Kenneth Cheng

Kenneth Cheng

RMIT University
Senior Project Officer
Kenneth studied Masters of Business Administration (Executive) with Distinction at RMIT University

What's your job about?

I am a Senior Project Officer with the Centre for Victorian Data Linkage (CVDL).

The Centre for Victorian Data Linkage (CVDL) is the Victorian arm of the Population Health Research Network (PHRN). We are based in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The main function of the Centre is to create and maintain data linkages within and between core population health and non-health data collections.

Data collected by governments exist in ‘separate’ silos. To have a holistic view of how an individual interacts with the many public services they may use, the data collections must be linked together.

My primary responsibility involves managing the governance structure and client interface for our Centre’s services.

Daily, I field questions and enquiries from stakeholders looking to utilise linked data to support research, service design or policy development. The myriad of legislations, data sets and technical design options can be very confusing! It is my responsibility as the client interface for the Centre to provide sound advice and assist stakeholders to navigate the complexities.

A large proportion of my time is spent on liaising with various stakeholders to ensure timely and quality outcomes for clients seeking linked data.

As ‘big data’ (the product of data sharing and linkages) is a developing  area, I also get to be involved in longer term strategic projects and the legislative reform agenda. These involve the updating or creation of new laws and capabilities to keep up with ‘big data’.

What's your background?

I was born in Singapore and came to Australia to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and Veterinary Science. I quickly discovered that life as a researcher (in the area of anaerobic bacteria causing swine dysentery) was not a cup of (pleasant smelling) tea.

Looking for a more lucrative career, I stumbled into telecommunications and information technology (IT&T) and I spent 15 years in the industry in a number of capacities.

While lucrative, instances that caused personal value conflicts were becoming evident as I progressed through the ranks. After all, a commercial entity exists for an economical outcome, and sometimes, situations dictate that officers are obliged to protect shareholders prior to other interests. With a niggling feeling that I was not in a ‘forever career’, I embarked on a program of self-discovery, pursuing qualifications in business management and law.

This process pointed me to a necessary clarification of my personal values, everything else naturally fell into place after that. However, the fall out from this was that I was clearly not happy where I was career wise.

I undertook an assessment of what and who I could work for, where my skills would be applicable and my personal values aligned with the organisation’s purposes. With this in mind, I started applying for jobs with the Victoria Public Service.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Definitely Yes!

Unlike many ‘classical’ professions, there is no university degree that qualifies you to be the client interface and subject matter specialist for a unit specialising in data federation, and all the wonderful legislative and operational challenges that come with it.

There are many ways to acquire knowledge about legislation, policy and standards applicable to data sharing, linkage and release across health and human services, and government.

Excellent communications, an ability to develop strong working relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, collaborative team player, energy and motivation, are all skills that can be developed in a variety of industries and work positions.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The absolute coolest thing about my job resonates from my employer’s organisational culture. Staff are encouraged to demonstrate respect, integrity, collaboration, accountability and innovation, in how we care for people, families and communities. This creates a working environment (and workforce) that is multi-cultural, diverse and inclusive. Every opinion counts, including mine, generating great job satisfaction for me. And I am constantly astounded by my colleagues’ contributions; skills and ideas acquired through different life experiences from mine.

What are the limitations of your job?

If you want to make a contribution to the public in your ‘daily’ job, working in government is a great place to be. However, this does not mean that the journey to a ‘visionary’ outcome is not long and fraught with hurdles.

Beyond the multi-faceted social issues you will be looking to address, you are also managing limited time and resource constraints. And let us not forget about the bureaucracy; every large organisation has bureaucracy and the public service is a VERY large organisation.

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

  1. What you study at university does not dictate what you do for the rest of your life. In fact, you are likely not to be working in your area of study within a few years of graduating.
  2. Beyond grades, a degree from university demonstrates your ability to commit and deliver on what you set out to achieve.
  3. Look for opportunities at university to demonstrate non-academic skills employers are hungry for, excellent communications, effective working relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, energy and motivation, collaboration and working in teams to solve complex problems. This will set you apart from the pack.