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A Message From Nigel Rees | New Releases | Events | Mail Manager & Associated Architects | Crowd Dynamics & MassMotion | Mail Manager & EADS Group | WebinarsMail Manager & Adris | An Interview With... | We're Hiring



Peter Debney, Senior Consultant, Oasys Limited

Q: Briefly describe your work history.
A: My work history has been quite varied; you could say broad. I started with a Civil Engineering degree at Surrey University, then worked for Anglia Water for a year designing foul water treatment plants, followed by time on site with Tilbury Construction. I then spent three years with McDowells Ltd, a small consultancy dealing with anything from housing estates and small bridges to reservoirs, where I learned a lot about computer analysis. I then moved to Fluor Daniel to spend five years designing petrochemical plants, becoming a specialist in 3D CAD and heavy steel structures, as well as getting chartered status with the Institute of Structural Engineers. I then moved to CSC where I was product manager for the consultancy version of Xsteel and then 3D+. I moved to Blyth and Blyth where I spent a year engineering pubs, before joining the Arup building engineering department in Leeds, working on a number of structures but especially the Doncaster Interchange / Frenchgate Centre. Along the way I also earned a diploma in Computing with the Open University, focusing particularly on Artificial Intelligence.

Q: When did you start working for Oasys, and what does your role entail?
A: I transferred to the Oasys group eight years ago, with a focus on developing the structural and geotechnical business, though I also looked after document management for a while. This covered presentations to clients and interested parties, speaking at conferences, software support, running training courses, writing articles, and feeding into the software development process. Oasys has grown a lot since then and we now have specialists for the geotechnical and document management programs, allowing me to concentrate on the structural and pedestrian modelling programs.

Q: Describe a typical day.
A: I am not sure if I have one typical day, but I might have two. The first is when I am in the office, dealing with support calls from around the world, whether by phone, email, or the website. These support calls are usually in the form of either asking why their model does not work as expected (computers always do what you tell them, even if they don’t do what you expect!) or how to do certain analyses. I am often talking with the developers to feedback the customer’s experiences and to see how we can change the software to make it even better. The rest of the time I am writing articles for the blog site or magazines, creating FAQs, and giving webinars or online presentations.

The other typical day is when I am out of the office visiting customers or universities to talk about how the software works and how they can use it, or at conferences presenting papers. This can be very varied: last week I was giving training on pedestrian modelling using MassMotion and this week GSA training for structural analysis. MassMotion is used for both transport planning and fire engineering, and while both have requirements for safety and timeliness, the other priorities differ. Likewise for  the structural software I will be talking about heavyweight buildings and bridges one moment and lightweight nonlinear roofs the next, then human induced vibration followed by soil structure interaction. I need expertise in a lot of specialisms and that does keep things interesting.

Q: What do you like most about working at Oasys?
A: I love the excitement of being at the cutting edge of engineering and helping our customers to use the tools to do some amazing things. For example GSA’s nonlinear analysis is enabling some incredibly efficient and elegant structures: the majority of the London 2012 Olympic structures were designed using GSA, including the award winners like Buro Happold’s main stadium Expedition’s Velodrome and Arup's Aquatics Centre. Then we have pedestrian modelling, which is a relatively new science and is the focus of some intense research, so there is lots to keep up to date with. MassMotion was also used on the London Olympics and I am looking forward to our involvement in Rio.

Above: The National Aquatics Centre, Beijing Olympics 2008.

Q: Which parts of the globe does your job take you to?
A: Apart from the UK my work takes me to Europe (I am in the Netherlands just next week) and further afield. I have been to North America a number of times and one trip took me from the South Californian desert, where the temperatures were over 30 degrees, to the snows of New York and Toronto, which were at -15: I needed to pack quite an assortment of clothes for that excursion. I have also been to the Middle East and South Africa, and once had the arduous task of giving a week and half’s training on the tropical isle of Mauritius – that was a tough assignment!