George Bowman (27) is a Flood Risk Engineer and Director of Asset BowManagement Ltd. George immigrated to New Zealand from the UK in July 2017 where he worked in the Flood Protection department of the Greater Wellington Regional Council until December 2019. He set up Asset BowManagement Ltd with the personal mission of contributing to reducing and managing the risk of flooding, both now and into the future, which he believes the most effective way of doing so is through strategic asset management. He officially began contracting in January 2020, and you can follow his progress on his blog here: https://www.assetbowmanagement.com/blog/.
George presented at the IPWEA NZ 2019 Conference and was awarded with Best Young IPWEA Presenter. He has been a member of IPWEA since 2017, he has been the Branch Secretary for Wellington/Taranaki since July 2019 and he is the latest addition to the IPWEA NZ Training Working Group.
George is most happiest when he is in the mountains. He enjoys watching and playing sports, and trying new hobbies. He likes to push himself mentally and physically, learning life’s tools and tricks along the way, and he has been enjoying his journey so far.
FW: what steps led you to find this career?
GB: It all began with Miss Healy, my Year 8 Geography Teacher. Up until that point I was adamant I was going to be doing something sport-related. But Miss Healy was passionate about geography, rivers and coasts in particular, and she kept me engaged. So when it came round to picking a course for university I thought ‘what am I good at, and what am I enjoying?’. It was as simple as that really, so I looked for a course that included rivers and flood risk management. Recently I was chatting to my best mate who I met at university and he told me that one of the first things I said to him in response to what I like doing was, ‘I like rivers’. He admitted that he thought I was quite weird to start with. Little did he know..
FW: What do you enjoy most about your work?
GB: Hands down it would be the variety, the diversity of the work. No one river is the same. No one project is the same. No person is the same. All the above keeps me on my toes, there’s not much room for autopilot; it challenges me.
FW: what are the biggest challenges for you in your work?
GB: I am my biggest challenge Freda; a perfectionist in engineering is not always a pleasant combination. In reality I am at the earlier stages of my career so I don’t have a wealth of experience to pull on, I don’t have any colleagues to shoulder tap, and I also lack any consulting experience. So there are plenty of lessons to encounter, frequent visits outside of the comfort zone, but I knew this when I started. I am learning to embrace the discomfort and not be too hard on myself.
FW: Best part of being involved with IPWEA NZ?
GB: Oooo tough choice. The people are awesome, you’re so welcoming and friendly. I don’t hesitate to give you my time, that to me is a good sign. But it’s also your vision and mission, working towards creating sustainable communities through engineering and asset management; it’s a genuine pleasure to be a part of.
FW: How do you think New Zealand can address our sector’s looming skills shortage?
GB: So back in September 2019 I actually gave a presentation on the skills shortage and what I had been doing to tackle it. This was after watching Ross Waugh give a presentation at the IPWEA NZ 2019 Conference a few months prior, on the same topic. Ross presented some really sobering stats that resonated with me, one in particular was something like in 10-15 years ~40% in public works will be retired!! So aside from immigration, delaying retirement, and training/apprenticeships, all of which are essential, it is imperative to get into these schools and inspire the next generations, primary and early stages of secondary schools in particular. In 10-15 years these children will be our graduates. I know ENZ and E2E are doing some really good stuff in this space; but each organisation has a responsibility, and each individual needs to become proactive.
FW: What advice would you have for people new to asset management?
GB: Hmmm, I would suggest 3 things:
Training: I would say go to your employer, your team leader, and squeeze as much training out of them as you can. The IPWEA NZ Digital Badges are a fantastic place to start, as is the Asset Management Basics document (https://www.ipwea.org/publications/ipweabookshop/amb-principles).
Networking: Network with as many people as you can. Connect on LinkedIn, register for the next asset management conference, start building or joining an asset management community.
Mentor: Find a mentor. This is invaluable. I was fortunate to meet a really great guy a few months into my first job here in NZ, he became my Team Leader. Then he soon became my official ENZ mentor and started helping me on the road to chartered status. The advice and guidance he offered me has helped me significantly, and knowing he is available to pick the phone and call is reassuring. We have become great friends over the years, so shout out to you Travis Wood at @Callaghan Innovation, tēnā koe Matua.
FW: What are your lessons learned from COVID lockdown?
GB: Hmmm, 2 things. Significant, mass behavioural change is possible with the right leadership. And it’s nice always having a jar of olives close by.
FW: If you weren’t in this job, what do you think you’d be doing?
GB: Great question. As I mentioned earlier I grew up adamant I would follow a sports-related pathway. However as I think about this question now…maybe a teacher.
What about you Freda? What would you be doing if you weren’t working for IPWEA NZ and weren’t involved in marketing/communications?
FW: Ha. The interviewee becomes interviewer! I love the ocean so – maybe a scuba instructor somewhere with decent supplies of coffee and tropical fruit? But seriously I’d possibly be in this job! I studied psychology and later became a yoga teacher, and my current role enables me to draw on them both – creating inspirational content and events that work towards positive environmental and social outcomes.
GB: Ka pai. Well I’m all for combining asset management with tropical fruit and decent coffee. Let’s make it happen!
You can connect to George via his linkedin page.