QS Tony Wood talks about a far-flung career that has taken him from Manchester to Australia
Did you always want to work abroad?
Yes. I have always liked travelling and experiencing new cultures. I enjoyed the team work in our Manchester office but when Tim Wray, our group chairman, asked me if I was interested in working in South Africa for six months it seemed an attractive and challenging proposition. I soon settled down, married a local girl and the six months became 20 years.
Were the cultures very different in each of the African countries in which you worked?
My early experiences in Africa will stay with me forever. From Johannesburg I visited many African countries in which we had established new offices. We started working in Mozambique after the civil war was over, where the language was Portuguese rather than an African language. I also remember ordering chicken at a restaurant in Zimbabwe and then looking out of the window to see the cook wringing the neck of a chicken in the car park!
How do clients compare between South Africa and Australia?
Little separates them. Their expectations as to quality, value and innovation often exceed internationally recognised standards – after all, both countries are outward looking and clients seek to benefit from locally delivered world-class expertise.
Which country would you recommend to a QS wanting to work abroad?
One should firstly consider the project. On the international stage you are competing not only with local consultancies but with the best in the world. I would say that the location is very much a secondary issue – although naturally it was hard to refuse Brisbane as a location to establish our second office in Australia!
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
Two really stand out. The first was the rebuilding of a paper mill after a massive explosion ripped it apart. The second was the construction of a brewery just south of Johannesburg. Free beer for the four-year duration of the project was just heaven, and when I required additional support from the office there was never any shortage of willing helpers.
What are you currently working on?
My efforts at the moment are channelled into starting up the Brisbane office. The office is strategically located in the centre of Brisbane’s business district and opposite the Pig & Whistle pub – which, I am sure you will appreciate, is very important. Sandra and I have also finally found a house with which we feel comfortable.
Was I right to leave Manchester all those years ago? You bet I was!
Job Director of Turner & Townsend International; director of Turner & Townsend Contract Services; group partner
Employment history Between 1979 and 1984, trained and qualified as a QS with Turner & Townsend in Manchester; in 1984, transferred to T&T in South Africa; in 2000, established T&T’s office in Kitwe, Zambia; in May 2004, became responsible for managing T&T’s Australia/Asia Pacific operation
Qualifications BSc (QS), PrQS, PMAQS, MRICS
Lives Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, with his family