Humans of Property: Tom Barbour

14 May 2024

, News

Tom Barbour, Principle Engineer – Colliers Engineering & Design

For this instalment of our Humans of Property series, we caught up with Tom Barbour from Colliers Engineering & Design, the recipient of the 2023 UDIA Young Leaders Award and member of the Outlook Young Professionals Committee.

A little about Tom

Tom is a registered and Chartered Principal Civil Engineer with an extensive professional background in the Land Development and Civil Infrastructure sector.

Tom’s recent accomplishments highlight his exceptional dedication to excellence. He was awarded the 2023 UDIA Young Leaders Award, and was shortlisted for the Engineers Australia Young Professional of the Year in 2023, as well as highly commended by the Association of Land Development Engineers.

Throughout his tenure in the industry, Tom has played a pivotal role in the intricate design and execution of large-scale residential development projects. His focus extends beyond strategy and design, as he diligently ensures that all consultants  and resources operate with maximum efficiency to achieve the best possible outcome for all stakeholders. Tom’s keen aptitude for strategic planning and  foresight guarantees that project deliverables are consistently met, showcasing his commitment to successful project outcomes

His greatest career achievements to date have been

  • Achieving the status of Chartered Professional Engineer and being admitted to the National Engineering Register before 30.
  • Embracing the role of Principal Engineer, leading a team of 20, and being a part of a team that is dedicated to becoming market leaders not only in Victoria, but development in Australia. It is incredibly exciting and rewarding.
  • Being awarded the 2023 UDIA Victorian young leader. This is moment I am most proud of and is recognition of serving as a role model to others in the industry. Through my actions and leadership, I aim to inspire and empower fellow young professionals to reach their full potential and make a positive impact in their careers and communities.

A tip he would give to his younger self

Everything I’ve done and experienced, including the challenges and failures – and yes I’ve failed before – has brought me to where I am right now. So my advice would probably be to keep my head down and keep going as I’m going, but I also wouldn’t want to give myself too much confidence or ego because that would have hindered my humility and ability to learn.

What motivates him

Mentoring and developing staff to reach their full potential and become market leaders as Australia’s tier 1 engineering consultants. I’m also motivated by Continued personal and professional growth, so that I can continue to grow with the team and continue to mentor them effectively. At CED we are all growing together and it is incredibly exciting and I love that the team is right there with me as I progress through my career.

Overall, my journey in the development industry has been guided by a commitment to excellence, integrity, and a genuine concern for the well-being of the communities I serve. I take pride in creating spaces that meet the needs of today while paving the way for a sustainable and vibrant future.

As a mentor to other young professionals, I take the time to actively listen and understand their aspirations and challenges. By providing guidance and support, I empower them to navigate their own career paths with confidence. I believe in fostering a collaborative and inclusive work environment, where everyone’s contributions are valued, and diverse perspectives are encouraged. By championing teamwork and inclusivity, I inspire others to collaborate and support each other’s growth.

A challenging situation in his career that he overcame

There are constantly challenging moments in projects and in business in general. I often find the most challenging thing is to not do anything when you see one of your team struggling with an issue or a client but they say “don’t worry boss, I’ve got this” when you know it will be hard for them, but you know that if you let them deal with that challenge they will be that much more confident and that much more rewarded for it. Another challenging part to this is also knowing when the challenge that someone wants to take on might be a bit beyond their ability.

At a personal level, we deal with some strong personalities in the development industry and holding fast to my values for ethics and integrity where these big personalities are pressuring you to bend the rules, or do things faster, or pressure our team. Sticking to your guns can be challenging but it’s what real leaders do.

When he thinks about the future of the industry, he is excited by

The opportunities that exist to shape the future communities and outcomes for development on a national scale. There are significant challenges to delivering on housing affordability and it will take organisations like the UDIA and leaders in organisations like myself to champion some of the policy reforms that will make a real difference.

His greatest career inspiration/support has been

The team I have surrounded myself with that continue to make me push the limits of what I can achieve.

When she thinks about the positive changes within our industry, he is excited by

The push towards greater diversity and inclusion by individual organisations and bodies like the UDIA is very important to get away from what has historically been a bit of a “boys club” . Further pushes for ESG in development with things like the Enviro Development accreditation through the UDIA is also exciting and will ultimately benefit the communities we build for the future. To play devil’s advocate, there are major policy issues in Victoria that I feel have regressed and are now directly impacting the housing affordability equations due to their impact on zoned land supply, investor activity, and the ability of supply to meet demand – these are putting tremendous on consultants, developers, and consumers alike and need to be addressed.

The benefits he has received from being a UDIA member.

Serving on the UDIA Outlook committee has been fantastic as it gives me access to a diverse range of property professionals – lawyers, plannings, fellow engineers, and development managers – and I get to hear about development issues from their perspective. So above all, the UDIA gives you fantastic access to other talented and likeminded professionals who really want to fight for housing affordability and do their part to deliver communities.

He has seen the UDIA advance the industry in the following ways

Events like the UDIA breakfast with Tim Pallas that was recently held, and some of the hard questions asked by Linda Allison along with the proposed policy changes are among just a few of the great things the UDIA does for the Industry. Beyond the obvious policy advocation they also provide fantastic mentoring and training for young professionals which is critically important for the future.