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fission’s Tom McNamara Completes Constructionarium Australia Story Bridge Challenge

Earlier this month, fission’s Tom McNamara took part in a Constructionarium Australia Build program, an eight-day training and development course that challenges a cohort of undergraduate and emerging career professionals to construct a replica Story Bridge.

Focusing on the complete cycle of a project from tender to client handover, the cohort splits their time between classroom-style learning, guest lectures from industry leaders and onsite construction as their 30m, 4-tonne steel bridge is constructed against a schedule and budget, as if operating on a real-world infrastructure project.  

We caught up with Tom to learn more about his experience and how it would benefit his role as an Estimator/Engineer with fission.

What did you enjoy most about Constructionarium Australia?

It was a great experience, but I really enjoyed the interaction with young professionals in the same field, yet also having very different roles to myself. It provides a great perspective on the breadth of roles and experiences needed to complete a project.

What challenged you most about Constructionarium Australia?

On day 1, we were all strangers, and in the space of a few hours, we had to form teams and work towards a challenging deadline. It could be a tricky situation, but it was amazing how well everyone came together to complete these goals. It reinforced the importance of communication in a team and across a project.

What one key learning or takeaway did you have from the week?

Planning is key.

We saw that from both ends of the scale, from not planning on the first day of construction and not achieving our expected outcome to the second day where we planned and executed two days’ worth of work in a few hours.

Planning was also raised in our work-life session with the importance to plan work to be as efficient as possible. This leads to tasks being completed on time and stops work-related thoughts lingering in your head outside of work hours.

What role did you enjoy most during Constructionarium?

As part of the program, we changed roles every day. During the tender, you could be the bid manager, on day one of construction, a traffic controller, on day 3 of construction, the safety manager.

No one particular role stands out; however, I enjoyed the construction roles and being a part of building something physically.

Was there one session/lecture/speaker that inspired you?

The highlight for me was Alex Ibarra’s session on Indigenous Cultural Learning. It was very eye-opening about the value of community and the structure within the indigenous culture and communities.

Due to the community structure being very different to non-indigenous hierarchy systems, it’s vital that we approach indigenous communities from a holistic view by collaborating with the community and not individual people as there is no one leader. This genuine collaboration is essential and, if done early and right, can help develop a better overall project for everyone involved.

With fission being a part of the preconstruction phase of a project, I am able to help drive that conversation for early engagement with communities. This carried over to the Q&A panel of storytelling, which was again an interesting session on the importance of getting your message across to all different types of communities and asset owners. This can even translate into the reports we do at fission to create something informative but engaging to read.

What help do you think Constructionarium Australia participation will be in your career?

The connection I have made with young people in the construction industry is extremely valuable.

Also, the valuable insight into how a tender is developed, won and delivered gave me great perspective, as my position in the industry is generally client-side before this process. This will help me provide valuable additional input other than cost, which can produce a better product to assist the construction process.

Would you recommend taking part in a build to other students/professionals?

110% it is a great opportunity to learn years of construction experience in the space of 8 days while making connections throughout the construction industry.

Director of Operations, Jarrod McHugh, congratulated Tom on his efforts.

“Tom and his cohort should be proud of what they achieved in their story Bridge Build. The build took place in some very wet conditions, which would have easily have thrown the team off track, but they focused, collaborated and ensured that they delivered  their project to time and to budget.”

“I was fortunate to visit the site and talk to the cohort about their experience, and from my observations, the program mimics as closely as possible the challenges and pressures associated with delivering a major project from tender to negotiation to handover. For fission, it provides our team members with a fantastic opportunity to experience every aspect of a project, which underpins our ability to provide accurate estimating services because we have an in-depth knowledge of how things really happen on a construction site.”

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