Director Safety Assurance (Technical)
Some gentle advice from a college careers advisor sent Patrick Youle on a different career trajectory than what he had planned. Maybe it was written in the stars. “I wanted to do a degree in Astronomy,” remembers Patrick. “But my careers adviser suggested there were limited job opportunities, and the pay wouldn’t be great. I got talked out of it.”
Instead, Patrick pivoted and completed a degree in Electronic Engineering at Warwick University, in the United Kingdom before starting his first job as an aviation systems engineer at British Aerospace Defence. “Even as a young boy I was interested in planes and the military, and we’d go to all the air shows.” However, the end of the Cold War meant a winding down of Defence jobs and as serendipity would have it, Patrick’s career would head down another path. “I saw a job ad in the newspaper for British Rail Research. It was similar to what I was doing with systems engineering and safety assurance, but in a different industry.”
This role was the start of a rich and varied career including roles with global engineering giant Mott MacDonald and boutique consultancy Michael Hamlyn Associates. However, in 2006, a phone call out of the blue would change his career course again.
“I received a call from Rio Tinto inviting me to Perth for a one-week workshop on Auto-Haul, an automatic train operation project,” Patrick recalls. “I was staying on the shores of Scarborough Beach, and it was the Australia I’d always imagined – white sands, blue skies and friendly people. You could even hear the ocean from our workshop,” he laughs. “My introduction to Australia was magical.” This one-week trip morphed into a job offer and a long relationship with the company that saw Patrick and his young family criss-crossing the globe before ending back in Sydney with a role as a Senior Principal Consultant in systems assurance at Systra. When the opportunity came up for Patrick to join Axess Advisory, he grabbed at it, enjoying the smaller, more agile structure Axess offered.
Today Patrick successfully navigates the flexibility and fluidity of the global workplace, with his wife Mandy, and children, Francesca (18), Alex (13) and Charlotte (11) living in the United Kingdom and Patrick working both in Sydney, and remotely while in the UK for regular visits.
So, let’s get to know Patrick a little better.
Tell us about yourself Patrick?
I was born and raised in Sheffield in South Yorkshire. I enjoy my sport so I’m a keen supporter of the ‘Blades’, the Sheffield United football team, although as I’ve been living off and on in Australia since 2006, I’m now a bigger NRL fan and support my local team, the Manly Sea Eagles. Controversially, thanks to life coaching by my Rio Tinto workmates, I also support the Maroons in the State of Origin.
Although I initially wanted to follow a career in Astronomy, a degree in electrical engineering opened up more opportunities and suited my skillset. My first job was in systems engineering and safety assurance, which gave me an introduction into this field. It was exciting working with military aircraft which I’d been interested in since I was young.
I feel lucky to have been employed by a number of companies during my career. I’ve worked at all ends of the ‘food chain’ with roles at the client, supplier, and design level. Thanks to this perspective, the first thing I always do in any project or job is see everything from the client viewpoint. At Axess, our absolute top priority is our clients so I’m in the right place.
I’m grateful for my varied career path as it’s given me life opportunities and brought me to Australia. I really love living in Australia - I’m a fitter, healthier version of myself when I’m here. I guess I have two homes and the best of both worlds.
What is your role at Axess Advisory?
I’m the Director of Safety Assurance (Technical) and my role is overseeing and ensuring the quality of the work Axess is undertaking. I interact with clients on many of our projects to make certain we’re providing services and deliverables needed for their projects. In particular with independent safety assessment jobs, I confirm we’re compliant and working to the national and state standards and guidelines as well as pre-empting any independent scrutinising on a project.
I’m also responsible for providing leadership, mentoring and internal training. I particularly enjoy this side of my role.
What do you love about your job?
I enjoy the smaller size of the company - you can achieve more without miles of red tape and procedures that you’d find in a larger company. We’re more efficient, more competitive, and timelier to deliver services. There is strength in our agility.
Interestingly, as I get older, I’m enjoying leading and mentoring and helping others in the team develop their careers. I want to help others be the best they can be professionally.
Some of my previous employers such as British Aerospace had quite an old-fashioned culture where knowledge was treated like power and people were sometimes reluctant to share information. It’s completely different in the rail industry and the culture is to share what we know and help grow excellence. This is particularly the case in the safety arena. We have a responsibility to pass on what we know technically and share best practice.
What excites you about the future?
In Australia with population growth and climate change, there will always be ongoing rail and freight transportation projects and therefore growth and development in this sector. I believe the amount of transportation development work needed in Australia exceeds all the consultancies out there.
As a result, I see purposeful growth for Axess, not just growing for the sake of it and I see us expanding across all the states and into New Zealand. This is already happening, particularly in Queensland.
I hope the company will grow organically in a way that doesn’t disrupt the Axess culture. Our team engages and works well together. We need to protect this and ensure an expanding team fits with our ethos, values and how we work together.
What inspires you?
Since I’ve been young, I’ve been fascinated with human ingenuity and how things work. When I was little, I was amazed at how humans can develop from the Stone Age to building cars and undertaking space missions as well as the ancient technology required to build the pyramids. Human ingenuity continues to interest and inspire me.
What do you like doing outside work? How do you relax?
Although I hadn’t played for 10 or 15 years, when I turned 50, I revived my soccer ‘career’, joining a club and a soccer competition. I now play weekly including both winter and summer soccer. It’s keeping me fitter and lighter!
I love spending time with my family, and when we’re together we head out on the trails and go bushwalking. Like many, I always enjoy a beer with friends and workmates.
One thing that’s a little different is I’m a big fan of ‘Laurel and Hardy’ and all their black and white films. I have the entire collection.
I really enjoy music too, particularly the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (known as NWOBHM) from the 1980’s. In fact, when I was working in Sydney Trains’ office one of my colleagues was a former band member of The Stranglers and we used to have some great chats about music. No surprise that I love guitars and have a big collection - if my children want to start playing, I’ll buy them a guitar of their own - mine are off limits!