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Meet Isaac Ernst, Inertia’s Nomadic Senior Civil Designer

The principle of Inertia is used to describe the motion of objects. If Senior Civil Designer Isaac Ernst was this object, his motion over the past year could only be described as perpetual.

After being part of the team for over 5 years, Isaac wanted to hit the road to explore Australia from top to bottom, and rather than lose a talented part of the organisation, we did what we do well, engineered a solution.

Rather than lose Isaac, we came up with a way to retain his skills while letting him follow his dream. So, in 2018, Isaac became our first mobile and remote team member, because thanks to technology, you can work anywhere, and Isaac did just that. In a van which he decked out himself, Isaac took off on an open-ended road trip around Australia, all the while still working for Inertia from his office on wheels watching the sun set behind his laptop.

Isaac travelled from the east to the west coast and from Tasmania to as far north as Karijini National Park. Late 2019 after a year full of fishing, surfing, and just taking in the beauty of Australia, Isaac rolled into the beautiful beach town of Port Douglas, where he has been living ever since. “I couldn’t be more appreciative of the team at Inertia for making it work and making it possible to have done the incredible things that I have done over the past year. I feel very looked after”. Thanks to team work, Isaac’s wanderlust hasn’t been a challenge for Inertia as both Isaac and the Civil team have put in the effort to make it work with Isaac helping to deliver some of Inertia’s largest and most successful civil projects.

We caught up with Isaac recently to learn more about his year on the road and what is was like working throughout.

What inspired you to get out on the road?

I was eager to get out on the road because while I had done some travelling overseas, I had only ever lived in South East Queensland and was very eager to do a lot more exploring within my home country. And I was lucky that I had a team that supported this!

What was your favourite place you visited during your road trip?

I would have to say either Exmouth or Eyre Peninsula. Both had some of the most stunning scenes and just generally made some great memories while I was there.

What was the toughest about being on the road?

Probably battling the weather. My van is set up with solar to charge my batteries and laptop but if there were two consecutive days of rain and no sun it would mean things were looking pretty low and I’d have to book into a caravan park the next day to use their 240v to charge everything back up.

Also, always making sure I was stocked up with enough water and food to keep me going was normally the biggest thing on my mind though and a lot of the places I went that wasn’t always as easy as it sounds.

How did you find the challenge of working remotely?

I think the biggest thing I struggled with was the fact that many of the more remote spots that we visited didn’t have phone reception, which meant I either had to pack up and drive to find some or I had to limit my stay to one night so I could stay in contact with the office.

The comfort factor of work was also a challenge. I would often just sit in the passenger seat of my van and have a little make shift desk set up in there as it wasn’t always practical to roll the awning out and set up the “office” for just a few hours work.

What do you love about engineering?

There is nothing more satisfying than finding solutions to complex problems. As a designer, I also take a lot of pride in presentation and producing something that looks good and works well.

What are you working on at the moment?

A bit of everything! My workload has definitely filled up lately, which great to see as Inertia goes from strength to strength as we pick up exciting projects from across the country. It has also been perfect timing as I’ve parked the van and settled in Port Douglas.

What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?

Working on the Handford Road subdivision development entirely remotely was probably my greatest accomplishment, especially when it came back with absolutely no RFI’s whatsoever, which is a massive feat on a project as big as that.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career? 

The most useful thing I have learned is transitioning to using civil 3D software as opposed to civil 12D, as it has more dynamic drafting capabilities that allows me to work much faster and efficiently. It is great to hear that Inertia are continuing to invest in this area and strengthening our systems.

Where do you think your next adventure will take you?

I’m pretty happy sitting still for now and just focusing on smaller scale local adventures in far North Queensland.  As I am aiming is to upgrade the van to a 4wd at some point this year and do more exploring towards Cape York, my priority will be just to spend as much time on the water and at the reef as possible – whether that be fishing or scuba diving.