“An outside set of eyes sometimes helps us to see what is obvious in both our strengths and weaknesses.”
Dr Mark Skanes is an industry mentor in the South Australian IMNIS MedTech-Pharma program. Mark has over 35 years leading project and engineering teams, and consulting in corporate governance, new start-up companies, program delivery, project management, and asset management. He is currently the Managing Director and Principal Consultant for Accu Trax Pty Ltd.
In 1999 Mark completed 20 years combined service as an Engineering Officer with both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. In 2000 Mark joined Tenix Defence Aerospace as their senior project and senior maintenance manager. In 2001 Mark joined Origin Energy as their National Manager Engineering.
In 2005 Mark moved into a position as the Manager Engineering with One Steel in Whyalla, SA. In late 2006 Mark took on a position as an Executive Manager with the Australian Rail Track Corporation delivering governance around project, asset, and configuration management. He also was the Deputy Chair of a $120M Rail CRC and served on several alliance and industry boards.
In 2012 Mark secured a contract with Laing O’Rourke delivering the engineering design associated with the $120M electrification project for the Adelaide Passenger Rail Network. In 2014 he served 14 months with Sydney Trains as their Senior Analyst and Project Manager within the Maintenance Reform Division.
Mark holds a Doctor of Business Administration, an MBA, a Master’s Degree in Maintenance and Reliability Engineering, and a BSc (Applied) from the Royal Military College of Canada. He also holds CPEng and is a Fellow of both Engineers Australia and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In 2017 Mark was a nominee for Engineers Australia’s A G M Michell Medal for outstanding service to the Mechanical Engineering Profession and was a finalist in the 2017 University of Newcastle Alumni Awards in the category of National Leadership in business, commerce and infrastructure.
Why are you participating in the IMNIS program?
My involvement with the IMNIS program is multifaceted. First, I believe mentoring will strengthen the lessons I have already learned. Second, giving back to my mentee will help realise his or her own gifts. An outside set of eyes sometimes helps us to see what is obvious in both our strengths and weaknesses. Third, I believe that mentoring reinforce one’s customer service model by setting an example of generosity and giving something back, an important example to follow for any successful business person. Fourth, I may learn something new from a social-media-savvy generation.
What is the most crucial aspect of this professional relationship for you?
Critical to the professional relationship with my mentee is simply to enhance their chances of success. Not just from the knowledge and skills my mentee may learn from me, but also because mentoring provides professional socialisation and personal support to facilitate success beyond graduate school.
When you meet with your mentee, do you work together on a set of goals or do you go where the conversation takes you?
The short answer is both. The conversations to date has helped facilitate the development of a set of goals which are still in the making.
What are the key skills PhD students need to successfully collaborate with and/or work in industry?
Often it’s difficult for PhD students to identify what skills they have since academic experience is not necessarily focused on articulating skill sets. However I believe PhD students have transferable skills from their academic life which are very relevant in a non-academic context. The issue is they are not always evident to the student and as such not capitalised on. Examples of those skills are:
- Analysis and Problem-Solving
- Interpersonal and Leadership Skills
- Project Management and Organization
- Research and Information Management
- Self-Management and Work Habits
- Written and Oral Communication
All these skill sets are critical to working with industry and I believe that part of my role as a mentor in this area is to make the obvious more obvious.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you so far?
The opportunity to contribute to the propagation of knowledge and expertise across generations and cultures.