Michael Johnstone

Michael Johnstone

Swinburne University of Technology
Graduate Software Engineer
Michael studied Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Science at Swinburne University of Technology

What's your job about?

One of Honeywell’s many products is building automation software that can be used to control many aspects of large facilities. I am a software developer working on continually improving this software. The current product I am working on is called Command and Control Suite. This suite allows our customers to view a graphical blueprint/map of their building, with all of the cameras, sensors and controllers laid out on this map as interactable elements. It allows operators of the building to very quickly see and respond to any events that occur in the facility. My job is primarily to fix defects that are discovered, and to implement new feature requests as they come in. We work in an agile environment, which means our time is divided into sprints that last two weeks. On the first day of each sprint, tasks are assigned that the team will need to complete in the sprint. These tasks will be a mixture of bugs/new features. Every day we have a short stand up meeting with the team, where everyone tells of the tasks they have been working on, and what they will be doing that day. This keeps everyone’s tasks exposed so we know what our team mates are working on and where we can source help if required. (And who to leave alone if they are busy!)

What's your background?

I was born and raised in Melbourne. I completed high school and then began my double degree at Swinburne Uni. Part of this degree was a year of work placement. My first placement was as a data analyst for a company that manufactured wind turbines. My role was to extract data from wind turbines and use this data to predict when a component of a wind turbine was going to break. This began as a yearlong placement, but was cut short to 6 months when the company went through redundancies. I then began another placement at a company that operated a mushroom farm. I was tasked with the job of creating a robot that would pick mushrooms. With limited time, experience and resources on my hand, I was unable to complete this task. This was when I decided that I wanted to pursue the software side of my degree. As a robotic student, most of our projects incorporate some form of hardware and software component, and it was always the software that I enjoyed doing most. Midway through my final year, I applied for Honeywell’s software graduate program in Sydney and was successful in gaining the job. This gave me 6 months to finish my degree, pack up my life in Melbourne and make the move to Sydney. I have currently been here for 18 months and do not regret my decision to move!

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes. With motivation, anyone can learn how to write software, there are vast amounts of resources online to teach you. e.g. Youtube, forums, online courses. The basics are not difficult, and software entry level roles are generally designed to gear up an amateur developer. But without any formal qualifications or experiences, it can be hard to get an employer to notice you and give you a chance. Without a relevant degree, you would have to commit your spare time to learning how to code and creating a portfolio so an employer can see what you can do. This will take time, determination, and a genuine enjoyment for coding.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I get to work on projects that are the leading edge of the industry. I enjoy working on feature requests that have never existed before, and seeing the come from just an idea to a tangible, working feature in our product suite.

What are the limitations of your job?

It is sometimes overwhelming in that our code base is very large. There are so many pieces to the puzzle, and it can be hard to comprehend how they fit together. If you are tasked with fixing a bug, it can be difficult to find where in the code base it lies. Fortunately, there are many talented developers who have been here for years who are always happy to help with any issues you have.

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

  1. Work on a project of your own outside of uni that you are passionate about.
  2. Industry work experience is invaluable during your uni years.
  3. Engage in network opportunities as they are available to you