Douglas Wilson joined Aston in 2019, building the Brisbane team. He brings professional experience from working internationally on major building projects and understands the value of having a work-life balance to a high-performing team.
What is your role at Aston Consult?
I am one of the Senior Associate Directors in our Brisbane office. We have a team of six, including myself, and my main area of focus is on client advisory services, covering our front-end work: from the early project inception, through business case evaluation, and on to the design and procurement (or “transaction”) stages, I enjoy helping clients in buying their capital assets for the benefit of their stakeholders and customers.
“I believe everyone owes it to themselves to experience something completely different from their own background.”Douglas Wilson, Senior Associate Director
When did you join Aston and what brought you to Aston?
I joined the firm not long after moving to Australia in 2019, about two and a half years ago now. I had worked previously in the Middle East with Matt Miniotas, who is now one of Aston’s Senior Associate Directors in Brisbane, and we kept in touch. When my family decided to migrate to Australia, Matt introduced me to Aston.
Having worked in several large multinationals and ‘enjoying’ the bureaucracy that comes with those organisations, to get the rare opportunity to escape the shackles and be able to fully focus on delivering quality services was a no-brainer.
This was the clincher; having the opportunity to delivery consultancy the right way. Being the client’s trusted advisor from day one, and not fronting up at the initial meetings and later replacing myself with a junior member of staff. Aston delivers real value but putting ourselves in the client’s shoes.
What are the benefits of working in different jurisdictions with different cultures?
Apart from the professional and jurisdictional differences, the experience of working on several continents, in countries with their own cultures and customs, where English is not the first language, meant I was constantly working outside of my comfort zone without even trying.
One great example of this is when I was living and working in The Bahamas and we had the constant struggle of working in three different “time zones” at once; Project Time, Western Time, and Island Time. These conflicting dynamics resulted in some very challenging, but ultimately very rewarding outcomes.
I believe everyone owes it to themselves to experience something completely different from their own background. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
How do you think Aston has changed you? Do you think working with Aston has made an impact on your life?
My wife would say it has! She says she has a sense that I’m a lot more engaged than I was before joining Aston. We have a great work-life balance, especially when I compare it to previously working in the Middle East. While we are often required to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in, there is an appreciation at Aston that all work and no play does not benefit anyone; staff or clients.
We also promote remote working, which means I often do the morning school run and join my family at the dinner table, which was a rare occurrence during my time in the Middle East.
“I think the energy that we all bring to our daily work is infectious. We see new starters comment on the culture when they join”Douglas Wilson – Senior Associate Director
What do you see in the next 5 years for Aston, particularly Brisbane?
When you look at Aston and our growth, you can see that we’ve built a high-performing team. We have really gelled as people and can now see the benefits of teamwork where the whole is more than just the sum of its parts.
I look at the business and we are now operating in almost all the major cities across the country, and in New Zealand. It’s organic and measured growth. We do not aspire to be the biggest player in the market, but we are building a strong reputation with our clients and we are with them every step of the way. This is what we want our brand to be known for; international expertise delivered at a local level.
The future feels like it’s there for the taking. As for Brisbane, we’re in a unique position in that we have a strong team with knowledge across a wide range of sectors. On top of all that, we have the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon which is such an exciting opportunity. I have been fortunate enough to work on previous Olympic Games and on the FIFA World Cup 2022 program in Qatar, in both the bidding and delivery phases. For me, to get to play a part in the 2032 Games, is far more than I could ever ave hoped for when I first moved to Australia.
You touched on your time working overseas, in the Bahamas and the Middle East, but would you change anything about where you’ve worked and what you’ve done in your career?
There were times where I used to think about what I should have done or could have done differently, Charlotte. I used to wonder whether I would have benefitted from working as a Quantity Surveyor for a contractor. But I don’t hold that view anymore.
I know there may be arguments to be had that unless you’ve physically delivered projects on-site and felt the financial pressure that contractors are under, then you don’t appreciate it.
I believe that no matter what role you play in the process, in the construction industry, the game’s the same: only the players change. The only thing that I would change about my career, would be deciding to move overseas 10 years earlier than I did.
Why would you recommend working in construction? Whether it be in Australia or overseas?
For me, the appeal is the variety of work. In some larger organisations it can be easy to get pigeon-holed into a certain sector, but I think if you look at what we are doing in Brisbane, which is applying technical specialist skills to a broad range of sectors and project types, you can work on diverse projects with a great deal of flexibility.
I think something that keeps it fresh is taking what you’ve learned from your last project onto the next one. The thing for me is that I’ve always had the desire to work on projects that you can look back on and be proud of seeing the fruits of your labour.
So Dougie, what is next in your career? What are your goals?
Well, the immediate goal that I have is that I’m starting a Masters Degree in Construction Law and Arbitration. It’s the first time in 15 years that I’ve gone back to hit the books and I cannot wait!
We’re both in the same boat then, embarking on Masters Degrees while working full-time. Good luck to us both!
I’ve found throughout all my professional qualifications that your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.
Who inspires you and who have you learnt from in your life?
At the moment, my two children inspire me. They’re almost 7 and 5 and a half, respectively, and each day when I get home no matter how hard my day has been, they will do something or tell me something about their days that makes me stop in my tracks and realise; this is why we work and make sacrifices. it makes it all worthwhile seeing them thrive.
What part of your job at Aston makes you excited to get up in the morning and go to work?
There’s something that we focus on in Brisbane, and we feel it across the business, but we want Aston to be a fun place to work. Certainly, with the last almost two years with Covid, the return to working in an office should be an enjoyable experience.
I think the energy we all bring to our daily work is infectious. We see our new starters comment on it when they join; it’s a good place to be.
So Dougie, you’re originally from Scotland. What inspired you to work overseas?
My earliest childhood memories are from living in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia, which was quite a challenging place to be in early 1980s. My family moved there for my father’s work, and we lived there until I was 6 years old, so many of my memories growing up were of the blistering desert sun. While I consider myself lucky to be born and bred in Scotland, living overseas at a young age showed me that there is so much out there to experience beyond someone’s birthplace. I knew I always wanted to go out and see it.
Living in the Middle East as an ex-pat is a very privileged lifestyle, and it can start to feel like a bubble. I think moving to Australia, for me, was a chance to give my family, and my children’s families, all the opportunities that Australia affords. It’s called the Lucky Country for a reason. Being the true Quantity Surveyor that I am, I created a pros and cons list of many countries and Australia came out on top. The only downside of living in Australia is the physical distance from Scotland where the rest of my family still are.
Tell me about your favourite project that you’ve been a part of.
There would be two that I would call my favourites. When I was undertaking my Chartered Quantity Surveying qualification with RICS, there was a small hospitality venue I was working on in the heart of Edinburgh. It wasn’t a large or high-profile building, but we ended up having our staff Christmas party there at the end of the year. Working on that project from start to finish, and then getting to enjoy the facilities at the end, gave me a real sense of satisfaction.
But my most enjoyable “project” was probably when we delivered two school programs across Scotland, delivering 15 schools over a 3.5-year period. I think the excellent part about that was that we worked on the schools from detail design to design sign-off, to construction and into operation. We were fortunate enough to be able to go back and see the schools being used by the children and the academic staff. I think seeing the end-users engaging in the spaces we had created and the architects had envisioned, created a real sense of satisfaction. Often in construction, you can work on a project and quickly move on to the next once your role is finished. It was rewarding to visit and stand in the building you’d helped to build.
Do you have any advice that you’d give to someone wanting to join Aston?
Timing is everything. I think there is such a thing as the right place at the right time, and now is the right time to join Aston. We are at such an exciting point in our journey.