projects half a world away. 

The opportunities for personal growth and development from this position are really what you make of it which is really incredible.

What are the limitations of your job?

The biggest limitation of the job is probably the ebb and flow of work, which is typical across the consulting world. There will be some weeks where your extremely busy, needing to work additional hours to complete your tasks. On the flip side, there will be weeks where it seems very quiet with not much to do. Think of it as a rollercoaster, there’s ups and downs with work which you have to learn to cope with, rather than a consistent supply of work week in week out, which can be challenging to manage. 

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Persevere – Work is not Uni. Forget tests and exams, work is a chance to get involved with a team that works together, supporting each other to solve real-world problems, which is really rewarding.
  2. Be open to everything – The best way to develop and learn in the early stages of your career is to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. That being said, make sure not to get overwhelmed.
  3. Find a balance – Whether studying, working or anything else, make sure to have time for yourself, and your personal interests.