High Achiever - John Lac, Co-ordinator of Engineering Assets Ku-ring-gai Council
Personable, innovative and an excellent communicator, John Lac is one of the new breed of local government engineers.
At the age of 30, John is running a team of six staff at Ku-ring-gai Council, New South Wales, in his role as Co-ordinator of Engineering Assets.
It’s a role that he was appointed to earlier this year after a rapid rise through the ranks, beginning as an intern and graduate engineer and then project officer.
John is the eldest of three and his parents were Vietnamese migrants who came to Australia in the 1980s. An early love of Lego hinted at John’s talent for engineering, which saw him complete engineering studies in the last two years of high school before studying at university.
As part of his studies John initially completed an internship in the private sector, but his search for ‘meaning and purpose’ drew him to local government, where he completed a three month unpaid fulltime internship at Burwood Council in inner Sydney.
In 2013 John started at Ku-ring-gai Council as a graduate engineer and quickly found his passion to be in asset management and road pavement engineering.
After two years immersed in overseeing contracts and designs, he was appointed project officer for the North Turramurra Recreation Area.
This role expanded his skills through helping to coordinate a multi-faceted engineering project worth $27 million.
Following a further stint as a road engineer, John now leads a team of six asset management staff to oversee Ku-ring-gai Council’s billion dollar road, drainage and footpath network.
According to John, his approach to management is one of ‘constant communication.’
“It’s very important for staff to feel valued and trusted. I believe in playing to each other’s strengths and helping each other where there are weaknesses. No-one exists in a void.”
John has adopted an innovative approach to asset management, particularly Ku-ring-gai’s local road network.
Under his direction, Ku-ring-gai Council is the first council in Sydney to trial two types of asphalt on road and car park surfaces, using up to 40 percent recycled materials such as soft plastic bags, toner cartridges, glass and green waste.
If the trials are successful, Council will adopt them as standard materials for roadway surfaces in the local area.
John’s next challenge will be studying for an MBA starting this year to further his progression in management.
He notes that with many senior council engineers now in their 50s and 60s, there is a looming engineering skills shortage in local government.
“When I was studying at university it was noticeable there was no real council presence at events like career fairs or open days.
“It would be good to see more community education about the value of engineering in local government and the career path it provides to graduate engineers.
“Personally I’ve had some great experiences and mentors to help me grow as a young engineer.”