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Q&A | Ready for anything

burt browne

Burt Browne is a consultant at Phase Consultants. Here he describes what it takes to do his job.

Describe your job

I provide advice to businesses about property, health and safety and environmental matters. inparticular businesses with a diverse range of enterprises. My job is delivering advice to clients. The work is interesting and varied, and involves preparing and running training sessions and technical briefings.

Why does your job matter?

My job matters to me because I value sustainable development. The environment is my major concern. When I have finished my career, I want there to be better protection of earth, more exploration of space – more dealing with its problems and its energy.

What’s the most exciting part of your week?

I’m all about the unexpected. Discovery excites me. Whether it’s educating myself about transport and traffic engineering, or commenting on industry exposure to legislation. I’m excited by the people I meet, and learning about their experience. Sometimes people who I had figured out, surprise me with the breadth and depth of the experience they have to offer. There’s mutual appreciation when people are acknowledged for what they bring to the table.

What stands out as the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

I’m currently working on an interesting project which ranges from upskilling people in rehabilitation, to advising on a Hollywood production. The production is adapted from a book which describes an all-female science, technology and maths (STEM) team setting out into an area abandoned by civilisation. It’s going to be interesting to see if the film stays true to the gender spec. 

How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?

If it’s too late in the day, I’m the “health and safety guy”. If friends and family have time, where do I end explaining? I usually begin as any consultant would, I ask them what they do. Once I understand, I draw their attention to their reliance on civil engineering. To me, perfection is civil engineering. Society doesn’t see civil engineering because civil engineers have gotten so good at refining what we do. 

How did you get into the job/what was your career route?

I got into the job by seeing hard hats in a shop window with the word “consultants” above it. I thought I’ve worn hard-hats and I want to be consulted on the matter. So I knocked on the door and was fortunate to be invited back. My mother pointed out to me that mining companies were offering bursaries to study geology and I had taken a childhood interest because the Durban campus of Natal University, where she worked as a PA, had a geology museum.

How far removed from the traditional role of the civil engineer do you think your job is?

I don’t think I am removed from the traditional role of the civil engineer. Brunel was an apprentice of clock-making and horology and Bazalgette began his career working on railway projects. So I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what the traditional role of a civil engineer is. 

What would you be if you weren’t in this role?

I’d be a customer solutions designer for a civils product supplier.

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