Ross and his now-wife left Scotland thirteen years ago and fell in love with Perth, the capital of Western Australia, which lies in the southwest of the continent. In our interview, he tells us about the past nine years working at Brunel and his current role as Commercial Manager.
Commercial Manager at Brunel in Perth
Hi, Ross. Australia is known for having strong and distinctive accents. However, that accent of yours is not Australian, is it?
You’re right, I am from Edinburgh, Scotland. Nonetheless, the Perth accent is quite neutral if you compare it to the accents from other regions like Northern Queensland or New South Wales.
Perth is quite a long way from home. What prompted you to move to Australia?
Well, it wasn't really planned to stay here for the long term. Back then, in 2009, the global recession was in full swing. My wife and I were lucky enough to have job security in the UK, but we were in our mid-twenties, ambitious and wanted to progress professionally. And at that time, given the state of the economy, most people were just happy to have a job. Naively, we thought we'd go travelling for a year and when we came back everything would be back to normal. A friend of my wife's had emigrated to Australia and got married in Newcastle on the country’s east coast of Australia. We had to pass through there anyway, so we decided to start our trip in Perth. Funnily enough, we never made it out of Western Australia. Looking back, I think we should have planned our trip around the world earlier, because once you've finished university and worked in a professional environment for a while, it's hard to go back to that backpacking lifestyle. Also, Australia was weathering the storm amid the global financial crisis, and we quickly found employers willing to take us on. Perhaps if we had travelled earlier, we wouldn't have had the same opportunity in Australia: We wouldn't have had the experience we both gained in our professional careers after university.
What was your first job in Australia and how did it differ from what you’d been doing in the UK?
Back in the UK, I worked in financial services marketing, because Edinburgh was quite a big financial services centre. I was mainly responsible for internal recruitment, but also for customer care. I looked after all the clients that we did marketing campaigns for. In Perth, I got a job with a global recruitment company known for placing accounting and finance staff, and I stayed there for four and a half years.
How did you first come across Brunel and when did you join the company?
Before I came to Australia, I had never heard of Brunel. But when I got here I quickly got to know them, because they seemed to have these big contracts with big clients in the two main industries in Australia, oil and gas and mining. One of my work colleagues at the financial recruitment firm I was working for got a job at Brunel and gradually took the team with him, and that's how I, too, ended up at Brunel in account management in 2014.
What was it like working at Brunel in 2014?
Well, it was a very different organisation then because Brunel did a lot of offshore work through our technical services business which provided personnel to work on offshore installations like oil rigs. These were blue-collar jobs, and to employ these kinds of workers on projects you needed what was called an enterprise agreement and Brunel had a strong enterprise agreement in place. I joined Brunel in the energy division, which was more focused on hiring white-collar workers in technical and professional positions. Also, this division wasn't that big yet and I was lucky to join at the right time, as our headcount was steadily increasing due to the projects Australia was embarking on at the time. However, we also knew that these projects would all come to an end within 12 to 18 months and that our staffing levels would take a hit when the construction phase of the projects ended. The project operators would then transition into operations and these operational positions tend to be much more staff-intensive, so clients hire fewer contractors. At that point, we knew that we could no longer focus exclusively on the oil and gas industry, and we had to come up with some way to diversify. So we started looking at secondary engineering companies and the mining industry.
Fast forward nine years and you’re the Commercial Manager in charge of the Australasia region. How did the switch from a sales position to a commercial role come about?
In 2018, my boss at the time approached me and asked if I would be interested in an internal move into a commercial advisory role. To be honest, I had not considered it before and I thought I would miss the client contact. It was also a challenge, as I had no experience in finance apart from my first job after university with an insurance broker. Of course, the commercial team also takes care of all insurance and similar things, but I was still hesitant. Nevertheless, Adam, the Commercial Manager for Australasia at the time, told me he would bring me up to speed, and his support eventually convinced me to take the job. Then in 2020, Adam was asked to take over the Americas region and I was promoted to Commercial Manager for Australasia.
What do you do as Commercial Manager at Brunel?
Well, first of all, every day is different and there is a lot of variety in the daily routine, which is something I really appreciate about my job. My tasks include negotiating contracts with clients, ensuring legal and regulatory compliance, maintaining relationships with key stakeholders such as clients and partners, monitoring market trends and identifying new market opportunities. If I had to sum up my job in one sentence, it would be: maximising opportunities and minimising risks.
What do you like most about working at Brunel?
Over the past nine years, the company has always evolved, and I think this is where the entrepreneurial side of Brunel comes in. Not only in terms of finding new opportunities in the market, but also in terms of your own career. If you see an opportunity to improve something and add value within the company, or if you see a need in a certain area, you can almost create your own job – provided there is enough value and benefit from it. For example, the Commercial Manager role is very different from the one Adam (the previous Commercial Manager) used to have, and we're only talking about a couple of years. So Brunel gives its employees the freedom and responsibility to take action and find their own career path. Another thing I like about Brunel is that it's a large, listed company, which means greater financial stability, transparency and therefore job security. And, of course, there is the aspect of increased control and compliance. And then, of course, there are the people I work with every day, who give me a lot of pleasure. They're all like-minded people who work together and pull in the same direction.