Murray Adams’ career soared after UNSW helped get his foot in the door at Qantas
When opportunity came knocking for Murray Adams in the final year of his Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering at UNSW, he seized it and hasn’t let go since. After 10 years at Qantas, he continues to merge his twin passions of aviation and analytics by finding new ways to optimise fuel usage and flight operations.
It seems Qantas snapped you up straight after graduating. How did this happen?
UNSW Mechanical Engineering was actually responsible, in part, for my ending up at Qantas. They helped facilitate an internship with the airline in my final months of uni. I submitted my CV to Qantas, had a short interview and was accepted for a three-month placement working at Mascot in Sydney.
And then, when you graduated, did Qantas just offer you a job?
The work I was doing during my internship primarily concerned fuel optimisation. In a lucky break for me, this coincided with a period when the price of aviation fuel just kept rising and rising. Qantas identified a need for ongoing work in this area and offered me a job as an engineer in the Fuel Conservation team. I finished up at UNSW on the Thursday and started full-time the following Monday at Qantas. It was perfect timing!
What happened next?
I continued to get interesting opportunities that allowed me to diversify my career. I’m now the Manager of Operations Analytics and Reporting and leading an embedded fuel efficiency function within the airline. Our main role is to investigate how we can leverage technology to better understand aviation fuel use across the business. This is important not only to control costs but also reduce our environmental footprint through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Let’s go back to your time at UNSW. What made you choose Aerospace Engineering in the first place?
Going to UNSW to study aerospace engineering was about combining my love of aviation with my passion for technology. I've always been fascinated with flying. As a young traveller, the first thing I did when I got on a plane was ask to visit the flight deck. I saw the equipment on the flight deck and knew aviation was something that was always going to be on the cutting edge of technology. I wanted to be part of that.
What's your fondest memory from your time on campus?
I think my fondest memory is just the overall environment of campus life. There was a great balance between academic teaching, practical learning and mentoring. There were also great opportunities to socialise. I was active in the Mechanical Engineering Society and made a lot of friends that I continue to be in contact with.
From your study at UNSW, who has really influenced and inspired you in your career?
Working with my thesis supervisor John Page was a great insight into how to get the job done in an effective way. He showed me how important it is to never be afraid to ask for assistance if I wasn’t clear on what was required.
Another great piece of guidance he gave me, for when I started working in industry, was to find someone who could help me learn how the organisation works and where to focus my attention. That set me up on a good path to always try and find a mentor when starting a new role. And now I’ve flipped this around because I’m working with a couple of mentees, passing on some of the experience I’ve gained in my career.
I've always been fascinated with flying.
Murray Adams, Qantas Group Manager – Fuel Optimisation.
What innovations in the aviation industry are you most excited about at the moment?
I’ll break that into two areas. The first is the actual aircraft technology itself. This is leading to new flight routes, more efficient ways to operate and the ability to offer more valuable customer propositions.
The second relates to digital technology and is directly related to analytics and my role. I’ll give you an example: current generation aircraft, like the Qantas A380, produce about 12 billion data points a year. This includes details from how much fuel each of the four engines is consuming each second to how the flight control surfaces are being manipulated … even details of the tyre pressure in each of the A380’s 22 wheels. We’ve never had access to that volume of data before and it presents a number of interesting challenges and optimisation opportunities.
But that’s just one data pit. If we broaden this thinking across all the other operational systems within Qantas, the question then becomes: “How can we merge these datasets together in a cohesive and meaningful way to improve how the operation is performing?” I think that's a real innovation with amazing opportunities, and it’s only going to continue to grow over the coming years.