Brett Gray is a Principal Structural Engineer with Tetra Tech Proteus and is based in Perth, Western Australia. He has a Bachelor of Engineering and a Graduate Diploma in Project Management from Curtin University in Perth.
Growing up in some of the most remote areas of Australia, Brett recalled one of the stories his father told him how late one afternoon in October the storm clouds moved over and delivered 5 mm of rain to their tiny outback community. All the children ran from the classrooms and played as the rain fell. It was the only rain for the year.
Brett still enjoys the pull of the wide-open spaces of the outback and counts himself lucky to have a job that gets him out of the office. Working as an engineer, Tetra Tech Proteus has given him the opportunity to work in the resource sector in WA and with an exceptional structural team.
What inspired you to get into that field of study?
I was fortunate to win a scholarship to study structural engineering at the University of Western Australia in Perth. At the time, it was a great opportunity for me as I lived remotely where such prospects were scarce, and money limited.
By remote, I mean in the early years we lived in arguably some of the most remote parts of Australia. I was born in Gillingarra, population of 4 including me, then onto Milyirrtiarra in outback Western Australia where we were lucky if we got 5mm of rain a year. Next was Arnhem Land and the Gulf communities of Numbulwar, Angurugu (Groote Eylandt) and Nhulunbury before eventually settling in Darwin to complete school.
So, my scholarship certainly paved the way for my career in engineering, but I suppose it comes as no surprise that I also thought the idea of having a job where you could get out of the office was a bonus.
Tell us about the challenges and rewards you face in your role?
I suppose it's to our credit, but we tend to get the more technically challenging projects which are often ones that other consultants have already attempted without success. This provides both the biggest challenges and greatest rewards.
What originally attracted you to Coffey?
For me, it was the opportunity to work in the resource sector. If you are an engineer in Western Australia the place to be is in resources because of the challenges and opportunities it affords you. Great work colleagues were my enticement to stay.
How long have you been working at Coffey?
I’ve done a couple of stints at Proteus; the first was eight years from 2002 to 2010. I returned in 2016, enticed by the high calibre of people in the structural team which is where I remain today.
We tend to get the more technically challenging projects which are often ones that other consultants have already attempted without success. This provides both the biggest challenges and greatest rewards.
Tell us about some of the projects you've worked on at Coffey that have been most inspirational to you.
The Kalgoorlie Nickle Smelter Charging Isle Crane Remediation was a really challenging project. The existing 60-ton ladle cranes were fatigue cracking and condemned by three previous consultants, but the client did not have the time or funds to replace them.
We investigated the crane insitu via strain gauges and identified the causation. Remedial measures were designed and implemented, and the cranes operated for a further 5 years with no sign of distress when decommissioned.
We do a lot of demolition projects but the biggest one was the Newcastle Steelworks which, in 2003, included the largest building to be demolished in the southern hemisphere. It was rewarding to see these very complicated and massive structures come down without incident.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself starting out in your career?
A career in engineering is very difficult because it is viewed as a commodity; it’s important to differentiate yourself from others.
My advice is to carefully plan and manage where you want to go in engineering.