A Day in the Life Of – Simon Osbourne – Mechanical Engineering Manager, Department of Transport

1 Who are you and what is your role, what is the project that you are working on? 

Simon Osborne – Mechanical Engineering Manager – Next Generation Trams Project 

The Next Generation Trams (NGT) Project is a $1.86B investment by the Victorian State Government to procure 100 low-floor, improved accessibility, safe and reliable trams to the Melbourne Tram Network. 

As part of the delivery of these vehicles, a new Tram Maintenance Facility will be built, the supply of NGT simulators, mock-up, and integrated ICT solution will be delivered. 

2. What does a typical day working at RSD look like for you? 

A lot of my work in the NGT Project (at this point in the project) is office-based work. Typically, a working day will involve coming into work, chatting with the team about tasks ahead for the day, review work of design review packages, management plans, hazard logs, FMECA calculations, and working directly with the rolling stock contractor to ensure that the State’s objectives and requirements are met. 

When the project moves into manufacturing and type testing phases, I will spend a lot more time directly with the supplier at their manufacturing facilities to verify manufacturing activities and processes, witness type tests, and undertake final inspections in preparation for passenger service. 

When we get to testing phase, it usually involves a lot of overnight (or “after-last, before-first service”) testing to verify and validate supplier design and products. We’ll be very busy while everyone is asleep! 

3. How did you get started in Transport and what is your favourite thing about working here? 

I started my career in freight rail and rolling stock. I was lucky enough to be involved with the actual design of wagons and locomotives, from design, manufacturing, and testing and commissioning. This involved producing many calculations, models and simulations to ensure that the products were compliant with the client’s (and State’s) standards and requirements. I got to develop a good understanding of design principles, methods and troubleshooting techniques as part of my time in this space. 

I moved into the public transport space by working on the E Class Tram Procurement Project with Yarra Trams to help address accreditation items, implement the refinements and enhancements programs (this included the E2 cab – take a look at the E Class numbers 6001-6050 and 6051-6100, these tram numbers have a different cab design!).  

More recently I was in the team responsible for delivering the High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT) Project for Melbourne, developing the X’Trapolis 2.0 specification, and I’ve also done work on the Queensland New Generation Rollingstock Project and the Regional Rail Project for Sydney.  

My favourite thing about working in my current role is working within a highly complex project space (which involves many objective and subjective interfaces) to deliver outcomes that will be of direct benefit to the public, indiscriminately. It’s a pleasure to work in our team which have a primary focus to deliver these outcomes for the public.  

More broadly, my favourite part about the public transport industry on projects is that it provides accessible transport to connect people from their homes and other places to places of work, health care, friends, and family every day. To me, there’s nothing more fulfilling both personally and professionally. 

4. How have you seen young people uniquely contribute to the projects that you have worked on? 

Absolutely. Experience is relative. New cohorts coming into the industry are highly technically capable and competent who continually offer out-of-the-square thinking and different ways of problem solving to old and legacy problems. The fresh perspectives drive better outcomes for projects and the industry as a whole. 

When I was in university and starting my career, we were undertaking hand notes in lectures and mostly attending in person. Only a few subjects offered online interfacing. We had online quizzes and access to lecture notes and stuff, but not to the extent offered now.  

I’d argue technology and access to information quickly continually makes us collectively more efficient.  

Additionally, it is refreshing to see so many well-rounded individuals who offer a variety of skills to solve and complete the tasks at hand. 

5. Looking back what advice do you have for graduates or young transport professionals getting started in their career? 

The shift from tertiary education to the workforce can be hard. The updraft of experience and learning is steep and sometimes daunting. However, transport it is a wonderful journey to be on given the direct benefit that people experience because of it. Here are some of the things I’ve learned on my journey so far and implore others to do:  

  • Find mentors – it might sound a bit tacky and a bit ‘mechanical’, but acquiring great mentors is a key factor for strong personal development, in my opinion. Mentors and mentorship shouldn’t be constrained to any method or type either. You could have one mentor or many: from executive management to the shop floor. Seek their wisdom and advice. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to pass on their stories and experiences to help you along your way with your career. Often, it’s a mutually beneficial experience! 

Mentoring doesn’t just stop after just joining the industry – find mentors who can support you along your journey. I have at least five mentors who I catch up with on a regular basis who have helped me to define my own path in the industry – they are also great friends as well! 

  • Immerse yourself into everything – when you’re new to the industry, everything you do is likely to be a discovery; something that you experience and take with you through your career. It’s how wisdom is developed. Given this, where the opportunity arises, take your chance to seize every experience that is presented to you.  
  • Build your network – your professional network is like a living organism. We all strive to help each other and in return seek help from it, at times. You can build your network by working with others, attending network building events (such as the YTP events!), and through other general stakeholder engagements. Often, you will find that you will make great friendships which just makes the process more fun! 

However, it takes time to build and requires effort and time to nurture. At the end of the day, we are all people working with other people for the common interest of clients, customers, and in terms of government, the public. As a great mentor once told me: be flexible, be adaptable, and be cheerful in your approach to work and working with others. 

  • Reflect and self-evaluate – this is key to continuous improvement. We aren’t perfect, nor are we robots. We all have the capacity to reflect and learn from our experiences to do or be better the next time we find ourselves in similar situations. Reflect often. Ask yourself “is there a better way I could have handled that situation?” or “what could I do better next time to ensure the best outcomes?”. 

Seek feedback from others actively – sometimes hearing critique is a bit hard at times as we all try hard to do the best we can for the best result! But in my opinion, we are better off for the feedback. 

6. What do you do outside of work to relax and have fun? 

I like to keep Bunnings Warehouse in business…. I enjoy home improvement and working with my hands. 

A beer on Friday at the pub doesn’t go astray either…