Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Andrew Baré giving his talk after formal dinner

“Don’t take yourself too seriously” and other tips from Andrew Baré – Delivery Director for Barangaroo and Waterloo Stations
On Wednesday 1 August 2018,  – Delivery Director of Barangaroo and Waterloo Stations – told the boys at Warrane about his career and what he had learnt along the way. An engineer by profession, his past roles have included working as a Project Director for Transport for NSW, on jobs such as the southwest rail link, Wynyard Walk and more. He expressed to the boys his passion for infrastructure and what this could mean for society.
“The infrastructure I like to build are things that are city-shaping and changing people’s lives – they have a real impact. It’s my passion,” said Baré. “And at the risk of being slightly controversial, just a quote from someone famous: scientists dream about great things, engineers deliver great things.”
Baré told the boys that his background was somewhat different from most engineers – he started off in the Australian Defence Force. He admitted to being quite the average student while studying civil engineering, instead preferring drawing, listening to music, and sport – rowing and football. However by third or fourth year engineering, he became fascinated with it all. After graduating, he entered the big wide world and found it to be quite a lesson in all sorts of people and situations.
Towards the end of his 12 years in the military, he discovered his calling to project management: a role where he can use both his technical and management skills. He did an MBA to develop business skills and moved into consulting for the next 13 years. And that night at Warrane, he was keen to communicate some of the lessons he’d learnt along the way.

Don’t take yourself too seriously
Baré’s first piece of advice was for the boys not to take themselves too seriously. “I worked hard on being a perfectionist and subsequently learnt there’s no such thing. And unfortunately I left a few casualties along the way, especially with my team. Being a perfectionist and a good leader probably don’t go hand in hand. It’s extremely hard to deliver projects without a cohesive team, and not paying enough attention to them was to my detriment.”
He continued: “The other lesson I learnt from taking myself too seriously was that I was not humble enough to be open to others’ feedback as well as for my own self-reflection. Once I came to realise this I actively sought out feedback from others, both in my professional and my private life, and have asked someone I respect to mentor me in both areas. I’ve got some work to do!”

Find a workplace that aligns with your values
“The second lesson I learnt was developing appreciation for how important cultural values within an organisation are,” said Baré. “It made me stop and think to really define what my values were; to recalibrate, to ensure that I had a strong foundation, and at times drawing back from what I’d learnt from my family, from mentors, and from other people I respected. And then how to live those values in my workplace, even when challenged…”
“I’ve learnt not to underestimate the importance of making sure I was in an organisation that aligned with my own values,” he went on. “Looking back on those early years, I did work for a company whose values and ethics did not align to mine, and this led me to compromise. Today I’d have no hesitation in calling this out in the proper way even if this risked my career progression.”

Passion trumps income
Another lesson Baré shared was learning the danger of chasing money over what he loved to do. “Towards the end of my time at my first consultancy firm, for an extra 20 or 30 thousand dollars, I ended up taking positions that were not fully aligned to my project management aspirations and were overall probably less challenging. I look back on the wasted time I had in doing that and realise it wasn’t worth it in the long run. Plus I was doing something I wasn’t passionate about. I’ve also learnt to move on in an organisation if there’s no future, even if the pay’s good. And always make sure that I’m either giving something to an organisation, or getting something out of what I do. I always like to keep myself challenged.”
Upon moving to a consultancy firm with values similar to his, Baré realised how much easier it was to motivate himself to progress and grow.
He finished off: “It took me until I was about 35 to find my true passion, which is leading large infrastructure projects, and in particular, transport projects. Transport projects have a major social change if they’re done well, and they affect people’s lives, and that’s why they’re motivating for me. Being technically competent is only half of what’s required, with the main element being able to motivate, inspire, and lead authentically – and ultimately, how to get the best out of people.”

[Warrane College offers a lot more than just student accommodation at UNSW: find out about some of our other guest speakers.]