FIEAust CPEng NER
Wellsite Safety Management Pty Ltd
Tom graduated with qualifications in Petroleum Engineering in 1975 and worked in Texas, Louisiana, Saudi Arabia, and California before settling in Australia in 1981. After a period in Perth, Tom moved to Adelaide and has worked out of Adelaide since 1989.
Tom retired from regular employment in 2012 and has been working as a consultant since then. He has lived and operated an alpaca farm since 1995 in the Adelaide Hills, breeding and working in the alpaca industry, including some stints on regional and national alpaca industry committees.
Tom has long been involved with the Society of Petroleum Engineers, including serving on more than 30 committees over the last 32 years, and has been honoured with their their highest service award, the DeGolyer Distinguished Service Medal, in 2011.
How long have you been volunteering with Engineers Australia?
Volunteering with Engineers Australia came directly after I became Chartered in 1996. I was asked to sit on Assessment Panels for Chartered candidates, and attended the North Adelaide IEAust offices to do so in the early years, and now the Adelaide EA offices. I participate in these Assessment Panels in Adelaide and by video conferences to do assessments for candidates who are in Melbourne or Brisbane.
Why did you become a volunteer?
I have been volunteering all my life, it seems. Working in a “committee” is in my DNA. I am one of 11 children, so grew up with the mantra that allowed the right person to do the right task around the house, depending on age and ability, and sharing those tasks among siblings. I chaired a young men’s group when I was 16, and have been on student councils, conference committees, award committees, technical committees and governing councils both locally and internationally, and quite a few by just email and teleconference, but I like the face-to-face contact much better.
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
Giving back to my community and profession probably drives it. I recently volunteered again as a part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and you meet an amazing range of individuals and volunteer structures. Because I have been at this volunteering for more than 50 years, I kind of appreciate and try to pass along the spirit of volunteering, and ask others “why do we do this?” pretty often.
What has been your greatest achievement in your time volunteering with Engineers Australia?
I am a Petroleum Engineer by education, training and experience, and when I moved to Australia from the US in 1981 there was no such discipline. In 2011, I championed the idea of including Petroleum as an engineering discipline within Engineers Australia, and it was accepted. Because of that push and a few other volunteer things, I was awarded the 2012 South Australia Professional Engineer of the Year, something I am very proud of.
How has your career informed your work as a volunteer?
Volunteers do things because they want to, and employees generally do things because they have to, and get paid for it. Paid or volunteer people work in groups, and groups have to get along, and group members generally have roles, which are formally or informally structured. Volunteer structures have to be quite flexible to allow for everyone working certain roles, including people with work or family commitments
How do you balance work and volunteering?
Employers have to buy into an employee’s volunteering efforts, and sanction the time the person is putting towards their efforts. For me, it was always part of “what I do” wherever I worked to volunteer for technical and society committees and events. I have met an amazing range of prominent people through volunteering. We have been living on a farm for the past 24 years, which certainly keeps you “grounded”, but those encounters with industry icons are wonderful.
What would you tell other members who are considering becoming a volunteer?
While working, consider volunteering as part of your job, not as something you add on top of the job, and put a percentage of time into doing things for the greater good, the community, your profession, whatever, to make you and others feel good. It is the right thing to do, and you will feel good about doing it.