Mark Brownley

Mark Brownley

Energy executive reveals his path to success

Some people find it hard to describe what they do for a living. Mark Brownley (BE(Chemical) 1987, MBA 1992) has no trouble at all. He deftly reels off his responsibilities as General Manager Field Services at SA Power Networks, the sole electricity distributor in South Australia.

“I handle the detailed design, construction, commissioning and maintenance of the high- and low-voltage electricity distribution network,” Mark says. “This includes all the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and telecommunications infrastructure that sits on top of the network, enabling us to operate it safely and efficiently.”

Mark’s background has informed his executive roles at SA Power Networks and previously at Jetstar Airways. “Deeply technical organisations have lots of moving parts comprising complex automation and information systems, plant and equipment, and processes,” he explains. “My training in chemical engineering and my operational experience allow me to readily process all the inputs and make safer, more informed decisions more quickly.”

So how exactly did Mark make his way to the top?

“I have a natural curiosity about how the world works and have changed industries a number of times. Each time, I’ve had to learn from scratch. That’s hard. The key is to be humble and ask lots of questions. That’s what got me through.”

He then adds, “When I graduated, I didn’t understand the importance of relationships – I don’t mean superficial networks, but deep, meaningful relationships within and outside the profession. It sounds obvious, but things that matter only get done through people. Relationships are more important than any other single factor in your career. Start building them the day you start studying!”

Mark also stresses how mentors have contributed to his success. “There are so many roads you can go down. Mentors have helped me narrow down the choices and make smart decisions about the direction of my life. Wherever it is I’ve wanted to go, mentoring has gotten me there faster.”

Perhaps this partly explains his joining the Advisory Board of the School of Engineering at the University of South Australia. “Early on I didn’t know how to go about establishing relationships with industry or navigating a career as a professional engineer,” reveals Mark. “I had to make it up as I went along. I want as few engineers as possible to face that and I’d like to help show them the way.”

Over the years, Mark has witnessed many developments, but one in particular stands out: “Mobility. The ability to connect, communicate, transact and simplify work and life through the use of handheld devices and apps. In the future, I’d like to see more seamless integration of all the systems in our lives to give everyone more power and control over their destiny.”

When not caught up with work, Mark pursues his passion for military history. “I’ve travelled to a number of significant sites around the world, including the Western Front in France and Belgium, Kokoda in Papua New Guinea and Nui Dat and Long Tan in Vietnam,” he reports. When you’re forging the future, sometimes it helps to look back.