Chris Sawyer

La Trobe University
Graduate Engineer
Chris Sawyer, Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Hons), La Trobe University

What's your job about?

Fulton Hogan builds roads, ports, airports, infrastructure and property. Current large jobs in Melbourne, Australia include asphalt supply for the Tullamarine freeway, construction works/asphalt supply for the M80 Ring Road and various airport works. I am currently completing my first graduate rotation in the Asphalt Laying sector of the business and I am receiving exposure to the projects mentioned above.

Since starting my graduate program with Fulton Hogan in January 2017 I have spent time in the lab looking at production testing, spent time at an asphalt plant looking at asphalt production, experienced night shift site engineering on the Tullamarine Freeway, managed Quality Assurance (QA) for a pavement reconstruction job in NSW and I am now preparing QA documents for the Hobart Runway Extension project which I will manage the QA for later this month.

In summary, in the month I have been with the company I have spent about 70% of my time on site and have had the chance to travel, which has been amazing. My job has a lot of variety and no two days are the same which keeps me interested and feeling fresh.

What's your background?

I’m from a small town called Woodend which is approximately half way between Melbourne and Bendigo along the Calder Freeway.

The most important stage of my professional life was my final year of university in 2016. In this year I knuckled down, became heavily involved with university and was lucky enough to receive two international travel scholarships within the same year, which gave me the opportunity to travel to and represent La Trobe University in both Taiwan and Bosnia. My experiences abroad were life changing and have further developed my cultural awareness and communication skills. In 2016 I also secured my Graduate Role with Fulton Hogan and began mentoring other university students to help connect them to industry.

I began writing resumes, preparing cover letters and researching engineering companies in late 2015. I then started applying online for engineering companies’ graduate programs which I felt I may be interested in. I consulted with career advises and mentors, attended mock interviews and used interview preparation resources to ensure I secured my position with Fulton Hogan. I went through a three month recruitment process with Fulton Hogan which involved online behavioural testing, a phone interview and three face to face interviews before being offered a position which I was delighted to accept. I started working casually one day a week with Fulton Hogan in October 2016 as I finished off my university degree and then commenced my full time contract in January 2017. So far I have been working full time with the company for one month and have loved it.

After my first year of university I was unsure if engineering was for me, it felt like it was just boring maths and science. I considered deferring but instead I decided to transfer from The University of Melbourne to La Trobe University for a change of scenery. I loved the La Trobe culture and degree and I am so thankful that I stuck with engineering because now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes I believe that someone with a different background to me could do my job. As long as the person had an engineering degree and a practical mind they could do my job. Hands on experience on a construction site would also be very valuable.

Problem solving ability, practical thinking, natural leadership and strong communication skills are all essential for my job.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love how my job helps connect people. Roads, ports, airports and other infrastructure help bring people together. If these transport systems were not constructed, people may struggle to get to work or visit friends and family. I enjoy dealing with people and engaging with the community. I also enjoy solving problems and trying to make a better world for the millions of people who use the services Fulton Hogan provide.

What are the limitations of your job?

My job involves high stress, high responsibility, long hours and occasional weekend work and night work depending on the specific job. You must operate well under these conditions and accept them as part of the job description. My job can also involve a lot of travel which may not be appealing to someone who enjoys stability. My job is not a standard 9-5 desk job in the same office every day therefore you must be extremely flexible.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

If I could go back to first year university I would advise myself to get more involved with what the university has to offer. Join engineering clubs, get on committees, network with your lecturers. Doing these things help build your communication skills and your professional network. It will help lead you to work experience and ultimately a job to walk into once you graduate. Don’t wait until your final year of university to get involved with these things, start as early as possible. It is also extremely important to get undergraduate work experience; this will build your technical skills, look great on your resume and also make you much more employable once you graduate.In summary, 3 pieces of advice I can give are;

1. Get involved at university

2. Network

3. Do undergraduate internships