See my LinkedIn profile if that’s your thing.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
Undergraduate: Bachelors of Science and/or Engineering
I lacked much focus during my undergraduate years and started a couple of degrees (a Bachelor of Chemistry and Materials Engineering, a Bachelor of Computer Systems Engineering) before settling on and completing a Bachelor of Engineering with an IT major at UWA. 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.
Postgraduate: Masters of Engineering
I also started a Masters of Engineer (Information, Communication & Technology) at UWA but I withdrew. On paper I withdrew because I left Motorola and the funding was gone, but actually I was glad to leave it because it wasn’t a very good course. I was looking forward to learning from other experienced engineers, but the other people in that course were all fresh off their Bachelor degrees and were basically avoiding the workforce by going into the ME(ICT). I suspect some of them couldn’t get jobs and this was their second option.
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.
Phase 1: Technology
Between 2000 and 2012 I worked in a variety of technology roles at Motorola, IBM, and some smaller technology consulting firms. It was a long arc starting with the lowest levels of technology (custom ASICs) and moving up through the languages into system-level software development and architecture. I ended up taking on customer liaison roles while leading development teams. I really enjoyed being able to ‘talk tech’ with my development colleagues and then discuss business strategy and objectives with people in the non-technology parts of the business.
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.
Phase 2: Banking, Finance, and Property
Around 2012 I moved out of technology-pure organisations into banking, with a role at ANZ and then a few years later at NAB. I started there in the technology business doing liaison roles with the non-tech parts of the business, and then eventually moved into roles designing bank branches and other customer spaces. It was an odd place for a technology guy to end up, but there’s so much technology in a bank that it makes sense to have a technology background for this role. Additionally, the structured problem solving approach essential to working with technology translates well in to lots of other places.
I loved that role because I got to be part of the ‘real’ business, but was able to draw upon extensive experience across technology and my personal knowledge of making and building. More than a few times when talking to tradies on site they were surprised to discover that I wasn’t just another suit from town, and I actually had some understanding of how buildings are structured.
Phase 3: Education
My current phase is in the education sector, where I’m the Business Manager in a Primary School. It was an unexpected opportunity that fell in my lap (I wrote about it on this website). It was a huge leap of faith, but I don’t regret it for a second: it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It’s another role where I can bring a huge wealth of experience (from both technology and banking) that isn’t usually found in people doing this role. I love being able to drive real change in the school and getting better outcomes for the teachers and students.
Who knows if there’ll be a Phase 4, and if so what it will be.