What's your name? Where do you work?
Nicola Jones – I’m a graduate currently working within the Insights and Industry Analysis team at NSW Department of Primary Industries.
What did you study? When did you graduate?
I studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) (Honours) at the University of Wollongong and graduated in 2017.
What have been some important stages of your life growing up?
I grew up in Bathurst and moved to Wollongong to study at university. I love to travel and I’m passionate about community so I combined these interests to volunteer overseas.
I spent one summer in Nepal at a Buddhist monastery and in India with Girl Guides. The following summer, I worked with a start-up called Project Everest and spent two summers working abroad with them, developing my leadership skills and business knowledge. I have now moved four times and my last move has been part of the NSW Government Graduate Program, providing me with the opportunity to return to central west NSW.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I applied for the NSW Government Graduate Program in 2017 and was offered a role starting in February 2018 so I’ve been working for the NSW Government for about a year now.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
I had so many careers in mind when I was in high school. I’ve always loved mathematics and the fact that it just clicked with me was enough for my careers advisor to suggest that engineering may be something I would be good at.
I knew I wanted to go to the University of Wollongong and they offer an engineering degree majoring in environmental engineering that is all about water, waste management and sustainability. I am interested in renewable energy technology so considered majoring in electrical engineering but the environmental major had a broader range of subjects relating to environmental issues and how to approach solving them from an engineering perspective.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The interview process is rigorous and rewarding. After the initial online application, I progressed to the next stage, completed some online assessments and then attended an assessment centre that had both a face-to-face interview and a group interview. Two specific questions I remember being asked were to describe a time that I had found myself presented with an ethical dilemma and what I had done, and how the values of the NSW Government align with my own.
What does your employer do?
The NSW Government fills a wide range of functions delivering services and oversight of regulation for the people of NSW. These include health, education, transport, research and law enforcement.
Currently, I’m working at the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in Orange, which works to increase the value of primary industries and drive economic growth across NSW. DPI manages a broad range of initiatives including research and development, biosecurity and food safety, industry engagement, and international export potential.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I am currently responsible for looking at primary industry statistics and providing insights and analysis within the DPI, and to anyone who makes a request such as state and federal ministers, or even the prime minister. NSW DPI produces a document each year highlighting key insights for each primary industry from the year and I am responsible for managing a large portion of the project to get the document complete this year.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
A typical day at work is always changing. Recently I have been using our internal communication platforms and face-to-face meetings to explore the interesting work that has been completed by the Department since July 2018. This involves going through media releases, Facebook posts and emails, then following up on stories to get further information, links to web pages, photos or even videos.
The last thing I worked on was a request to look at business data for NSW primary industries and determine whether a definition change for funding opportunities would significantly change the number of businesses who were eligible to apply for the funding.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
My role as a graduate has offered me a wide range of experience and opportunities to develop myself personally and professionally.
In the coming months, I will complete the graduate program and apply for engineering roles within the NSW public sector (there are way more than I ever thought there were!). I am particularly interested in project management of infrastructure projects. There are also opportunities for me to develop my skills in engineering design including property and construction, to roads and transport, waste management and water infrastructure. I am highly ambitious and look forward to future opportunities.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I would be producing music for film and television if I wasn’t an environmental engineer. As an engineer, I considered a career in all sorts of fields including mining, renewable energy, water, urban design, domestic or industrial/hazardous waste management.
What do you love most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love that I get to make a real impact on real people with the work I do every day. NSW Government is a diverse employer and I love that I am exposed to such a variety of knowledge and experience. I can be in a meeting with colleagues in Broken Hill and Sydney at the same time with none of us having to physically travel to conduct a meeting.
I have enjoyed learning how to communicate complex ideas using simple language so that messages don’t get lost in industry jargon. As a numbers person, I still love sitting down with a broken spreadsheet and ironing out the bugs so it all makes sense.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Are stress levels high?
There are limitations in the public sector in the same way as any other sector. Everything we do is subject to public scrutiny so all decisions are made with careful consideration to possible outcomes and consequences.
We have strict deadlines too but the workplace is always supportive and I have the autonomy to get my work done with support available to me if I need it.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?