Stuart Fowler, M.AIRAH
It’s rare these days for someone to spend the entirety of their career with the one organisation. Yet that’s the path chosen by Stuart Fowler, M.AIRAH, the CEO of Norman Disney & Young (NDY) , where he commenced his career as a graduate engineer in 1988.
Upward corporate mobility usually necessitates regular changes in employer and roles, and as individuals we sometimes require the challenge new environs can provide.
There can be, however, considerable advantages in staying the course with one firm. Longevity can yield knowledge, the steady accretion of expertise, even wisdom. It allows for familiarity with processes, markets, and competitors. The opportunity to learn from mentors can be provided, as can be the chance to learn how to ride out waves of downturns that must inevitably follow bull markets.
Having started at the bottom of the company chart, Fowler now presides from the very top, and was instrumental in preparing NDY for its absorption into the Tetra Tech company.
What brought you to the HVAC&R industry?
I studied mechanical engineering at the University of Melbourne and wasn’t particularly clear on career direction toward the end of my studies. I did have an interest in construction, and out of curiosity went along to an interview for an NDY graduate engineering role to find out more about what the company actually did in the sector and to better understand “consulting engineering” – this was pre-internet!
It was the late 80s and the property and construction sector was booming. It was a very exciting time to be in the industry in Australia, as it transpired. I was offered a role by NDY’s then-Melbourne office director, Ian Hopkins, M.AIRAH, which I ultimately accepted, as a graduate engineer in the mechanical team, reporting to Juris Prods. That was my entrée to NDY, and to the HVAC (and construction) industry.
I was very fortunate to be provided the opportunity and enter the industry at such a buoyant time, with such a great company. I was also very fortunate to have Juris as my first manager, teacher, and mentor.
What's your favourite HVAC&R-related memory?
One of my early roles onsite was to witness the chilled water (CHW) commissioning test results for the CHW to fan-coil units serving the super boxes at the Melbourne Tennis Centre.
As a young and inexperienced mechanical engineer, I thought that was just such a cool project site to be working on – experiencing first-hand an iconic venue coming together, and to be a (very) small part of that project was very special, so early in my career.
It made a big impression then and it remains a special memory for me now. It’s one of my favourite buildings because of that early connection.
The fact that it is also an incredible concert venue is a bonus, as well, and I’ve been fortunate to see many great touring acts perform there over the subsequent years.
How long have you been a member of AIRAH?
I joined in 1992, hence 28 years – and still counting.
How do you see the HVAC&R industry developing over the next 100 years?
Looking at how the society has evolved, and how much change has occurred throughout the world – especially the rapid pace of technological change – it’s difficult to predict the next 10 years with any certainty, let alone the next 100!
What I am hopeful for is that, in the next 100 years, future generations will actually be able to reside in a world that has not been ravaged by the impacts of climate change, or irreparably damaged by decisions that our present generation is making now.
I am optimistic that continuing advances in science, technology, and (of course) engineering, will deliver a better world, and the possibilities of what that might mean are almost endless.
I’m also certain that in 100 years’ time, those looking back at 2020 will consider what we have now to be rudimentary. And I find that thought pretty inspiring as well – there is so much more for us to achieve.