Francis was born in Redcar, North East England which was a very heavy industry town at the time. He didn’t enjoy or fit in at school and left at 16. His first job was instrument artificer at ICI, which he left after 4 years to Join Davy Mckee where he moved through many roles.
Got into engineering on advice from his dad. He helped guide Francis into instrumentation “take that one, it’s the one where you will remain the cleanest”
Francis has spent over 30 years (nearly 40!) in engineering design and management on global major resource development projects.
He has been an Instrumentation Engineer, the Western Australian Division President of Engineers Australia, a lecturer at Murdoch and Curtin University and is the Director and Founder of Ulfire.
He is currently working as General Manager of Innovation & Strategy at National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) and is also completing a PhD on Interpersonal Communications in virtual teams working on engineering projects.
Most interesting project was the 5 months he worked in Brazil, commissioning a blast furnace. It was so interesting to him as he had to work and managed to excel in an environment where he didn’t have the immediate support of his colleagues. Support was there, but due to the working conditions of the time, it just wasn’t easily or immediately accessible. It was the most meaningful project for Francis because of how much he learned about himself.
Being lead instrumental engineer on the No 6 blast furnace for BHP Port Kemble in Australia was an incredible experience. But every role he has held, there are special highlights in every single one.
Hot Topic discussion
The opportunities in the energy resources space.
“The challenges, and the opportunities and capacity we have here around the new technologies and the smart people doing really, really clever work.”
Surprisingly energy resources is “not necessarily the most popular industry for people to work in”…. “Those in the older industries get a bit of bad press time to time…. and that makes it really hard to make that an attractive industry for younger people coming into the industry”
The tradition mining and oil and gas companies are recognising their customer’s desires to move into more modern resources and they are contributing significant effort into these emerging energies as they “want to remain relevant into the future”. “They see a transition in society” and are responding, which is creating “opportunities in some of these companies for the young bright people who want to work in future energies is absolutely phenomenal”
For most people wanting to work in renewables, it means either installing panels on roofs, batteries on garage walls or a wind turbine someone else built. “That’s not engineering”
Small businesses also have an amazingly huge roll for our society. It’s very difficult for these small companies to stand out from the larger companies “We’ve got so many of these small companies who are doing such amazing work that are just unseen in most cases”. “Such a big area that we as a society need to be more cognizant.”
There are great opportunities in the future for these smaller companies.
“part of the challenge though is it’s such a dynamic space”. So people coming out of university in this space might be confused about where best to focus. Francis’ advice – anywhere! “Don’t choose one. All of them are relevant, all of them are applicable, all of them have a role in solving a lot of these big problems that we’ve got.”
During this podcast, you will also reflect on:
When you first start out, the most satisfying part of the job are the smaller stuff – the pay cheque, the implementation of study, learning new things. But as you progress through your career, you realise “we are one of the few professions out there where what we do gets to change people’s lives”
“The work of a small group of us on a project can change a community or a society for an extend period“. A few months’ work by a few engineers can have such massive ramifications on society
What it would have been like working pre-email era. “You had to learn to be so self-sufficient in what you did”. There was a chain of support and it made you go looking for answers.
There is a growing disconnect between our energy literacy – do we fully understand where we get our energy from. Francis is concerned about “how little we all as a society understand about where our energy comes from”
Francis’ advice for engineers just starting out. “You just don’t know where your career is going to take you”… “Don’t just turn down every job that’s offered to you because it’s not the dream job…. Who knows where you’re going to end up?”
An engineering item for discussion…Square Kilometre Array – possibly the world’s largest science experiment. If it goes ahead, it will be the most sensitive telescope and will be built across multiple countries in the southern hemisphere.
An engineer to admire…Robert Stevenson is a past engineer to admire. Francis also admires the teams of engineers who are working away at the moment, who are not so well known. Check outThe Energy Innovators Podcastso you can say “I knew them when…”
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