About the speaker
Our speaker today is Mr Ian Maxted.
Ian is the Chief Development Officer and Chief Executive of the Defence, Social and Property Sectors at Transfield Services, a position he has held since 2013. He is responsible for business development and marketing, and driving profitable growth globally.
Ian has over 25 years of experience across the infrastructure and property development industries and a background in the engineering and property sectors. Prior to his current position, Ian was instrumental in growing APP Corporation’s core capabilities nationally before becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2008.
He also led the growth and diversification of Australia’s largest consultant project management firm and was also the General Manager of Services with Transfield Services. The acquisition of APP by Transfield led to Ian taking an operational role within Transfield before becoming part of the Executive in 2013.
Ian holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) from UTS as part of a working scholarship with the Sydney Water Board. Upon completing his degree he worked on the planning of the ocean outfalls, the construction of sewerage carriers and spent a short period in the Minister’s Liaison Unit.
It gives me great pleasure to invite Mr Ian Maxted to deliver the occasional address.
Thank you. It’s good to be back in UTS. I reflected on what I should talk to you about and I thought about it for a little time. I actually wandered down to the Common, I think it’s called and looked at the grass there and thought about what I’d talk about to you all.
The thing that struck me when I arrived today was the people taking photographs in the warmth of celebration around here. We heard a little bit about thanking the families and people who have supported us. But when I reflect on my career, I think ourselves and principally from a technical point of view we all concentrate on the ‘what’, not the ‘how’ and the ‘who’.
The issue I want to raise with you today is the principles of actually thinking about those around you, be they families, be they work colleagues. The concept of respect and the concept of professionalism which is who you are and how you are regarded in the industry. The marketing people might call that brand. I think in engineering we might call it professionalism. People used to call it character. But I got to say when people ring me up and ask me about someone that wants to work for them, they do ask me technical questions and most pointedly ask me ‘Who are they?’, ‘Can they work within a team?’, ‘Are they cooperative?’, ‘What sort of leader will they be?’.
Of which you are, by your very nature of what we heard being a tertiary qualified and highly regarded UTS alumni, you are going to take a position of authority. But with authority goes responsibility and that responsibility of how you treat others with regard and respect. And also with that responsibility goes a reflection upon your professionalism. We have heard about the changes that have occurred in the industry, the internet and the like. But underpinning all that and throughout the ages, your character on how you act will define how you are regarded.
From my experience, that is the test. And for me I had a few tests in my career. As a young engineer in my early thirties, I went to interstate and I had an opportunity there. In the middle of a complex project with state government officials, with my client, I was actually confronted to say something I thought was not correct in a large room. The particular client was actually berating a consultant as to what should be in their role and he said to this particular consultant, ‘that’s in your scope of work to do, isn’t it? That’s your responsibility.’ And here I was a 30 year old, newly arrived interstate with my young family, new burgeoning business. And across the room in front of all the representatives, he yelled at me, ‘that’s right, isn’t it, Ian? That’s their responsibility, isn’t it?’ And now at that particular time it would have been very easy to get out and say yes. So I bit my lips and said, ‘sorry Steve, it’s not their responsibility.’ Deadly silence, which I thought has been a very nice day in Queensland. I will pack my bags and head on home.
Surely after that apart from the red in his face and ignoring me for about a week, we had another session where the budget was going up to his board and for the State government. I was pressured again. This time he said, ‘well, actually Ian, it’s costing too much. We’ve to change the report.’ I said, ‘ok. What don’t you want us to do? Because to change the number, you got to change the scope.’ ‘I want the scope, Ian. I’d just like you to change the number. I’d like you to change the dollar that represented the project.’ And this is 7.30 at night and I’m sure I could have gotten my pen out and change it. I’m sure no one would have known. But guess what. I’d have known, he’d have known and ultimately your brand, your reputation, your professionalism is based on these points. It’s based when it’s 7.30 at night and no one will know but you.
And what happened from that point, what happened with that particular client after giving me a hard time just changed my way. Ultimately it shifted. Ultimately it shifted from animosity to respect. It shifted from the concept that he realised that I, in a funny way protected him from himself. He was going to go to his board and say a number that wasn’t the case. I actually protected him by actually sticking to our guns and also giving them some reasons as to why things could be saved.
Now as I reflect upon that I think about the concept of celebration, it is also about how you deal with other people as well. They are all sort of linked, aren’t they? I think the other thing I think about from my career is about what I call the under tendered consequences. As young professionals or in many cases experienced professionals that we have here, often your drive, your ambition, your need to succeed is focussed on a task and not those around you.
I’m sure you have been very reasonable people with your family and friends during the course of your studies, and have been very accommodating. But in many cases I think we are not because we are too focussed on the task. When we think about the motto of UTS, our motto which is Think. Change. Do. Like all good engineers, I’m sure we think of the task. I’m sure we think of the actual physical thing we are going to do. But can I commend to you that Think. Change. Do is as relevant to your relationships both personal and professional as it is relevant to how you act in accord with integrity rather than experiencing. It’s as relevant as who you are as a person because ultimately from my experience in career broadening to all walks of life. I’d suggest that’s what it comes down to. Internet may come, there may be other challenges. People will ultimately judge you on who you are and how you act.
In many cases, we are put under pressure to say what people want to hear. That’s not the professional way, that’s not the UTS way and that’s not how our reputation has been forged. Our reputation has been forged by without fear of favour, saying the truth of what we believe, being astute enough to give people options and ultimately sticking by our word and also be sitting by our professionalism.
I would like to end on that note by coming back to where I began about celebrations. You celebrated today and as you go forth, you got to find other times to celebrate because what you will do in your career is forget to what I’d call…smell the roses. Stop. Little celebrations for little achievements. Big celebrations for big achievements. I think it’s very important.
Thank you for having me here as a past UTS alumni. I congratulate you again. I hope for the best for your future and to concur I hope you will have a pleasant night tonight but not too good a night. I think it’s the advice. Thank you very much.