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University of Melbourne

  • 37% international / 63% domestic

Leah Tyrrell

I undertook a Diploma of Project Management while working full time, and finished it off while on maternity leave.

What did you study at undergraduate level and when did you graduate? What are you studying now? Are you studying and working at the same time?

At Undergraduate,  I studied a combined Bachelor of Geomatic Engineering (with honours) and Science (Geography Major) Graduated: 2007 I'm currently on maternity leave for the second time, and not studying. In 2017 I undertook a Diploma of Project Management while working full time, and finished it off while on maternity leave the first time.

What have been the most important stages of your life?

  • I finished high school in 2002 and got an ENTER I was proud of. I felt it reflected how hard I'd worked and was good enough to get me into my first preference.
  • I studied Geomatic Engineering and Science at Melbourne Uni over five years from 2003-2007.
  • I graduated in 2007 before the GFC, so had no trouble getting my first graduate job. I worked as a Spatial Analyst with an Environmental Engineering Consulting Company in Melbourne for almost five years
  • I always regretted not taking a GAP year, either before uni, or after. I felt pretty burnt out by the end of high school, and again by the end of uni.
  • in 2012 my (now) husband and I decided to leave Melbourne and live in Bendigo. It took me two months to find my current role in GIS at Coliban Water, the Water Corporation where I've been since.
  • When we left Melbourne in 2012, I didn't want to lose the professional network that I'd spent years building up, so i joined the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute's Young Professionals Committee as a way of staying in touch and increasing my industry skills and profile.
  • In 2014 I became Chair of the YP committee for a two-year period. My proudest achievement was helping to establish an annual mentoring program in Victoria, which laid the groundwork for a national program.

How did you get to your current (or most recent) job position and how long have you been working there?

When we moved to Bendigo, I lined up an interview with the Australian Geospatial Organisation (then the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation). The position required a high-level security clearance, so they recommended I find another job as the lengthy process could take over a year. My interviewer put me in touch with one of his old army colleagues who worked at the Water Corporation, Coliban Water. I got a job in the GIS Team there, and the original AGO position i applied had its funding pulled. So i ended up staying at Coliban Water. I've been there for six years since 2012.

What made you decide to progress with further study?

Going to University never felt like a choice I had to make, it just seemed to be a given. I did well in my high school studies and focused on STEM subjects. My Dad was a high school maths teacher and always encouraged me to persist with maths and further study. Most of the careers I was considering required further study, so it just seemed like the logical progression of my education. Most of my high school also continued on to uni. I was also pretty keen to experience uni life - the socialising, partying, making new friends. I was really excited about having heaps of fun and moving out of home.

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any alternative degrees or career pathways before choosing this qualification?

I discovered Geomatics at the Melbourne Uni open day in the year I finished high school, which was fortunate as I had no idea what I wanted to do until then! Once I had decided on Geomatics, the choices were pretty limited, as only Melbourne Uni and RMIT offered the course. My backup plan was Engineering, but i didn't really know which type I'd want to specialise in.

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

I was accepted into my course in first round offers. I think the only prerequisites were Maths Methods and English, and an ENTER of 82. There were assistance programs i could apply for as a woman attempting to enter a male dominated field, but my marks were good enough that I didn't need to use the specific programs.

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day? (if it’s difficult to describe a typical day, tell us about the last thing you worked on?)

What i loved most about uni was that there was no typical day! Every day was a new adventure! After so many years of strict routine at school, I loved being spontaneous and that every day was different. But most days involved a 9 or 10am lecture, coffee dates, another lecture or tute, lunch, then afternoon study or classes. Or sometimes going to the pub instead... Particularly in later years of study when you knew more people, you'd always bump into someone you knew and pass the time between classes together. Or there used to be bands or BBQs at lunch times too. Closer to end of semester and exam time, most people could be found in the library or computer labs.

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here? Please explain your answer.

My Geomatics degree was definitely crucial to my career. I wouldn't know what GIS was without it! But while the science degree was really interesting, and took me on some amazing field trips (New Zealand, Cairns...), it wasn't very helpful to my career. Geomatics covered all the spatial sciences; GIS, land surveying, photogrammetry, remote sensing, and 3D visualisation. So there was a really diverse range of careers available to us as graduates. The Geomatics degree looks pretty different these days, but I believe the same material is covered in the new format. 

What do you love the most about your course? 

I loved that there were so many career opportunities available at the end of my study. I went into the course because I found the subjects interesting, but I didn't have any idea about the type of career i would end up in. Throughout the course it was fun discovering all these different career options, trying them out, and deciding which ones were the best fit for me. 

What are the limitations of your course?

I did feel a bit like we learnt 'a mile wide and an inch thick' in that we covered lots of really varied disciplines, but when i graduated i didn't feel like an expert in any of them. I still had a LOT of learning to do on the job before i was contributing to productive work. Perhaps employers expect this? I'm not sure. As a graduate i felt like my practical skills were lacking. They are, of course, picked up very quickly once you start working. 

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current undergraduate student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your studies, or even to one’s professional life.

  • Socialise as much as you can at uni! Obviously it's a lot of fun, but you'll all graduate eventually, and you'll be each other's professional network, as well as mates! You'll quickly find when you start looking for jobs and working, that it's often not what you know, but who you know. I even met my husband at uni... Have an open mind to everything!
  • Never be afraid to ask questions, especially while you're still studying or in a graduate role.You're better to ask while a part of your role is to learn. There will come a time quite quickly when you're expected to know things! So best to ask while it's appropriate, and not embarrassing!
  • In my experience, the most important skill that will impact on your success and what you achieve, is your communication. The ability to explain yourself clearly, particularly explaining technical concepts to non-technical people is crucial. Even more important is learning to communicate with many project stakeholders and keep them all informed, even when you run late or make a mistake. It's the worst feeling having to call someone and tell them you stuffed up, but it shows SUCH integrity, and will allow a quicker resolution than if you try and hide it or blame someone else. Professional communication comes with experience, so the more you put yourself out there the easier it will eventually become.