Staff Spotlight: Pursuing a passion for STEM

Terry Byrnes is one of our Electrical Technologists within the Engineering team. He has twelve years of engineering experience working on projects across multiple industries and continents. His passion for solving challenges and aspiring to develop innovative solutions for the future has led him to return to Adelaide to work on one of the largest Defence programs in Australia’s history.

Can you please briefly explain your role and responsibilities at Naval Group Australia?

As an Electrical Technologist I am responsible for ensuring that the performance and quality of the electrical equipment selected for the Future Submarine Program (FSP) meets the qualification criteria to support the build of 12 regionally superior submarines.

Currently I am working towards supporting Naval Group’s transfer of technology from France to Australia in support of building a sovereign shipbuilding capability in Australia. This involves living and working in France for three to four years as an Engineer and learning Naval Group’s approach to designing and building submarines, as they have over 400 years’ experience building some of the biggest and most sophisticated submarines in the world. I will then be responsible for bringing this knowledge back to Australia to share with my colleagues and apply to the design and build of Australia’s twelve Future Submarines.

How did you get to where you are today?

My family has a strong background in aviation and transportation engineering, so from a young age I naturally developed a keen eye for innovation and design.

With an interest in mathematics and science throughout my high school years (particularly electrical design), I decided to take a slightly different path than my predecessors and commence a degree as an Electrical and Electronic Engineer.

I had my first experience working with a defence project when I received a scholarship with Defence Science and Technology Group during my degree at the University of Adelaide where I conducted a research assignment on land mine detection. In addition to this I completed an honours program involving the design and build of a ship propulsion system with no moving parts.

After graduating from University with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) I was fortunate to work on several exciting projects including robotics, renewable energy, building consultancy, industrial design and now defence. Because of these projects I have lived and worked in numerous parts of the world including the United States of America and Canada, and now I’ve added France to that list.

What attracted you to pursuing a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and more specifically engineering?

Solving challenges through the art of engineering has always been a passion.  I have always aspired to be a part of developing innovation for the future as I find great satisfaction in seeing something you have been personally invested in transition from concept design to completion.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found about your role and/or working at Naval Group Australia?

The extent of trust I have been given would be the biggest surprise. I am involved in decisions that will directly impact the overall build of the Future Submarines, something I hadn’t anticipated prior to joining Naval Group Australia.

 Where did you go grow up? How have you found living and working in Adelaide?

I grew up in the small town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory where I attended and thoroughly enjoyed my junior and high school years.  Two years after completing High School I decided to expand my horizons and moved to Adelaide to study engineering.

I have travelled to and lived in cities across the world however I keep finding myself returning to Adelaide. At first, city living was overwhelming for me but since calling Adelaide home on and off for about 10 years I can appreciate the relaxed and welcoming vibe that other cities lack. The festivities, local produce, wine regions, coastal access, great weather and work opportunities all contribute to why Adelaide is one of the most liveable cities in the world and why I keep returning.

What makes Naval Group Australia different to other organisations you have worked for?

The fact we are working on a large scale project which will span across over 50 years is very unique. The longevity of the project provides me and my colleagues the opportunity to transition into different roles and grow our skills as the project develops. While this is an Australian Program, I work very closely with my French colleagues on a daily basis which has exposed me to a new way of working and how to approach projects in different ways.

What advice would you give students wanting to pursue a career as an Engineer with Naval Group Australia on the Future Submarine Program?

I believe the most important thing to remember when choosing your career path is to find something you are passionate about. Try different things until you find your calling and naturally you will become a leader in your field. The FSP offers a large range of STEM employment opportunities to craft a long and rewarding career, with a number of career paths to choose from so it is likely there is something that suits you.

Don’t underestimate the power of team work. Listen to what others have to say, ask questions, stay humble, work hard and don’t be afraid to set your goals high.