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Austal Australia

  • < 100 employees

Ethan Matthews

6.00 AM

The alarm goes off. I drowsily hit the snooze button, sighing in relief that I can rest my eyes for the next ten minutes. Right before I fall back into slumber, it goes off again.

I’m up.

I make my way to the bathroom to freshen up. While I am washing my face, I hear my wife moving around the house. Good, I think, I don’t have to be the villain and wake her up.

I make coffee, tea for her, in our reusable cups. The smell of the bitter instant coffee perks me up. I have got to remember to get some coffee pods next time I’m at the shops.

6.40 AM

We depart. Going this way, to pass my wife’s work, is a bit busier than the way I normally go. Thankfully, it’s not much longer than my usual route. I slowly sip my coffee and relax to lo-fi music while she discusses our plans for the weekend.

7.00 AM

After dropping my wife at her workplace, I make my way to work. I occasionally switch up the music, but for the most part I’m on alert auto-pilot.

7.30 AM

I reverse into my named parking space and meander towards my office building. The walk is about 5 minutes, much closer than the public parking I used to park in. I always put my hi-vis vest on before I leave home, so I only need to don my hard-hat and safety glasses as I pass through the security gate.

My workstation is in an upstairs extension of one of our shipyard bays. For the most part, it is well furnished and comfortable, but the occasional crane movement, reverberating through the walls, reminds me of the sheer proximity to our company’s bread-and-butter: building the best high-speed ferries and patrol boats in the world.

I pass by the larger bays at our site, peeking inside as I do so. The sight of daily progress motivates me; seeing the transition of basic aluminium stock into such a complex vessel is a testament to human ingenuity, resourcefulness, and willpower.

Making my way inside, I clock in and start taking my PPE off as I climb the stairs. I stash my workbag next to my desk, and grab a banana that I didn’t eat yesterday. In combination with my next coffee, which I make while my computer powers up, I can last until lunch.

I take my seat and start reading through the emails and messages that I wasn’t able to tend to yesterday. Whenever I receive an email or chat throughout the day, I read and mentally calculate its priority. Items of urgency are seen to immediately; otherwise, I focus on the work I am doing at the time and get back to it the next available chance; usually the following morning.

My emails today are a mixed-bag. Some are the usual administration messages; when IT is going to be performing server maintenance, when Maintenance will be fixing that dodgy bulb, when to avoid bays that are going through x-ray testing. A few are more aligned with my current work; new and exciting technologies, research papers, software solutions, etc. The rest are in relation to the other jobs I do here, but I’ll get to those later.

8.45 AM

The first meeting of the day is the daily “stand-up” meeting. With history in Agile software development, its purpose is for each team member to discuss the progress made since the previous meeting and the anticipated progress until the next meeting, with an emphasis on specific issues faced. The daily frequency of the meetings assists in developing a comradery between colleagues, as well as encouraging early identification of issues.

I mention a particular issue I am having with our library functions, and how I developed a workaround, just in case others are having the same issue. We’re currently working towards a milestone deadline, but agree that after we meet that target we need to go back through and tidy up some loose ends. In-depth problems are mentioned, but sidelined until after the morning meetings.

9.00 AM

Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we have an “ideas” meeting. In the Research & Development fields, innovation is the driver of value-generation, so we have a morning meeting dedicated to fostering the art of innovation. Any and all are welcome – and encouraged – to bring whatever eccentric ideas they may have to the table.

Today, we’re discussing the recent developments in quantum computing and how the technology could be put to use. I had some forewarning that we’d be discussing this, so I was able to listen to a podcast on the way home yesterday. With my updated knowledge on the subject, I was able to comfortably follow along and contribute.

These meetings are a fantastic part of my day, as I get to watch a team of professional researchers and engineers, with varied and complex sets of experience, do what they do best. The meetings are valuable opportunities to learn and absorb information about a vast array of different topics, which keeps me intellectually satisfied and motivated.


9.30 AM

Now it is time to get to those other jobs I mentioned earlier. I received a few messages yesterday from various people in different departments, requesting my expertise.

Usually it’s related to spreadsheets; as soon as my work involved spending a notable amount of time on spreadsheets, I took the opportunity to learn about any and every tool in the book to make my life easier. This opened up a lot of opportunities to implement process automation, yes, but the experience also sharpened my ability to diagnose problems in previously developed processes.

As mentioned, various departments have emailed me asking for my help with diagnosing, solving, and simplifying a few things. I pack my work laptop into its carry bag along with some pens and a notebook, should I need them. After making sure I’m sufficiently hydrated, I set off on my morning walk around the shipyard.

During my rotations, I have met many a friendly face. As I make my way around the site to help different departments, I also spare the odd minute or two to drop in on various colleagues and sniff the wind. There’s the supervisor in Fabrication who shares my interest in mechanical timepieces, there’s the window club in Supply Chain who love to have a good laugh, there’s the configuration officer in Sustainment with whom I occasionally have lunch, there’s… you get the idea. It’s a very social company, and I like my company social.


11.00 AM

I had already checked my calendar when I got to work this morning, so I was prepared to end my rounds with a trip to one of the many meeting rooms. We’re having a meeting with our main internal client, a naval architect who supports our Sales department, to discuss the requirements for the prototype our team is developing for them.

Meetings like these are a fantastic opportunity to build rapport within the organisational network, and also an excellent chance to absorb their technical experience. Since my technical background isn’t directly related to maritime construction or sustainment, there is a lot of valuable and interesting stuff to learn and apply. Even outside the technical aspect, the opportunity to further develop my network and soft-skills is invaluable.

11.30 AM

I get back to my desk to a message from our Sustainment department. I’m spending some time to develop an at-a-glance reporting tool for their planning processes. I put on my headset and give the client a call; since the majority of our Sustainment department is located at a different site, a call is more effective than emailing or messaging.

At the inception of this project, I did take some time out of my day to make the coastal drive to put three-dimensional faces to names, but that’s not viable in the long run. We discuss the outcomes of their meeting, and what impacts it will have on the tool. I discuss the potential risks of these outcomes, and outline my recommendations to mitigate them.

12.00 PM

By the time I’m finished with the call, I decide that it’s close enough to lunchtime that I may as well bite the bullet. Since I didn’t make my lunch last night, I throw on my PPE and head to the site canteen. So. Much. Choice. I grab a lemonade and a katsu chicken meal, stopping by the condiment stand to get some more Japanese mayo, and have a chat to the canteen manager while I pay for the food.

It’s fantastic weather out today, so I decide to do some reading by the water. The view of the bay from the jetty is absolutely stunning, and the sounds of the waves lapping at the shoreline help to shift my headspace from peopling to programming.


I finish lunch and ensure to throw the correct rubbish into the landfill, compostable, and recycling bins, and head back to the office.

12.30 PM

With lunch over, I make myself a third coffee – no, I don’t have a problem – and settle into my desk chair for a solid session of programming. I’m making great strides on the project, and I want to keep this productivity up to push a prototype out by the end of the current sprint. This isn’t a hard-target, but it’s definitely important to draw lines in the sand to ensure positive productivity.

I really enjoy the creative puzzle-solving nature of programming, as well as the gratification I get when the last pieces of the puzzle are put together and something meaningful comes up on the model.

The rest of my work day is spent in a state of focus – noise-cancelling headphones on, various sketches and notes written by a madman – me – strewn about my desk as I virtually build the blocks that will become the prototype.

5.30 PM

Leave work

Eventually, I cross a milestone that could be considered a viable stopping-point. Most of the office has left by now, but I would definitely struggle to pick up where I left off in the morning if I just up-and-left without properly finishing up.

It’s okay, I say to myself as I pack my bag, I’ll just leave a bit earlier next Friday. While our days are a bit longer due to our 9-day-fortnight roster, most people work back a bit on Monday to Thursday and then leave early on the Fridays that we do work. That enables us to get some errands done on our rostered Fridays, and gives us cracking 3-day weekends every other week! Gold.

I wander back to my car, taking the time to appreciate the abso-bloody-lutely gorgeous pink sunset over the bay. One of the vessels is floating in the water, dwarfing the forklifts and other equipment straddling the jetty next to it. The view never gets old.

By the time I get my car onto the main roads, the dusk has set just enough for my lights to go on. I’ve always loved evening driving, and I wind down my windows to taste the wind as I cruise home.

6.15 PM

I get home and my wife and I go for a short walk to the local grocers. Helps stretch my legs, and she loves to wander around the shop and look at all the food that she probably won’t buy anyway. We discuss each-others days and work our way up and down the aisles.

7.00 PM

We get home and I prepare the meals we picked up from the grocers while she has a shower. Sometimes we cook together, but occasionally we treat ourselves to a night off. Today we got calzones and a prepared salad. We sit in the living room and watch some random stuff on the internet and have a good laugh with each-other.

7.30 PM

After dinner and washing up, I spend a bit of time working on an old broken project watch, but I can’t look through the loupe for too long before my eyes are strained. After that, I fire up the game I bought last weekend and play for a couple hours to unwind. I find that gaming is a really good entertainment outlet, and it can really engage the senses.

9.30 PM

Get ready for bed, read a book

Before it gets too late, I pack up and have a shower, brush my teeth and slide in-between my bedsheets to appreciate a good book – usually fantasy but sometimes non-fiction based on science – for an hour or two.

10.30 PM


Occasionally I’ll start to fall asleep while reading, but the threat of a book hitting me in the face usually motivates me to put it down and turn the lights off before finally saying goodnight to my beautiful wife and closing my eyes in preparation for tomorrow.