While ocean sailing began as a childhood pastime, it later set the stage for Iain Davidson’s career in naval engineering. Today, Iain’s position as the Electrical Systems Manager at AMT combines his enduring fascination with the seas and expertise in engineering.
Guiding the Currents
Iain heads the electrical department at AMT, an Australian-owned design and naval engineering consultancy. As the Electrical Systems Manager, his role involves aligning his team to deliver design artifacts and ensure quality project execution.
However, Iain is also passionate about fostering his team’s development. From recently graduated junior engineers to subject matter experts, Iain identifies career opportunities for individual members of his team and encourages their growth at every stage.
“I’m always looking out for opportunities to give our people every chance to prove their capabilities,” Iain says.
From Ocean Sailing to Naval Engineering
Iain is the first to admit his pathway to AMT was unconventional, rooted in his lifelong passion for ocean sailing. “I was taken on above others, I think, because I’ve always been involved in the ocean, in sailing boats – it’s something I’ve done since birth.”
Starting as an electrician after high school, he ventured overseas, working on super yachts in the enchanting locales of the south of France. Here, he realised his true passion was not for glamorous destinations and high-profile clientele, but in the systems that powered these vessels.
Conversations with shipyard engineers inspired a bold decision – return to Australia, pursue an engineering degree and a new career trajectory in designing and integrating ship systems.
Part-way through the third year of his Bachelor of Engineering Technology degree, Iain saw a job posting that would ultimately shape his professional future – an opportunity with AMT in Melbourne. With a well established reputation in maritime engineering, AMT was the perfect fit for Iain’s aspirations.
While Iain hadn’t yet completed his degree, AMT recognised the value in his experience. “They took me on with the agreement that I would work and study part-time to make up for the extra subjects, which took me another four years of working full-time and studying part-time,” Iain says.
Iain’s unwavering commitment saw him complete his degree and then propelled him through roles as a junior engineer, project engineer and to his current position as department head. His progression is a testament not only to his dedication, but to the opportunities AMT offers for people of different backgrounds and circumstances to flourish.
Modernising Warship Systems
Iain says the highlight of his career thus far has been working on the Royal New Zealand Navy ANZAC Frigate Mid-Life Combat Systems Upgrade Project. The project, in collaboration with the New Zealand Navy, involved the whole of ship design for the modernisation of warship systems on these Frigates.
“Warships have a general shelf life of 30 years to 40 years,” Iain explained, “but as they come up to their half life, it’s normal for them to have a lot of their systems upgraded because technology moves on, especially in the Defence space.”
Over the span of seven years, he acted as Technical Lead for the project, overseeing complex concept then detail design work, production support and collaboration across international waters.
“Eventually you see that the ship looks completely different because of everything we’d done. And when it left that shipyard, it was pretty cool to see it commissioned and off it goes.”
Discovering the World
Iain’s early career with AMT saw many opportunities to travel, both internationally and domestically. From Canada’s Vancouver Island, South Korea, Thailand and Auckland, AMT’s work has offered Iain both professional growth and global exploration.
But travel isn’t a prerequisite. AMT respects the varying preferences of its members. Now married with children, Iain still embraces travel but prefers trips no longer than three days. Flexibility and accommodation are core values at AMT and every individual is heard.
The AMT Advantage
Iain’s journey through the ranks over the course of almost two decades showcases the unique opportunities at AMT and the company’s commitment to employee growth.
AMT is powered by a team of around 50 people who live and breathe an ethos of camaraderie. This is driven by company leaders who understand the value of maintaining this close-knit culture.
“We like to reward ourselves after big projects, especially after the ANZAC Frigate Mid-Life Modernisation Project. It was so big over so long we had to break it up into stages and we had to have celebrations after each stage..”
In contrast to larger international conglomerates, AMT offers an alternative experience. Rather than being confined to specific roles, employees engage with diverse projects and customers. The dynamic nature of each project fosters continuous learning and variety.
Within teams, support is second nature. Colleagues assist one another, with senior and intermediate engineers mentoring newcomers and senior staff guiding intermediates. This mentorship is non-hierarchical—it’s about knowledge sharing.
Iain sees AMT’s successes spurning continued growth within Australia’s burgeoning shipbuilding industry. While he acknowledges the potential for further expansion, he firmly believes it is AMT’s unique culture that will propel the company and its employees forward.