What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My Name is Wilson Yang. I am a graduate financer officer within the Investment and Technology Group of the Department of Transport (DoT). I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in Finance and Economics) from the University of Melbourne in 2018.
Where did you grow up? What sparked your interest in this field?
I was never in one place during my childhood, being taken from country to country, region to region, as per the requirements of my parents’ occupation. This was always difficult as a child, but I never failed to receive support from those I was surrounded with, which I’m incredibly grateful for.
This drove me to pursue a career that would allow me to best give back to the community. I saw finance in the public service as a venue for this, which involves assisting in funding public goods and services for the community at large.
How did you get to your current job position?
My first venture into finance in the public sector was through the VicRoads work experience program in year 10, where I was part of the IT/Finance stream. This allowed me to gain experience and insight into the work involved, and the culture that permeates the public sector.
I pursued a degree in commerce to provide me with the background knowledge required, and participated in extracurriculars and took jobs that provided relevant experience and valuable soft skills such as communication and teamwork. An activity that I derived a lot of benefit from were business case competitions, which helped develop my teamwork and project management skills.
I applied for graduate program when I was eligible and went through multiple rounds of testing as part of the recruiting process. This involved online aptitude tests, an online interview, and an assessment centre which assessed my communication skills, ability to work in a team, and my background knowledge in finance. The process was challenging and took a few months, but I was successful. I cannot stress enough how happy I was when I managed to land the role and seeing my efforts come to fruition.
What does your employer do?
The Department of Transport’s (DoT) purpose is to ensure that Victoria’s transport system safely and sustainably meets the needs of the people and freight that travel on it, both now and for the future.
This involves operating a safe and inclusive people-focused system, optimising the system for sustainable and reliable travel, delivering investment that unlock system-wide benefits, and innovating and engaging with partners, industry, and the community.
To give an idea of the scale of investment the Department of Transport provides, DoT accounts for the largest proportion of new and existing general government sector projects underway. In the 2019-20 financial year, this was at a value of $46.9 billion dollars as per the Department of Treasury and Finance’s State Capital Program Budget Paper.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I am currently in my first rotation, based in the Melbourne CBD as part of the Portfolio Financial Management branch. My role involves contributing to the provision of financial analysis, insightful reporting, and standardised management reporting to support key stakeholders and ensure alignment of financial priorities across portfolios, which involves liaising with the department’s business areas, project teams, and other relevant stakeholders.
This role provides me with a high-level view of ongoing projects and new initiatives in the department which I find fascinating.
Can you describe a typical work day?
Our team has been working from home since late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the safety of our team. It’s currently mid-August at the time of writing and we’ve grown accustom to our new working conditions.
A typical work day would could involve me liaising with stakeholders to request information or respond to any queries regarding financials, setting up Excel sheets and performing financial analysis and reconciliations, providing financial reviews of budget proposals as part of the budget process, and interfacing with the Department of Treasury and Finance to support strategic resource allocation decision-making from a whole of Government perspective.
Each workday will tend to be peppered with meetings and catchups to discuss and plan ongoing tasks and to keep each other in the loop. These have been especially important in recent times to ensure our team stays in touch while we all stay isolated at home.
As a Graduate, my days also include catchups with other graduates in the program to develop my network, and participating in learning and development workshops provided to graduates, which include project management and procurement development sessions.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would be beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
A degree which provides a background in finance, accounting, or economics is invaluable in acquiring the foundational knowledge required to further develop yourself and excel in the workplace.
I also recommend taking electives in programming and computing classes if possible. There is a high likelihood that you will be working with Excel and other computer systems as part of your job. A strong understanding of computer applications, programming logic, and how to simplify and automate tasks (e.g. formulas and VBA in Excel) will make your job much easier.
Knowledge however isn’t sufficient in making for an ideal candidate; demonstratable experience and soft skills are also incredibly important and are factors that will help distinguish yourself from other potential candidates. These can be acquired via jobs such as internships, and extracurriculars such as volunteering and competitions. Soft skills that I’ve found to be especially beneficial are communication, teamwork, leadership, empathy, and resilience.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
A strong grasp of the specialised skills required is a given, but a good set of soft skills are key. The work that we do as financial analysts requires working with stakeholders, and is ultimately used to support their decision-making, so it’s important that we have strong communication and stakeholder engagement skills.
The drive to innovate and improve on existing processes is also important to succeeding. Many of our tasks and processes are done on a repeated basis. By improving these procedures and associated record keeping, we can improve work efficiency and establish stronger paper trails, and of course demonstrate competency in the progress.
What do you love about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love my job for many reasons. My role supports the delivery of projects and initiatives by the Department of Transport which serve the benefit Victorians. I myself have actually benefitted greatly - the Level Crossing Removal Project for example has made my morning commute shorter and safer. My role also involves engaging with other business areas of the department and maintaining a high level view of all ongoing projects and new initiatives in the department which is fascinating. Additionally, the nature of our work means that I’m constantly mentally engaged which is a big plus.
One of my favourite tasks is reviewing budget proposals as part of the budget process, where we provide summary financial reviews of business cases and ensure a given proposal has all the necessary financial information to assist in decision making by DTF and DPC on the outcome of the bid. This gives us a look into what new initiatives the department has been cooking up and involves us in the process.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?