Phil Watson has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Over his 20 year career he has worked in most continents and tackled a wide range of engineering projects, from Africa and the Middle East, to the United States and Europe.
Now UWA’s Shell Chair, Phil is working to strengthen research and industry collaboration in WA’s offshore petroleum industry – not bad for a country kid who grew up running barefoot in Western Australia’s dusty red north.
A graduate of UWA, Phil has returned to where it all began and in 1999 jumped on an opportunity to work with Professor Mark Randolph, the founder of UWA’s Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems (COFS).
Phil has now reunited with Mark at UWA, enthused by the prospect of working with exceptional talent, and presented with opportunities to leverage his leadership qualities in an academic setting.
“In my new inter-related roles (Phil is also the Director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Offshore Floating Facilities – OFFshore Hub) I am keen to apply research that’s tailored to industry needs.
“I have been in the offshore industry for many years, so I have a large network of global contacts that will be useful for this position.
“We are committed to continuing the Shell Chair to help our industry partner develop solutions for the key challenges they face, and we have just signed an extension for the next five years.
“While in the OFFshore Hub we are 20 months into a five-year program, and are starting to show real impact that demonstrates the value of UWA’s research to industry,” Phil said.
Becoming an engineer seemed like a natural progression after he’d grown up observing his Dad, also a UWA engineering graduate, whose career included being Project Director of the Northbridge Tunnel project.
“Looking back, it’s been a combination of hard work and good fortune that steered my career to this point – I never had a grand plan, but good connections and project opportunities have put me in the right place at the right time, and I’m grateful,” he said.
Phil values making time to give back to the engineering community and has been involved in significant professional and international committees.
“I like to work with young engineers, and I’m keen to help shape their careers by giving them opportunities to grow.
“My biggest achievements are twofold. Professionally, I have worked on some great projects, a good example is my recent work on the Wheatstone Project, where the team I led was responsible for the engineering design and innovation on the platform, subsea and pipelines components.
“On a personal level I am most proud of my family. My wife, another UWA PhD graduate (and current Masters student) who will soon return to the workforce, is my inspiration, and together we have raised two well-balanced kids that will go on and do great things in life. Successfully juggling a busy career and family – that’s been most important to me,” Phil said.