Property Australia

Charting a career course in an era of disruption


As digital disruption takes hold, young property professionals must focus on creating new value. But how? We checked in with Aurecon’s Pratik Shrestha, recently crowned WA Future Leader of the Year.

“We’ve been talking about digital disruption for a while now, but we still talk about it as something in the future. But disruption is here and it has already started to impact our industry,” Shrestha says.

A senior structural engineer with Aurecon, Shrestha recently took home the Property Council’s 2018 Stan Perron Award for his outstanding work delivering icons like the Perth Children’s Hospital. The judges were also impressed with his commitment to fostering collaboration around the world.

Young property professionals are grappling with an ever-accelerating pace of change, and an environment where products and services are rapidly commoditised, he says.

In the digital landscape of tomorrow, it will be easier, cheaper and faster to build products and offer services, he says. As these capabilities are democratised, people can innovate easier and fail faster. And with democratisation comes commoditisation.

“Commoditisation means companies are reverting back to a defensive model where they compete on price. This is completely unsustainable. Instead, companies must compete on value,” he says.

“As young leaders, we should be looking at how we can value add to our companies, our clients and in the solutions we provide. This is one of the keys to future proofing.”

Shrestha believes there are three ways young professionals can create new value and navigate these “turbulent times”.

1. Upskill and diversify

Shrestha joined Aurecon nearly a decade ago as a graduate, just three months before the global financial crisis hit. He says the lessons he learnt during the GFC apply to the new era of digital disruption.

“I learnt that upskilling and diversifying my skills is an absolute must. Innovation often comes from ideas outside other industries, so it’s important to look beyond your own area of expertise to opportunities for cross-pollination.”

Shrestha warns that the surest route to career disruption is for young leaders to focus purely on building expertise in one area.

“It can be easy for young professionals to fall into a mindset of thinking that their education is over once they get a job. But we are in an era of free knowledge, where information is at our fingertips. If you want to know something, it’s there.”


2. Focus on the client

This brings Shrestha to the second opportunity: client-centricity.

“Aurecon encourages its people to see digital disruption and automation as opportunities to spend more time with our clients.”

Global success stories like Uber and Airbnb, which disrupted their industries by taking away customer pain points, offer an inspiring template.

“Our clients should be our ‘true north’. That is how we will navigate this change,” Shrestha explains.


3. Dream big

“Don’t be afraid to dream, and to ask ‘what if?’” is Shrestha’s final piece of advice.

“We need to move beyond the stock standard solutions to problems and start to ask: ‘what if’? The only way of successfully navigating digital disruption will be with different ideas. If we fail, and fail fast, we can try again.”


Shrestha, who was born in Nepal and trained in New Zealand, always dreamed of a career in property, and, even from an early age “loved looking up at all those commercial towers in the sky”.

“I love what I do – I’ll always love designing unique and wonderful commercial structures. But the enormous advancements in digital technology – in virtual and augmented reality, automation and AI – bring tremendous opportunities for our industry. And I’m excited to see how this unfolds.”