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Saab Australia

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Nathaniel (Nat) Shearer

From the people Saab hires, to the support of the social club, working at Saab is a very positive work environment.

What's your job about?

Saab Australia started as a software engineering firm working with the Navy, integrating products developed by our parent company in Sweden, however, carrying that expertise and experience, we expanded to develop integrated control solutions for Maritime, Land, Civil Security, and Underwater Systems. I’ve had the opportunity to work in Maritime simulation/analysis, Civil security systems, and am now working on Underwater (and Autonomous) platform systems.

Our work in underwater platform primarily revolves around the mechanical design of components for submarines. This will start with concept drawings and rough calculations, before modelling components in 3D and then producing 2D manufacturing and assembly drawings of each part. In addition to this core body of work, we often work with other departments to devise solutions using autonomous or remotely operated systems to solve problems posed by the defence, mainly in the maritime space. While we don’t develop the individual platforms, we’ll specify how all the collection of platforms, hardware, sensors, software, and network infrastructure will come together to satisfy the requirements of a defence tender.

What's your background?

From a young age, I was almost destined to become an engineer. I grew up in the Adelaide hills with two brothers who both became engineers/scientists and my Dads side of the family is heavily involved in historic motor racing. Every Easter we had a tradition to spend the weekend up at the Mallala raceway for the historic race meeting. My interest really got piqued in aerospace engineering when, as a cadet, I got my pilots licence. However, I still had a keen interest in modern physics so I decided to study both.

Studying two degrees concurrently took 6 years to complete. While that’s quite a long time, it allowed plenty of involve myself in extra-curricular activities. Some highlights were; Running/teaching the Adelaide Uni WARMAN Robotics competition, founding Australia’s first Australian University Rocket Competition, coordinating the International Astronautical Congress 2017 volunteers, attending the opening of the Australian Space Agency in Adelaide, and much more.

I also developed my technical skills with some casual work. At the university, I worked as a research assistant in a laser research lab. My favourite project there involved using light as a funnel to trap atoms in a glass fibre. Over the 2017-2018 holidays, I undertook an internship at Saab in the Modelling and Analysis team, which lead to a casual work position until 2019. Then when I graduated in 2019, I enjoyed working for Saab so much that I joined their 2020 graduate programme, which I’m now in my second year of.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Saab Australia requires people with many different backgrounds and experience, and underwater platform systems is no different. We require engineers with backgrounds in mechanical engineering and/or electrical/electronic engineering. While there is a baseline in the knowledge required to do the role, the more variety in education and experience the better. It is often looked at favourably if people have previous work experience or additional education in similar fields (like physics or computer science). This diversity produces a better outcome as the team has a wider pool of experiences to draw from and learn from.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

It’s very cool to be working on engineering designs for submarines and autonomous mission solutions however every role has boring work, tedious and repetitive tasks or endless documentation. What makes these boring moments bearable is the company culture and the people you work with. You spend a significant portion of your life at work so it’s important that your work environment is a positive impact on your mental health. From the people, Saab hires, to the support of the social club, working at Saab is a very positive work environment.

What are the limitations of your job?

My supervisors are very open to taking on more responsibility however the industry I work in is complex and deep and my biggest limitation is a lack of experience/area knowledge. I have to be careful not to take on too much responsibility too quickly otherwise it is easy to get overwhelmed in the task. In that situation, I’ll often work additional hours and/or on weekends however my supervisor is very welcoming to taking that time off later as flexible working hours.

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

Going back to my time at university, my greatest successes and personal developments came from jumping feet first into opportunities I might not be properly prepared or qualified for. However, this has also lead to some of my greatest struggles and challenges. Managing your mental health is the most important thing for any individual long term and putting yourself in challenging scenarios can be damaging for your mental health. To manage these often juxtaposed objectives, your friends and peers are invaluable so it is very important to maintain these relationships.