Department of Defence Graduate Profile Image- Zayne

Zayne

University of New South Wales
University of Wollongong
Project engineer
Zayne studied Bachelors in Engineering (Mechanical) (Honours) at University of Wollongong in December 2014 and currently studying Masters of Systems Engineering through University of New South Wales (ADFA).

What did you study? When did you graduate?

I graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) (Honours) in December 2014. I’m currently studying a Master of Systems Engineering through the University of New South Wales (Australian Defence Force Academy). 

Where did you grow up? Tell us about some important stages of your life in regards to schooling, education, experience abroad, employment and so forth.

I’ve had the unique experience of spending my childhood across the globe. I was born in India and spent the first two years of my life in India. The family then moved to the Sultanate of Oman, where I spent six years of my childhood life. Having the unique opportunity to attend the first few years of my schooling life overseas has provided me with a diverse range of different cultures, perspectives and experiences which has tremendously shaped my understanding of the world we live in. 

In 2000 we moved halfway across the world and ended up settling down in Sydney, NSW. Sydney has been home for the past 18 years of my life in which I completed primary and secondary school and achieved my bachelors in engineering. 

Whilst living and studying in Sydney, I worked part time in the pharmaceutical engineering industry, where I found my enthusiasm for engineering rapidly expanding hence allowing me to head down the line of becoming an engineer. Having completed my degree, I then worked as a part-time lecturer and tutor at the University of Wollongong, teaching courses from the engineering, science and mathematics streams. 

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?

Whilst growing up, I have always had a passion for aviation and the military which led me to join the Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC). I was based at 303 Squadron, Camden, NSW, where my enthusiasm for flying aircraft; experiencing and understanding the ways of the Australian Defence Force; and chasing unique experiences and challenges saw me obtain the rank of Flight Sergeant.

All the years and time spent at the AAFC, have instilled in me a great sense of pride for the sacrifice and work members of our Australian Defence Force undertake on a daily basis. This increased the motivation within me and drove me to exploring careers relating to the ADF and the Department of Defence (DoD).  

Not too long after my Bachelor degree, I found myself applying for the graduate program within the Australian Department of Defence. I was very lucky and ever grateful in achieving a position in the graduate program and having the opportunity to work and contribute towards Australia’s Strategic Defence plan fortifying the aim of “Defending Australia and its national interests”.

Whilst on the graduate program, I was lucky enough to experience unique opportunities right across the defence workforce.

  • My first rotation saw me working in the project acquisition phase, where my team and I were responsible on acquiring two Landing Helicopter Docs – Australia’s largest ships in the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet at present.  

  • During my second rotation, I was fortunate enough to organise an out-of-stream rotation with the Special Operations Engineering Regiment, within the Royal Australian Army. I was based at Holsworthy Barracks, NSW and work exposed me to the rapid acquisition process of specialist equipment used in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive environments. I was also lucky enough to conduct some test trials with the Explosive Detection working dogs.

  • Following my second rotation, I ventured into the project sustainment environment and completed my third rotation at the Mine Clearance and Diving System Program Office (MCDSPO) based within HMAS Waterhen, North Sydney. During my time at MCDSPO, I was exposed to various work activities predominately based around the sustainment aspect of a project life-cycle which included; conducting routine inspections and activities on the Mine Hunter Class ships, working closely with the prime contractor – Thales and raising Engineering Change proposals relating to the ships platform, combat and electrical systems.

I successfully graduated from the Capability Graduate Program in February 2017 and found myself working within SEA1448 Phase 4B (SEA1448-4B) as a project engineer. The project aims to deliver a Long Range Air Search Radar for the Anzac Class Frigates (FFH). As of March 2018, I am currently working within SEA1448-4B.         

What does your employer do?

The Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), within the Department of Defence,  are primarily responsible for purchasing and maintaining military equipment and supplies. Military equipment ranges from acquiring new aircraft (e.g. Joint Strike Fighter project), ships (e.g. Future Frigates project) and submarines (e.g. Future submarine project) to new weapon systems, army land vehicles and modernisation of soldier kits.  CASG manages nationally significant projects that are un-paralleled in their size, cost, timescale, risk profile and level of technological complexity. The core business is to deliver cutting edge capabilities to the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

What are your areas of responsibility?

As a project engineer, my current responsibilities / roles are:

  • Requirements Manager – Ensuring the capability we deliver meets the requirements of the RAN.

  • Test Engineer – Ensuring all tests conducted by the project stakeholders have relevant documentation such as test plans, safety plans, test readiness reviews etc. This also involves travelling to locations on the East Coast, West Coast and South Australia to witness testing of platform, combat and electrical systems related to the installation and operation of the radar.

  • IFF Technical Engineer – Ensuring certification of Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) is achieved during the stipulated timeframe. This involves writing IFF certification plans, reviewing IFF technical documentation and liaising with stakeholders both domestically and internationally. This also involves witnessing IFF testing and facilitating meetings with our international partners both within Australia and overseas.

Can you describe a typical work day?

A typical work day is very rare for me. Usually my “typical” work day comprises of non-typical work activities such as liaising with international stakeholders and foreign defence entities, physically witnessing test activities taking place right across the country, attending design reviews in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, compiling project plans and documentation; and assisting colleagues in other areas within CASG and the Australian DoD.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?

When considering a similar career, a Bachelor of Engineering is essential. However, the specialisation within the Engineering domain (e.g. Mechanical, Electrical, Mechatronic, Software, Materials, Environmental, and Aeronautical) does not have an impact in the type of work that is carried out within CASG.

Whilst working in a project based environment, it is very rare to have an engineering team specialising in all the engineering domains. Although I majored in Mechanical Engineering, my current role is based in the Radar engineering domain. Therefore, the ability to have the basic engineering concepts (delivered through Bachelors of Engineering), will enable an individual to get cross-trained and work in a range of engineering disciplines.

Although work experience is not mandatory, having an idea of how work is carried out in areas outside of Defence is extremely beneficial in understanding and shaping the relationships between Government and Industry. Having said that, the projects within CASG depend heavily on industry involvement and input, therefore, whilst working in the Australian DoD will also expose you to the way Australian Defence Industry operates and conducts their work.       

A person who portrays a strong sense of Teamwork, Professionalism, Leadership, Integrity, Courage and Innovation will excel and be a great asset to the Australian DoD.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

A person who enjoys challenges on a daily basis; has the ability to adapt to new situations and environments; isn’t afraid to venture out of their comfort zone (i.e. Open to learning new skills) and has the ability to communicate with colleagues, stakeholders and wider areas of Defence over a range of mediums will succeed in an Engineering environment within the Australian DoD.

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?

Having the ability to work with cutting-edge technology and being exposed to unique opportunities and experiences has always kept my motivation levels up. The idea of coming into work and working on projects which have a direct influence on supporting the men and women serving overseas to protect our nation and its national interests drives me to come to work on a daily basis.

In addition, facing the constant challenges that come up in the project on a daily basis and the constant changing work environment plays a massive influence to get me to work. Some days I might be compiling documents, other days I might be attending design reviews, witnessing test activities, liaising with international stakeholders, travelling domestically and/or internationally to clarify issues / achieve project outcomes or working with wider areas within Defence to help deliver our project within schedule and under budget.   

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?

Personally I see limitations as a barrier to possibly having the opportunity to experience something new, gain new skills, meet new people and have the experience on working in environments which delivers state-of-the-art technology and capability. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that I have any limitations in my job. Defence encourages its employees to keep expanding their horizons by supporting them with further educational experiences and addressing an employee’s requirements.

Due to the nature of my personality, I am an individual who thrives in a challenging environment. The positions I put myself in are highly responsible and accountable positions in which I enjoy tackling on a daily basis.

The great benefit of working for Defence is that you get a flexible working arrangement, great remuneration packages and all weekend and public-holiday are work-free.

Due to the nature of my job, it is not very physically demanding. We work as part of the Australian Public Service and there are no requirements to be physically fit.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

I cannot imagine what my career would pan out as, if I wasn’t working for Defence. Most probably I would be working very demanding hours under strict conditions in an engineering firm.

On the contrary, I enjoy interacting with people, so my career might have led me down the education line.

However, working for Defence has shaped my career and opened up endless career opportunities and am very grateful for having the opportunity to work for Defence. Whilst working for Defence, I also enjoy travelling to ADF bases around the country seeing the technology and capability we work to deliver for implementation in the everyday realms of the Australian Defence Force.    

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  1. If you always do what you have always done, you will always be what you have always been.

  2. Don’t let statistics and numbers be an excuse in applying for graduate positions. If you don’t apply, you will never know what the outcome was and will never learn. Always do the best you can with whatever choices and actions you take on.

  3. Never be afraid of venturing into the unknown. That is; do not be scared of putting yourself into unfamiliar environments and every mistake you make is an opportunity for you to learn something new. Always come with an open-mind as opportunity only presents itself once.