What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name is Sean Warren. I’m a graduate officer within the Forest and Fire Operations Division of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). I graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability) from Deakin University in 2017.
Where did you grow up? What sparked your interest in this field?
I grew up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, always with a connection to the natural environment and the love of the outdoors. Through school, I realised that I wanted to pursue a career that would get me outside a good portion of the time, whilst fulfilling my scientific mind. I also wanted to be a firefighter, something which I have been doing since the age of 16 with the Country Fire Authority as a volunteer. These aims put me on the path to my career in forest and fire management within the Victorian State Government.
How did you get to your current job position?
I first heard about the graduate program whilst undertaking year 10 work experience within the Land and Fire team of DELWP’s predecessor department, DSE back in 2010. Following on from this, I focused on gaining experience in the field of environmental and fire management through volunteer work and during my degree. I started with the Department at the beginning of 2018 as part of the Science and Planning Graduate Program. The recruitment process was reasonably competitive, with four stages each focusing on different skills needed for the role. The graduate program consists of three eight-month rotations in different locations around Victoria, focussed on learning and development, with an ongoing role at the end of the two years.
What does your employer do?
DELWP oversees Victoria’s planning, local government, environment, energy, forests, emergency management, climate change and water functions and aims to strengthen connections between the environment, community, industry and economy. One of the Department’s major responsibilities is the prevention and suppression of fire on all Crown land in Victoria, totalling almost eight million hectares. This is achieved through the Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) brand, consisting of several agencies, but led by the Forest and Fire Operations Division of DELWP.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I have recently commenced my second rotation, based in the Melbourne CBD where my role is contributing to the development of policy, reporting requirements and operational improvement relating to forest and fire management across Victoria. My first rotation based in Traralgon gave me an exposure to the world of state forest management where I participated in all aspects of the management of values and assets across 1.6 million hectares of forest in Gippsland. One aspect of my role that I really enjoy is the ‘fire role’ where most staff have, in addition to their day-to-day job, a role to be involved in fire and emergency management, from on-ground firefighting to management and support roles.
Can you describe a typical work day?
In the policy-focused world of head office, a typical day could involve responding to ministerial requests, developing documentation and engaging with colleagues around the state about the latest improvements in our work. In a regional office, the focus is much more around operational planning and delivery, whether that is fuel reduction, fire suppression, pest and weed management, recreation, Crown land licencing or indigenous cultural heritage management. During summer and autumn, typically the fire management and fuel reduction side of the Department is in full swing, with staff (regardless of whether they are from head office or around the regions) being deployed for up to seven days either suppressing bushfires or conducting planned burning.
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?
I would definitely say that studying environmental science has given me an advantage in my career; the skills I learned through the degree have been invaluable. The degree isn’t everything though. In fact, it only forms a small portion of the skills one needs to succeed in this career. Any experiences you can pick up both voluntary and paid can be the difference in an interview because you will need that wide range of experiences at the final stage of any recruitment process.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
Transferable skills are key, given most roles in the public service require a generalist with strong skills in adaptability, written and verbal communication and teamwork. Whilst being a generalist is important for anyone in the public service, specifically in my career, I do require a sound base of scientific knowledge in all aspects of environmental science and especially fire management. These specialised skills can be taught once you are into a job, but it is always good to have a base level of skills to fall back on.
What do you love about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
The best part of working for the Department is definitely the fire role. The contribution of all staff in fire and emergency prevention and response is encouraged and there are a number of benefits to participating. Whether your role is supporting the operations in the control centre or out on the ground like me, everyone’s contribution is valuable. The best part of these roles is going away for up to seven days at a time with great people, travelling across the state and seeing some great countryside, all the while helping to protect the Victorian community from bushfire.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Is your job physically demanding?
At present, my biggest limitation is trying to get out in the field as much as possible, being in primarily office-based roles during my time so far. Thankfully, this is likely to change in my third rotation with a completely new role in a new team. This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed the work while I’m in the office, but like I mentioned, I love the outdoors and I’ll take any excuse to get out in the bush for a day.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I would probably be looking to apply for a career firefighter role in one of the Victorian fire services. Although I have been achieving my goal as a volunteer firefighter for eight years now, pursuing it as a career would have been the next step. I am glad to say that with my current career, I not only get to make a difference to the community on the firefighting side but am also able to make a difference in my day-to-day work, no matter how small the contribution.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?