Jamie Shelton is a Principal and the Sydney Regional manager for Northrop. Jamie commenced his career with Northrop Engineers in 1988 as a graduate engineer in the Canberra office.
Today he is a senior structural engineer with over 20 years of experience in servicing clients and managing engineering design teams.
What prompted you to enter engineering?
As a kid I enjoyed building stuff, I find the construction process exciting and very rewarding.
I was good at maths and physics, and so engineering was the means through which I could contribute by utilising my analytical and problem solving skills.
How is engineering changing within the property and construction sector?
Engineers are needing to be more flexible in how they work and who they work for. For example, it’s now very common that an engineer will initially work for the principal and then be novated to the builder to complete the project.
Procuring projects through Design and Construct contracts requires delivering to tight timeframes and strict budgets. Smart engineering firms respond by investing in people and seeking opportunities to improve service delivery through innovation.
What advice do you have for developers about to start a new project?
Bring the engineers on early, consult with them on cost-effective and innovative solutions, and trust them to help lead the project.
Developers should seek to build long-term relationship with their trusted engineering consultants, and utilise them in helping in the assessment and feasibility studies of potential projects.
What are the biggest challenges engineers face in the current environment?
The war on talent is savage within engineering and fighting to attract and retain great staff is a core part of a successful engineering consultancy.
Secondly, managing risk without stifling the creativity and ingenuity that can bring enormous value to clients and projects. Risk aversion can promote conservative process driven approaches to engineering design, in which the opportunities for great outcomes through great engineering are overshadowed by the fear of stepping outside the box.
Basements are always a big deal. There’re complex, risky and expensive, however where there’s risk there’s opportunity. Constructing deep basements adjacent to existing buildings and infrastructure requires experienced engineers who know the pitfalls of building underground structures, and how to utilise the expertise of the specialist contractor.
What makes a great project, and why?
Capturing and extracting the value of good ideas, can bring about extraordinary project outcomes, and be particularly rewarding for the project team. We thrive in an open and collaborative design process in which good ideas belong to the project, not an individual. We're not precious about our ideas, and often the greatest value is found in developing someone else's.
What sort of work environment do you foster at Northrop?
Northrop has a high performance culture. Our workplace is where people will flourish who can work without the constraints of procedures but are guided by their understanding and alignment of the company and project objectives. We want our engineers to draw ingenuity to provide solutions that address the specifics of a project, rather than churn out the one size fits all solution that is conservative, expensive and provides little value.
Where does Northrop go from here?
Northrop’s growth reflects our culture and responds to external drivers.
Underlining our culture is that we provide meaningful careers to our people, through enabling the developing of their full potential and providing opportunity within a supportive framework. This means that as our people develop our business grows.
The external drivers are our clients and the market. Our focus on “client side thinking” coupled with our business owners being at the forefront of project delivery is proving a strong differentiator.
We are retaining and attracting great people, who are responding to the opportunities as our clients take advantage of the strong multi-unit residential market.
What do you do in your spare time?
I live in Randwick with my wife and three children, and when I’m not at work, I switch-off. Weekends are mixture of kids sport, walking the dog in Centennial Park, gardening and entertaining.