An interview with our Engineer of the Year, Neil Petherbridge

Newcastle principal, structural engineer and long term Northrop team member Neil Petherbridge was recently awarded Engineers Australia’s Newcastle division Engineer of the Year. 

The award honours those who have demonstrated great achievement and leadership within the engineering profession.  The criteria was based around engineers’ contributions to the wellbeing of their community, demonstrating a resourcefulness to planning and the solution of design problems, pioneering in the use of materials and methods, sustainability and innovation in design, construction and aesthetic values.

The judges were impressed with Neil’s innovative approach to his engineering work and his strong commitment to promoting engineering through the Property Council of Australia.

His work in resolving mines subsidence issues in Newcastle as they affect the economic viability of projects and the structural design constraints the regulations imposed has been recognised nationally. 

Neil has for many years tutored at the University of Newcastle and mentored many young engineers. He is President of the Toronto Amateur Sailing Club and works as a volunteer with local charities such as Sailability. Neil believes in the strength of Engineers Australia’s voice and encourages us to promote that at every opportunity.

Northrop sat down with Neil for a quick chat after the award was announced.

Congratulations Neil – a fantastic achievement! What does winning this award means for you?

I feel very humbled. To be recognised by my peers and acknowledged for things that I get such joy out of, is very rewarding.

Can you please tell me a little bit about your career?

I’ve worked for Northrop since graduating from the University of Newcastle in 1989 – I literally started here in a grad role two weeks out of university.  I worked in North Sydney in a small team of eight until 1992 when I moved up to Newcastle to open the office. I have managed to grow our team of consulting engineers to over 50 – and I haven’t looked back. I became a director in 1994, and a shareholder in 1996.

What has kept you here for so long?

Northrop has provided me with endless opportunities throughout my career.  I really have been able to do what I wanted, within the framework.  I’m not sure that any other company could have offered me the opportunities, particularly so early on in my career.

What advice would you offer for someone starting out in their career as an engineer?

I’d say to put your head down and get on top of your profession early on.

I was once told that anybody who is lucky enough to receive a good education is indebted to give something back.  Young engineers should have strong opinions and help shape public policy. This was really important advice for me.

And then second to that, to travel and explore the world. A global perspective makes you a better engineer.

On behalf of the whole team at Northrop, congratulations Neil!

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