Five minutes with Martyn Hilbers

In the PACE hot seat is Martyn Hilbers, Senior Electrical Engineer, Minerals & Metals, Ausenco.

How did you come to be in this industry?
Before coming to Australia I lived in Holland, did a mid-level polytechnic degree in electrical engineering, followed by a degree in industrial engineering. I worked for a year in elevators as a technician and decided to continue my studies. After I finished my bachelors in computers and communication, I worked as an electrical and control system engineer.

Intermittently, I got on my bicycle and spent about 18 months cycling through Europe, North America, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. We liked Australia so much and decided to emigrate. Once settled in Perth, I got into mining and did several big projects as an electrical and control system engineer.

What's the best business idea you have that you will never use?
This would have to be the concept of putting carbon fibre sheets that act like sails on modern freight boats. The challenge would be to operate this type of boat with the minimum number of sailors. Being a control systems engineer I can see this achieved by automation. There is no reason in this day and age why we don't harness the wind on our freight boats.

What do you see are the biggest opportunities for our industry?
The biggest opportunity is to incorporate more mainstream computer technology into control systems. A lot of clients still choose hardwired systems over fieldbus systems such as Profibus and DeviceNet.

Fieldbus systems have been proven to reduce the capex, engineering efforts and most importantly, are more reliable and easier to maintain. With fieldbuses being replaced by Ethernet, there are opportunities for mainstream developers and entrepreneurs to create low-cost embedded devices for industry. 

What's the greatest challenge in your job?
The greatest challenge is to keep the boss (my wife) happy by coming home around 5:30. Sometimes work is like reading a good book that you can't put to the side – you just have to finish it. I find it very rewarding to empower an engineer to efficiently accomplish a task that is outside their comfort zone, by creating a suitable environment, procedure or tool.

If you could be anything else, what would it be and why?
I would be in R&D, getting together with like-minded engineers to come up with affordable clean energy solutions for transportation and generation.

But ultimately I would be a professional kite surfer. If you have ever strapped yourself to a kite, you'll understand what I mean. Besides having some very beautiful and unique beaches, the Safety Bay area in WA is the best kite playground in the world.

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