Peter Wells is our Principal Mechanical Engineer in the Newcastle office, New South Wales. He currently works on site as part of the owner’s team. Peter previously spent 20 years with Weir working in both their Australia and UK offices. He has recently got into teaching and now teaches a TAFE class one evening a week on Project Management. Find out more about Peter in this month’s quick chat interview.

What is your role at Engenium and what does it involve on a day to day basis?

My work day often consists of mechanical engineering and project management tasks.  At the moment I spend about 80% of my time on site as part of the owner’s team.  I enjoy seeing projects from concept to execution and I enjoy variety in my work - there are often problems to solve. 

What do you consider to be your areas of speciality and expertise?

I began my working life as a project management consultant, working on everything from the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour to large multi-storey buildings. After this I spent 20 years with Weir (formerly Warman), a global market leader in slurry pumping.  I worked in both Australia and the UK, finishing up as their Australian Engineering Manager.  I learned a lot about product development, manufacturing, lean and continuous improvement and from a technical side, slurry transport.  During my consulting years I have completed a number of tailings projects. Most recently a 9 km pipeline at Bulga Coal, as well as a water management project.  There has also been a number of infrastructure related projects.  These days I consider myself an engineer and a project manager, able to work on complex multi-disciplinary projects.

What projects are you currently working on?

My current project portfolio includes the upgrade of two 30 metre fine coal thickeners including the drives and structure to gain a further 15 years of operating life, a raw coal sampler which removes raw coal samples from a moving conveyor and a site-wide conveyor fire detection system using a linear heat sensing cable - the first time in Australia this technology has been used for this application.  Plus a number of tailings and water management projects.

What do you enjoy about working at Engenium?

Enjoyment of any workplace depends on the quality of people in your team, and in the wider organisation.  I’ve found the Newcastle office a fun place to work.  Engenium has a good mix of people from grey-hairs to graduates. I also enjoy knowing who’s who, right up to Director level.

What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?

Like many in my generation, I was the first in my family to consider university.  Mechanical Engineering seemed a good option at the time, but I was only 17.  Since then, I’ve tried to follow my sense of curiosity.  This has led me into many roles and taught me the value of learning.  In recent years, it is this appreciation of learning that got me interested in teaching and training – I teach a TAFE class one evening a week in Project Management.  At its best, the natural arc of any working life will involve giving back.  My students are mature-age and come from an amazing variety of backgrounds, it is a privilege to be part of their learning journey.

What do you love to do outside of your work life?

Family life takes up my time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Our kids are now 18 and 20 years old, so we are moving into the next stage of life. A few years ago I completed a graduate certificate in creative writing.  Since then I’ve looked for opportunities to write, both technically and for fun.  This year, with the support of Engenium, I’ve had a paper accepted and will be presenting at the World Engineering Conference on ‘storytelling and ethical leadership’ – a fascinating topic to explore. I’ve also had a poem published in an anthology reflecting on the centenary of World War 1, and contributed a number of biographical pieces for an upcoming book celebrating local indigenous people. 

What makes you laugh?

A good laugh with family and friends is one of life’s great pleasures.  Sitting around and shooting the breeze is something to make time for.  Films like The Castle make me laugh.  When I showed it to our kids a few years ago they looked at me and said, “Now we know what you’ve been talking about all these years.”  I told them they were dreaming. Every now and again the family will get into a sitcom, at the moment that’s Kim’s Convenience.  The best of these shows help us laugh at ourselves.

Who inspires you?

People who challenge the status-quo, especially when they understand that the lives of others could be better.  Who isn’t inspired by Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela?  In Australia leaders like Stan Grant are going to be important if we are to move toward reconciliation and learn to celebrate and integrate our ancient history.  I don’t always agree with the politics of Noel Pearson, but his speech at Gough Whitlam’s funeral was fantastic – look it up on YouTube.

What is your favourite quote?

I don’t think I have a favourite quote.  I suspect as we move from one stage of life to another different things will seem important.  This year I’ve been challenged by a line of poetry from Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The other day I heard someone quote from Roosevelt, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Pretty cheesy, but maybe it should be a mission statement for consultants.  I guess if I was allowed one quote for the ‘T-Shirt of life’ I’d simply say, “Be kind.”

Peter has been a regular contributor of insight pieces, published on our website. Recent articles include:

Change Management: The Importance of Storytelling to Get Results

Project Management: Developing Team Competencies

Engineering Commissioning for Mining Projects

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