Updating Results

Downer Group

4.3
  • #2 in Construction & property services
  • 50,000 - 100,000 employees

Sam Zanetti

My first rotation in the bid team was predetermined and chosen for me. However, we provide input on which part of the business we would like to work in.

Basic information

What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?

My name is Sam Zanetti and I am a Graduate Engineer at Downer. I studied Mechanical Engineering and Finance at the University of Western Australia and graduated at the end of 2016.

Where did you grow up? Important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)

I spent the early part of my life in a couple of rural towns in WA and moved to Perth when I was ten. I lived there up until I moved to Melbourne to work with Downer early this year. I held a number of jobs in the retail and hospitality industries throughout my studies and completed a six month internship with a biofilm research company. The most significant highlight of my life so far was the year I spent studying abroad in the US state of Montana because it required me to step outside of my comfort zone. Living in a foreign country was a new and exciting experience that I feel helped me to grow as a person.

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

I have been working in Downer’s bid team for just under eight months. Downer’s graduate program runs on 4 x 6 month rotations, however the timeframe of a rotation is flexible and can be suited to the needs of the role.

My first rotation in the bid team was predetermined and chosen for me. However, we provide input on which part of the business we would like to work in. After knowing the business better, I would like to work in production engineering for my next role.

Applying for our job

How did you choose your specialisation (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

I chose to study Engineering and Finance because they are both very broad degrees and leave doors open for a lot of different careers.

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?

The interview process consisted of an initial phone screening, followed by a two day assessment. I was asked a lot of STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format questions to demonstrate my experience and approach to problem solving, general questions about myself, what I expected from the graduate program and why it was something I wanted to be a part of.  

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?

What you study at University does not necessarily define you career. In my opinion, a degree is a condition of entry to the professional workforce, and most universities allow you to gain broader knowledge through elective units. My work in the bid team has not been very technical in an engineering sense, but has had more of a project management and commercial flavour– I would definitely recommend taking electives in project management and corporate finance. Soft skills are essential as my role is client facing and requires me to interface with lots of different people across Downer. In particular, communication and interpersonal skills are vital for effective information transfer and relationship building.
I think any experience in a professional environment would be beneficial, although I had very little of that before I started with Downer so it isn’t essential. I also believe that the value of working in retail or hospitality can be overlooked by students – working in those industries requires you to be customer focused, which helps to develop soft skills that will be vital in any career.
Your work

What does your employer do?

Downer is a leading provider of services to customers in markets including Transport, Telecommunications, Utilities, Renewables, Engineering, Construction and Maintenance, and Facilities Management.

What are your areas of responsibility?

In my role I am required to assist with the preparation of bids and tenders. This includes finding a way for Downer to do the work required by the client, including how much it will cost, how long it will take, and what resources are required. My responsibility is to source information to answer these questions. I then consult with my line manager to see if they are happy with the solution that I have come up with and the level of risk involved.

Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?

Every day is different a Downer, which keeps it exciting. On average I spend about two hours a day making calls and replying to emails, an hour or so per day in meetings and a few hours per day working on documents like schedules, estimates, reports etc. Once or twice a week I will visit a client office or site to find out more about a project.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

Someone who is good with people. I can’t stress how important interpersonal skills are.

What are the career prospects with your job? / Where could you or others in your position go from here?

With the Downer graduate program you can take yourself virtually anywhere. An engineer could take a technical route to becoming a designer or subject matter expert, steer their career down a project management route or focus on becoming a manager of a team. The opportunity to influence your rotations allows you to try most of them before you pick which stream you would like to follow.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely. I work with people that have come from trade backgrounds or studied other courses including commerce and data analytics.

Pros and cons

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

I’m a people person so I love getting to meet and talk to people. I like getting out of the office and meeting with clients face-to-face, to learn about their needs and how we can work together.

What are the biggest limitation of your job? Do you carry a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?

Every job comes with challenges and limitations. Leadership is encouraged at Downer, however, due to the nature of my graduate role, I do have limited authority to sign off on documents before they are circulated, which can sometimes be time consuming.

I have had the opportunity to be the bid manager of a project, which involves running both internal and external meetings, sending Requests for Quotations and planning for project execution. This entails a reasonably high level of responsibility and is stressful at times, but ultimately has facilitated my professional development and I have found it very rewarding.

A word to the wise...

What three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role, or even be career-focused.

  • If you want to be successful you have to learn to work with people. Developing positive relationships with a wide network of people will make it easier for you to access information and make your work more enjoyable.
  • If you aren’t sure of exactly what you want to do for work, aim for a graduate program with a rotational structure. Working in a variety of roles will allow you to find out what you like doing best and will also build a solid foundation of transferable skills that will help you to grow in the future.
  • Identify people in the workplace that have qualities or skills that you would like to develop. Surrounding yourself with these people by helping them out with a task or even having a coffee with them in the lunch room will allow you to learn from them.