Stewart’s Career

See my LinkedIn profile for full details.

Early Days

Before I graduated from my undergraduate degree and started my “real” career, I worked in a number of part-time jobs to fund my study. In no particular order they included:

Pizza delivery driver

woodpeckers
Woodpeckers Pizza

I delivered pizzas for two different places: Pizza Hut, and for a gourmet pizza restaurant). In retrospect it was a pretty easy job, but it was certainly motivation to study harder so I wouldn’t have to drive pizzas and wash dishes for the rest of my life. It’s good to have knowledge about how restaurant kitchens work now that I’m a restaurant customer. e.g.: order something for the specials, because the chef/cook is sick of making the same old stuff they’ve been making for ages on the regular menu.

Groundskeeper/maintenance bloke

Currie Hall
Currie Hall, back before it was Uni Hall. Look at that beautiful lawn!

I did this job part-time during term and full-time over summer where I was living while studying: a residential college called Currie Hall (now redeveloped and rebranded as Uni Hall). We did light maintenance on the building and a lot of gardening work: during the summer we would spend one whole day a week doing nothing else but mowing. I really loved that job because I always felt like I’d achieved something each day, even something as simple as looking at a neat mowed lawn. It was also great that my commute was a 2 minute walk.

Delivery driver

Nippy's Delivery Truck
Nippy’s Delivery Truck

I worked summers being a delivery driver for Nippy’s fruit juice. I learned to drive a big truck, and this was a fascinating view into a world I would never normally see: the people who get up at 4am to prepare their stores for the early morning commute crowd. I did this job to back-fill the regular drivers who owned the different rounds in Perth – I would fill in for them for a few weeks so they could go on holidays. It was the first job I had where I felt like a real adult: driving a truck all by myself and basically running a business for a couple of weeks at a time. This is also the job that I did my first production IT system – an MS Access database that tracked orders. There’s more detail on that in my technology history.

Hardware store Sales Bloke

Bunnings Innaloo
Bunnings Innaloo

I worked part-time at Bunnings for a few years, and I think I was really well-suited to the role. I really enjoy working in service roles – trying to deliver great service to a wide variety of customer types – and in hardware stores I’m really in my element. It’s incredibly satisfying to know a whole store well enough that I can always answer the “where do I find … ?” questions. The only downside was the blokes who would come in early in the morning – usually because their partners had nagged them about finally doing some job around the house at home – and they hadn’t showered or brushed their teeth. I mostly worked in the reticulation section and would get these stinky, bleary-eyed gents (often hungover) and ask me, “how do I reticulate my garden?” That was an expectation-management challenge I enjoyed. I still really enjoy being in hardware stores, they feel like a very safe and familiar place for me (probably because of my early exposure). I must look very at-home there too, because I still occasionally get approached by people who think I’m a staff member and ask me where to find something. Luckily, I usually know where to direct them.

Sandwich Artist

I worked for a couple of years at a Subway in Perth, and I ended up managing the stores on the weekends so that the owner could have the weekends off. Working at Subway really gave me an appreciation and love of process. Everything about a Subway store is documented and planned, and in retrospect is clearly aligned to the implementation of a strategy (I really started to appreciate that after studying business strategy in my MBA). Being part of that Subway environment I started to implicitly understand the value of having all aspects of the store documented clearly with a process and work instructions: it opens the door for process management and improvement, and means that you can hire staff based on service aptitude (i.e.: a good attitude) rather than their ability to manage a dynamic environment without specific instruction (it’s rare to find a teenager with both skills).

Education

I lacked much focus during my undergraduate years and started a couple of degrees (a Bachelor of Chemistry and Materials Engineering, a Bacherlor of Computer Systems Engineering) before settling on and completing a Bachelor of Engineering with an IT major. I loved that degree because I got to study and understand the full technology stack: we studied the way electrons slosh around inside transistors, computer architecture, low level languages, and then all the way up to modern OO languages and Z.

MurraAboriginalMasterClass

I started an MBA at Curtin Graduate School of Business in Perth, but I had to withdraw because we moved to Melbourne. I completed an MBA at Melbourne Business School in 2013, and graduated with distinction on the Dean’s honours list. They invited me back in 2014 to give the alumni speech to the graduating class.

Career Proper

In retrospect I think my career has been a long arc, starting from the lowest levels of technology (working on verifying silicon chip design with Motorola) and gradually working up the abstraction layer of technology and in to the business. I work now as a specialised project manager in a retail bank, but my deep knowledge of the technology stack underneath us really helps me understand why things work the way they do. Unfortunately it doesn’t make “IT issues” any less frustrating.

An important realisation I had after leaving IT roles and consulting for a while is that I prefer to be part of the business — to have “skin in the game”. I like to have some accountabilty and there’s only so many times as a consultant you can say, “I’m here with you, your problems are my problems” before it starts to ring hollow.

On the flip side, I’m sure that I want to stay in roles that have high levels of interaction: I’m energised by working with different stakeholders to achieve outcomes – facilitation, mediation, co-ordination – and I love dealing with the “frontline” of a business (the in-branch bankers at my current employer).