Female graduate


James Shirley

James Shirley



How long have you been at Aurecon?

12 months

Name of degree completed

Master of Civil Engineering

Notable projects that James has worked on

Early Works team for Melbourne Metro Project

Life motto / slogan to live by

Of all the historical figures, Nike sums it up best…Just Do it.

James Shirley recently joined Aurecon after completing his degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne in 2014. While engineering wasn’t a field that James initially considered, a few years in the workforce led to a complete change in his outlook on what mattered to him for his personal goals and career ambitions.

“I was originally interested in the business world and completed a degree in international business. I started working at a media firm doing journalism, project management and advertising. While it was a rewarding role at a great company, I had a niggling feeling that I was meant to do more with my life,” says James.

James went back to university after realising that the engineering industry would allow him to create real, tangible value for people and communities. Being able to make a positive impact on both a small and large scale is what appealed to him.

“I was particularly interested in transport systems and city development, so I joined the Land Infrastructure team at Aurecon after completing my degree in Civil Engineering. Today I work on road and rail design, stormwater design and water sensitive urban design projects,” says James.

Becoming the driving force behind your own career

During his first year at Aurecon, James attended a Limelight (Aurecon’s emerging professionals’ network) meeting where Aurecon Chief Executive Officer, Giam Swiegers, addressed the young professionals. James recalls how Giam’s speech inspired him.

“Giam was talking about discretionary effort; essentially the level of effort somebody would give if they felt supported and appreciated. I took the lesson as you only get out what you put in and that we have to be the driving force behind our careers; that we have to go out and create opportunities rather than wait for opportunities to fall into our laps,” says James.

Coincidentally, James had a proposal for a new, technologically-driven and digitally advanced transport design project on him during this meeting. James approached Giam with the idea, which was the catalyst to a new, exciting project at Aurecon.

“Giam was interested in my idea, and recognising the value it could add to the client and community, set up a meeting so that I could pitch it to the Market Director of Transport. After getting more people involved and organising a few brainstorming sessions, this idea was eventually pitched to our potential client. I found this type of support and collaboration very rewarding,” says James.

How millennials can find meaning behind the work that they do

James says that there are a lot of misperceptions about millennials in the workforce, such as millennials being entitled, carefree people that don’t commit to companies long-term.

“Fortunately these stereotypes are based upon oversimplified generalisations. Driven and ambitious millennials often simply need to find meaning behind the work and know that the company they work for develops their skills and allows their talents to be put to use. I believe that there’s a huge opportunity for millennials to find this fulfilment in engineering. My experience at Aurecon is that the variety of projects, people and initiatives that they provide allows one to develop and apply technical and non-technical skills within a typical day’s work.

Imagining the best solutions for our clients

“Aurecon is making efforts at creating an agile workplace that allows you to learn, grow and bring ideas to life. Many of the managers that I’ve worked with here balance the working styles and flexibility that different people require,” says James.

“The reality is that with any job you will have days in which you feel unmotivated and think that the work you are doing is not really making any significant change. The trick is not necessarily to grin and bear it, but rather know that every little cog makes the project a success and that within a multinational company like Aurecon there are opportunities to create the career you want by just doing it!” says James.

“I believe to make the positive changes engineering allows you to make, there is a need to balance getting deeply technical and focused on delivery with being deeply engaged in the world and people outside of your job. This allows us at Aurecon to best serve our clients as by being actively engaged we can imagine the best solutions that bring our communities and our client’s ideas to life,” concludes James.

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