Q&A with John Duffy, Mott Macdonald Technical Director - Electrical

Introduce yourself and describe your role at Mott MacDonald.
I’m John Duffy, after completing my degree of Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics in 2008, I commenced a career within the engineering consultancy industry where I’ve been working for over 14 years. I have enjoyed each moment of my career as every day is different. I’ve been involved in many different project types and sectors from: large hospital/research laboratory projects, mixed-use developments, road and rail infrastructure projects, defence, and stadiums, to client-side technical advisory. I’m currently a technical director for the company leading the electrical team in Adelaide and the Australian electrical practice leader.

What is Mott MacDonald’s purpose, and how have you achieved this within your career?
Our purpose is to improve society by considering social outcomes in everything we do; relentlessly focussing on excellence and digital innovation, transforming our clients’ businesses, our communities and employee opportunities. Working at Mott MacDonald it has been great to have the support to select the projects that positively impact the society and invest in excellence and digital innovations. Even the small things we do on our projects can have positive impacts on the environment. We undertake sustainability and environmental risk assessments on all our projects, even where sustainability doesn’t form part of the scope. This is because there is always something we can do, for example: considering the products we use, where they come from and how they are manufactured, making sure our projects are paperless, or simply suggesting opportunities for our clients to consider.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role at Mott Macdonald?
The most rewarding aspect of my role at Mott MacDonald was being one of the founding members of the Building Services in the built environment sector in Adelaide and helping Derek Broome (our South Australian built environment leader) build the team. When I started, the Mott MacDonald business in Australia was smaller, however, with great leadership support, the services team grew from three to over 20 staff. I can’t believe that over the past six years the Adelaide office has from around 30 people to 190 staff and 1067 in Australia!

What has been your most memorable project working alongside Buckford?
The most memorable are the Oaklands Crossing Grade Separation and the R2P Pedestrian Bridge Project which achieved IES awards. The design needed to ensure that the lighting achieved the stringent design criteria required for stations, pedestrian bridges, platforms and particular consideration for DDA. With the products Buckford offered we were able to achieve the criteria with an energy-efficient solution and achieve an excellent aesthetic of an open and welcoming structure at night while complimenting the canopy design and associated public realm.

What do you think excellent lighting design is, and why is it important?
Excellent lighting design is a combination of many factors and as engineers, we consistently need to carefully balance these. The below diagram is a snapshot our Specialist Lighting team developed (led by Yean-Woo for Australia and Sarah Linton locally) and brings together our beliefs at Mott MacDonald.

It is great to have our specialist lighting team provide advice on our projects to ensure we strike the right balance.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received?
My Dad used to always say, “there’s no such thing as can’t, you can achieve great things if you put your mind to it and never give up”. Throughout my career, I have always taken any opportunity that was presented to me.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to maintain a healthy work-life balance with two amazing kids growing up very quickly, Mott MacDonald supports flexible working, and this has helped me be there for my family. My kids don’t realise it, but they are the reason I’m always striving to do the best I possibly can, and importantly I wouldn’t be able to do it without my amazing wife beside me!

Tell us about your time with Mott MacDonald in the UK. How did the opportunity come about, and what did you learn from the experience?
Mott MacDonald is a global company with over 17,000 staff globally, so there is a wealth of knowledge within the business. As we were growing a new team within the Australian market, I was given the opportunity to travel to the UK to meet some of Mott MacDonald’s global practice leaders, I was able to draw upon their experiences of building strong teams and learn about their capabilities that we could leverage to help grow the team.