What's your job about?
My employer, Saab Australia is a prime defence contractor providing system integration and software engineering to the Australian Defence Forces. My area of responsibility is helping develop and maintain the software for the combat management system we provide the Royal Australian Navy.
My daily tasks involve both front-end GUI and back-end development using a web-based technology stack and Java. This includes specific tasks like designing user interface forms and components, implementing source code and writing unit tests, reviewing other team member’s source code changes and smoke testing individual components. All these tasks require the problem-solving skills I developed at university and provide with me with different challenges every day I am at work.
A highlight of my work is having the opportunity to work in a team to solve a problem which is bigger than what I could tackle on my own. This collaboration has helped me to learn so much from my co-workers and become a significantly better engineer in my first year.
What's your background?
I grew up the Adelaide Hills and spent most of my time as a teenager not knowing what I wanted to do when I was an adult. I liked solving puzzles, playing sports and video games, but never considered what sort of career I might choose.
In high school, I discovered I liked maths and science. My year 12 subjects were math studies, specialist maths, physics and chemistry. This led me to study aerospace engineering at University—I’d always had a fascination with planes and space.
I really enjoyed my first two years at university, but early in the third year, I decided to add something to my degree to break it up a bit. I’d always had a love of computers and had a few friends studying computer science so I transferred to a double degree in engineering and computer science.
In my final year, I realised my ideal job would be some sort of software engineering role in an aerospace company, so I began applying everywhere I could. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Saab where I’ve been ever since.
I worked different part-time jobs whilst at university—swimming instructing, fast food service and solar photovoltaic system design. I’m certain this experience was instrumental to being hired by Saab.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes definitely. Experience with any sort of programming language would be ideal but anyone who has studied engineering would be able to do my job. As long as they like a challenge and can problem-solve in new situations on a regular basis. For someone to really thrive in my job, they should be a self-motivated person who can work equally well on individual work or in a collaborative team.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is the direct impact I can see my work has on a system the navy uses every day. The responsibility I’m given as a graduate always amazes me. It empowers me to be the best engineer I can. On top of this, the graduate program rotates us through different parts of the business. This gives us great exposure to all aspects of the company where we can broaden our skills and find the area of the company we want to work in for an extended period.
What are the limitations of your job?
Sometimes you may need to work with legacy systems and this can be very challenging and time-consuming. These are old software systems that are dated, and it can typically take a long time to learn how these systems work before you can even begin fixing the problem. This requires a lot of persistence and the ability to ask someone you’ve never met in the company for help. This is crucial, because “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Having someone experienced guide you in the right direction can be the difference between a problem taking one day to solve or one week.
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