Când m-am decis să fac acest interviu mi-am dorit să reușesc să ofer o perspectivă asupra modului în care se pun bazele carierei profesionale pentru studenți într-o țară care e mult diferită nu numai față de România ci chiar față de orice țară din Europa. O țară al cărei învățământ universitar și-a câstigat în ultimele două decenii un loc fruntaș în clasamentele mondiale de profil. Sper că am reușit să surprind un pic mai mult decât ce-mi propusesem. Este un interviu despre cum reușesc doi tineri australieni să aleagă în cele din urmă facultatea potrivită, despre ce înseamnă pentru ei să fie studenți la o universitate cu standarde ridicate, despre cum gândesc ei legat de dezvoltarea carierei. Dar în același timp este un interviu despre cum reușește școala să pună bazele carierei lor și să-i conecteze la piața muncii, despre legătură foarte strânsă dintre școală și angajatori și despre cum reușesc firmele să-și deschidă porțile pentru viitorii specialiști, cu mult înainte ca aceștia să-și finalizeze studiile. Deși este un interviu în care la întrebări răspund (separat) doi tineri IT-iști, nu este un interviu doar pentru IT-iști. Cred că e un interviu care poate prezenta interes pentru studenți în general, pentru profesorii lor și pentru firmele care și-i doresc pe cei aflați la început de carieră în postura de angajați. Mulțumesc Draga și James.

WLI: Let’s start with a short presentation. Please tell me whatever you want about yourself.

Draga: My name is Draga, I’m Romanian born and moved to New Zealand when I was 10. At 16 my family and I moved to Australia and I realized I’d be graduating in 6 months instead of 18. I thought I wanted to study medicine to help people, and it took about 4 years, and my dad convincing me, that if I wanted to help people I should study IT/Computer Science. So I’ve been doing that with my partner for the last 4 and a half years, and even though I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life, I really love it.

James: My name is James, I grew up in north-west Queensland, in what some would consider to be a rural and remote town. My hometown, Mount Isa ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLlJpwnm-m4 ), is kept alive by the mining industry. Naturally, I was expected to work there when I came of age. I chose instead to study psychology at the closest university, 900km away. I wasn’t captivated by the subject, and ended up changing degrees before finally dropping out and working at a liquor store for ~2 years. This gave me the drive to go back to university and study. I chose Information Technology. I was doing very well in IT but desired a deeper understanding, so I applied to Monash University, wherein I was accepted to Computer Science. Still performing well, I transferred into the Advanced stream, which caters towards research pathways.

Draga and James ready for Faculty of IT ball.

WLI: How do you feel as a student in Melbourne and as a student of Monash University?

Draga: I feel incredibly lucky. Melbourne is a beautiful city, a welcoming city. Monash is both of those things, as well as being a world class institution. It was a lot of work getting to where I am now, and at Monash I can definitely say that it was worth it. There’s a lot to be improved about the institution, for sure, but at least I feel like it’s worth working to make these improvements.

James: Extremely privileged. Monash University is a high standard institution that fosters research and development. To be part of such an institution is somewhat of a dream come true for me. I am proud to belong to Monash, but I also feel pressure to do right by the institution’s reputation and prestige.

Monash University Clayton Campus

WLI: What prompted your decision to enroll in an IT program and which were the main reasons you made this choice?

Draga: My partner and I had left university (because we weren’t really doing anything, not attending class, etc.) and worked in retail for about three years. We were doing really well, earning money, being offered promotions, we had money in savings and spent plenty too, but we weren’t really happy. In fact we were quite unhappy. After some conversations among ourselves, and with my parents, it became obvious that what was missing was problem solving, and intellectual challenge, and that we couldn’t get that where we currently were. IT was my choice for a couple of reasons:
– As I mentioned before, I wanted to help people, as many as possible. IT has the potential to change thousands if not millions of lives for the better all at once, in sweeping ways;
– It’s a flexible career and allows me to pursue a wide variety of my interests without changing disciplines: art, genetics, medicine, maths, music – they all have direct and indirect applications through IT. I get bored easily, and rather than changing careers every time I felt like tackling something new, I decided to pick a career that would allow me to easily do that;
– It’s lucrative and it’s not going away for the foreseeable future;
– It’s ultimately a problem solving discipline, which keeps me focused and keeps my brain moving.

James: I was a cashier at a liquor store, and the work was easy. I was making enough money to keep myself healthy and safe, with enough left over to keep myself entertained. So why would I leave this place? I felt a sense of duty, to contribute to the world, and I believed (and still believe) that IT and computer science can positively impact many lives. Also, from a selfish perspective, it made me happy. It’s full of very clean and elegant logic which I appreciate.

WLI: What expectations did you have when you started your IT studies, what modifications occurred on the way and were your expectations met or not so far?

Draga: I expected it to be a challenging degree, and I expected a lot of theory. Initially I started a Bachelor of IT at James Cook University, which was fantastic, but was not as in depth on the theory as I would have liked. This is what led to my eventual application and transfer to Monash, where I’m studying a Bachelor of Computer Science – a degree JCU did not offer. My expectations have generally been met on that front – there is a lot of theory, and it is challenging. What has surprised me is how rapidly we ascended to the as yet unsolved problems of the field- cryptography, algorithm optimisation, distributed computing and the challenges of big data analysis to name a few. The content we are currently being taught (3rd year of the degree) is not just of academic value, but of real world importance – many of the algorithms and analysis techniques we are learning are the frontier of the field. This is exciting to me because it lends a lot of value to the degree in a very practical sense. I was expecting to work for 10 or so years to reach the frontier.

James: Entering the degree, I expected to perform below the level at which I am currently. And reflecting back, my expectations weren’t low, I still consider them to be average. What I did not consider is how much of an effect effort would have. I have put in a great amount of effort to learn the content, and the results were just a byproduct. Regarding content, I did not have many preconceptions. I thought I would learn how to “code”, which is to say “learn how to write programs”, and I did, but I quickly realised that the important, and beautiful thing, was the logic behind it all.

WLI: What is the structure of your studies (credits, compulsory subjects, optionals, etc), how is the graduation schedule set, what level of complexity are your courses and at what level are you expected to perform? Please detail the structure of your degree.

Draga: Our degree is a four year degree – atypical due to the mandatory inclusion of an Honours year. It’s a research focused degree, incorporating ‘journal article’ writing units at both first and second year. A full-time load involves four units (subjects) per semester, and two semesters per year, each 12 weeks plus exams which usually take 3 weeks. There are 14 ‘core’ compulsory units, 4 Honours Thesis units, 3 units-worth of either Industry Based Learning or Research Based Learning placements, 4 elective units from a list of approved Faculty of IT subjects and 7 free elective units which could pretty much be anything from more Faculty of IT subjects to theater to law units. This is a total of 32 units which, at a rate of 8 per year, gives you your 4 years. Each unit is worth 6 credit points, so you need 192 to graduate our course. A full-time student would be graduating at the end of their four years, assuming they hadn’t failed any units. Our degree is atypical also in having a minimum grade requirement of 70% or Distinction, in order to remain in the course. The complexity of the units is relatively high, although this can be balanced out with less taxing electives. It’s worth noting that this is the most complex degree the Faculty offers and is therefore the least flexible. Other degrees in the faculty, such as the 3 year Bachelor of Computer Science, offer the option to specialise in either Advanced Theory or Data Science, while the Bachelor of IT includes majors such as cybersecurity, games development, business information systems, software development, and a fair few others.

James: The structure of the course was laid out from the beginning. I was aware of what core units i must take, and how many elective units I was then afforded. The advance degree requires an average of 80% to enter, and and average of 70% to stay in. It’s a three year degree, four with honours (Advance). Advance are required to complete two semester long research projects.

WLI: Please tell me a few words about your teachers: how do they choose their course topics, how do they approach the classes, how do they interact with the students and what are their demands.

Draga: Lecturers, a bit like humans, are a mixed bag. The university’s main focus is research (this is true of most universities around the world today), and so lecturers are typically research fellows who are tasked (willingly or otherwise…) with creating and running units. Some (in fact, probably most) lecturers are fantastic. They have a clear passion for sharing knowledge, and gladly take on student feedback to improve teaching style, assessments and content from semester to semester. Topics are chosen in line with the learning outcomes for the degree, and there is usually tight cohesion between successive units. Their interaction with students is entirely casual and friendly, and based on an assumption of mutual respect. Each lecturer holds consultations for units, which are drop in sessions where you are encouraged to challenge and discuss concepts. Lectures are typically an open forum for students to ask questions and test their understanding.

James: Some teachers put a great amount of care into their classes, introducing basic topics and building upon them in subsequent lectures. Some have a clear passion for the topic, but not for teaching. Others…I’m not sure how they ended up in their lecturing position, but I imagine it’s because Monash couldn’t find anyone else. I’ve got to experience all of these kinds of classes. The ones that care, that structure the class well, could successfully explain turing machines to a dog. The ones that done, couldn’t explain the very topic they’re paid to to the uni’s best student. It is standard for every class to have a lecture and a tutorial. Lecturers are tasked with selecting and hiring tutors. Good lecturers select good tutors, others select the “qualified, on paper”. Additionally, each class is required to have “consultation sessions”, wherein studies are able to visit the lecturer (or sometimes a tutor), outside of the lectures and tutorials. These consultations are a great opportunity to have a one-on-one session with professionals.

WLI: In Romania as well as in other countries in Europe is often encountered the opinion that formal studies are not required to become an IT specialist, but through individual effort and some training/courses you can achieve the same proficiency. We subscribe to this opinion up to a certain point. How important is a formal education in IT in Australia in order to evolve in this field and how much do the Australian employers require when sourcing their IT specialists?

Draga: The opinion definitely has basis in fact. A strong portfolio e.g. on GitHub or even a strong Stack Overflow presence can often count heavily towards hiring criteria. Most companies (at least in my experience of course) set their own technical challenges as a ‘hurdle’ hiring criteria. Recent conferences I’ve attended have all made the point that a formal qualification in this field is becoming less and less important, especially due to the fast-changing nature of the discipline. It’s more important that you know how to learn than that you have a specific set of skills under your belt. Of course, general skills like problem-solving, self-organisation, research and critical thinking are therefore paramount in an industry where you will always be faced with a new technology, and a new shiny toy. A formal qualification, at this point in time, makes the application easier I would say. There’s no reason you shouldn’t apply without having one, but you would probably need a much larger portfolio and ‘proof of work’ than someone with this qualification, and you might face a more rigorous interview. I think this is changing though.
Of course it also depends entirely what the job is. Any research focused position is going to require a formal qualification. Software engineering positions are highly likely to as well. Web development, software development, even database admin positions to an extent would be more flexible. It’s also worth mentioning that your formal qualification will likely only make a noticeable difference at the entry point. If you’ve been in industry for even 2 or 3 years, and are still relying on your formal qualification to move positions, you’re probably doing it wrong.

James: To my limited understanding, it’s not strictly necessary to have a degree to be a professional. Even these non-university qualifications aren’t. As long as you can show proficiency, done so effectively with a portfolio, you are able to get a job in the field. Just as you may be employed as a carpenter without official certification, you may be employed as an IT specialist without official qualification, provided you can demonstrate proficiency. Unlike a doctor or lawyer, there in no license required. I believe that as time moves on, tertiary qualifications will hold less weight in practice.

WLI: In Romania the main criticism brought by students and employers upon all faculties, including the ones in IT, is that they provide a purely theoretical framework, without any practical elements which should prepare the students for the employment market (not even at a minimum, entry level). How are things set up at your faculty? How and how much are the IT degrees connected to the employment market?

Draga: This is an interesting point to me. On the one hand, I agree that no practical elements is not where a faculty wants to be. On the other, the theoretical framework is often indispensable in being a successful professional. Even going back to the ‘soft’ skills – problem solving, organisation, meeting deadlines, reading a project brief and actually doing what it tells you – university provides you with a structured, hierarchical (increasingly complex) program which teaches you all of these things as well as the basic theory of the discipline you will be in. One of my pet peeves is the argument that ‘I won’t be implementing sorting algorithms in industry so why would I learn them now’. It’s one of the most disingenuous statements I’ve ever heard, but it’s rampant in the IT community. Learning how to solve problems which have already been solved, a wide variety of them, in a wide variety of contexts, is critical to being able to form:
– A solid reference library of data structures, algorithms, technologies, frameworks and approaches which you can use when encountering an unfamiliar problem,
– A method and process for identifying, researching and solving an unfamiliar problem. 

All that being said, the ultimate point of the degree is to get you a job. So it would be equally disingenuous to say that the theory is enough. At our faculty, connections to industry are seen as a critical part of the degree. The Industry Based Learning (IBL) program is a large part of that, which I’ll touch on more later, but the Faculty also regularly sponsors Industry Nights (essentially exhibitions), networking events, hackathons and such, to connect students to industry. Our faculty has a weekly newsletter which advertises jobs, internships, networking events, industry visits, recruitment sessions, etc. to all students. While only the IBL program is a formal part of the degree, you’d have to stick your head quite deep into the sand to graduate the degree without having formed industry connections, even without this program.

James: Some classes are purely theoretical, others are practical. Some simply cannot be practical. The ones that can have a practical, business focus, often do. E.g. Databases is practical. Theory of computation is not. As part of our course, we are expected to complete either an industry placement, or a research placement.

WLI: I know that both of you have completed practical experience (internships) with some companies. Please tell me how are these internships organised and if you feel they were beneficial to your studies and/or future professional development after graduation.

Draga: The internships were 6 month long full-time placements with a company. They were organised as part of the IBL program and counted for 3 units worth of credits, assessed both by the industry supervisor and by the university itself. They came with an $18,000 scholarship, which roughly works out to $19 an hour (about minimum wage here) if you were to take it as ‘payment’ for the work done. The Faculty of IT organises these placements from start to finish, including finding the industry partners, getting them on board, formalising the selection process and allocating students after placement interviews. Whether they were beneficial to my studies in particular is difficult to assess, but they were fairly critical to my future development after graduation. It’s essentially a no-obligation 6 month long trial period doing exactly what you would be doing if you were to graduate and be hired by this company, so it’s a perfect testing ground for your skills as a professional. It also allows you to hone in a little bit on what skills you’re missing and how to incorporate them into the rest of the degree. The Computer Science degrees only have room for one such placement, but Bachelor of IT students do have the option of going through two placements.

James: My internship exposed me to expectations and standards held by industry professionals. This was really valuable for me because i have not previously worked in that environment. I’ve worked in retail, done physical labour, but never been in a corporate setting. It is a really good thing to have on my resume, should I choose to seek a job in the corporate environment, however the experience taught me that this is not something I’m interested in doing right out of uni. It reinforced my drive to go into a research career.

WLI: What were your expectations of these internships and were they met?

Draga: My expectation was that I would get to observe the workplace in its natural habitat for the 6 months, and have a chance to experience what working there as a full-time employee would look like. I wanted to get an idea of the tasks I’d be performing, the organisational structure of the company, what its pain points were and what it was really good at. I had previously not really considered a career in industry, being pretty sure I wanted to pursue academia, so this was a great opportunity to gauge whether industry might be a viable option after all. My expectations were exceeded, at Readify. I obviously can’t speak for the internship program as a whole, although student feedback has always been excellent, but in my case, I got everything I wanted and more from the program.

James: I didn’t have many expectations of preconceptions going into the internship, although I did expect to be doing work that was more related to my degree. The work that I was given was very simple and required only basic scripting knowledge, and basic database knowledge. Undeniably, what I learned at university did put me in a solid position, and helped me solve some problems (that didn’t actually fall into my team’s problem domain).

WLI: I believe you participated in a selection process for the internships you were offered. Please tell me how this selection process works and how you felt about it.

Draga: To begin with, only students with a grade average of 70 and above were eligible to apply for the program. Since this was a requirement for our degree anyway, this didn’t really phase me. I also think from a broader perspective, it’s a fine requirement. Monash’s connections with industry are vital, and it’s important that the students being sent on placement are competent and capable of performing at a graduate level. The application was fairly basic, and I don’t believe resulted in any culling of students. It was only an opportunity to express interest and provide a basic CV which could be used in the later stages. Following this, a ‘maturity and readiness’ interview was held with an industry partner i.e. a representative from one of the IBL companies. This was a brief 10 minute interview and was not technical in any way. It was designed to assess your ability to present yourself as a mature person with some drive, and ability to communicate effectively. Although not everyone ‘passed’ this interview, the vast majority of applicants did, and made it through to the next stage, which was placement interviews. These were held over two consecutive days from 9-5 with company representatives. Each company nominated the degrees they wanted to interview, and as a student you were required to interview with all companies which wanted your degree. Some students didn’t like this, and thought that the students should be able to preference which company they interviewed with. I found this to be a really entitled viewpoint and completely disagreed. The IBL program always tries its best to match as many students as possible with a placement. The goal of the program is to provide industry exposure, not to set you up with your specific dream company. It always seemed to me like students who had a very specific company in mind should go ahead and apply directly to that company, rather than going through the IBL program. It also seemed to me that a 6 month placement would be immeasurably valuable wherever you were placed, so having a negative attitude going in seemed silly to me. Anyway, our degree went through 27 interviews – 18 on the first day and 9 on the second. Companies had a copy of your CV, and after the interview, preferenced you from 1 (being we definitely would like this student) to 3 (this student would not be a good fit). Once the interviews were done, an algorithm did the matching to try to maximise the number of students placed with companies getting their first preferences wherever possible. The interview process was harrowing, as they were both long days, but it was a great learning experience. Everyone will have to go through interviews at some stage in their life, and they can be quite nerve wracking. Practice makes perfect though, so I think this was a great experience. After the preference matching, students were told about their placement company and once the program contract was signed, you were officially an IBL student!

James: To be eligible, students must have maintained an average grade of 70% or above (which I think might have been later dropped to 65%). We were then required to complete an interview with an industry professional to assess our readiness to work in a professional environment. If we were to successfully complete these tasks, we were then invited to two days of interviewing with ~40 companies. These interviews lasted only about 10 minutes each, and following the interview, the company representative would give a score out of 3. 1 means they did not want us to intern with them, 2 meant they were happy but not thrilled, and 3 means they really wanted us.

WLI: I supose you had a coordinator or a tutor. How was your professional and personal relationship with him?

Draga: Our formal coordinator was one of the Delivery Managers, but not a lot of time was spent with him directly. He was by all accounts a great mentor, and we had multiple interesting discussions about what it means to be an IT professional, ways that I could improve myself both personally and professionally, how to balance work and life, and career aspirations in general. The professional and personal relationships were in a lot of ways one and the same, due to the flat structure of the company – we were closer to co-workers than mentor-mentee, and I think this actually improved my ability to learn from him. Throughout the other projects I worked on there was usually someone who would be my ‘go-to’ for technical advice and assistance, but I feel like the mentoring relationship was always a two way street – I learned what I could and imparted whatever knowledge I had, both technical, personal and professional.

James: I’ve never really had a mentor within the field, although I do take Costi’s (Draga’s father) advice and guidance very seriously, but I have had chats with lectures and tutors at uni. I’d ask them what their main field of study/research is and how they ended up in such a position, and this has always given me something valuable to consider.

WLI: How is working in an IT company in Australia (generally as well as from a debutante point of view) or in an IT position in a company? Please refer to the general atmosphere, human relations, hierarchies, day to day operations, work schedule, requirements, responsibilities, opportunities for professional growth, etc.

Draga: I think the experience is (almost) entirely dependent on the company. I roughly see the field split into two types of companies: companies which were founded with the sole purpose of providing IT solutions e.g. Seek, Google and companies which have found themselves through the nature of the modern world to have large IT needs e.g. banks, telecom companies, consultancies like the Big 4, etc. I was placed at Readify, which is a software development consultancy. The atmosphere was incredibly friendly and relaxed. Probably the most striking thing was the flexibility in working days and hours. Employees were encouraged to work from home if it suited them, and some did so even 3 or 4 days a week when not on client site, and working hours were not enforced at all. You were more than welcome to start at 11 o’clock if it suited you, provided of course that you did your weekly hours of work. This flexibility appealed to me a lot and speaks to a burgeoning revolution in company priorities and work-life balance.  The hierarchy was almost non existent, with everyone from the office coordinator to the head of operations working on the same floor, at the same desks, and eating lunch in the same shared kitchen. Fruit, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and biscuits were provided every day, and drinks were always provided on Fridays. There were a variety of leisure activities you could engage in throughout the day or at the end of the day, like pool, table tennis and Xboxes. Everyone I worked with was friendly and inclusive, and above all helpful. People were always happy to give you a hand with figuring out any issue you might be having, and as a new person coming into the office I felt welcomed and included from day 1. As IBL students we were essentially in a graduate role without the added responsibility. We were placed on projects and given tasks commensurate to our skill level, and were fully a part of the project’s progress. All the tasks given to us were meaningful and had genuine impact on the projects – there was no running for coffee. Readify in particular had a keen focus on professional development, and all employees have 24 days a year of professional development time, where they can choose to learn or work on any skill they deem important, on company time. The company also regularly sponsors employees to attend conferences, networking events and training courses. As an example, during my six months there I had the opportunity to take a Professional Scrum Master course, and gain my certification.

Working on an incident reporting tool for Readify as part of the internship.

James: Nab was very hierarchical, as is to be expected from such a large company. IT companies, especially the young/small ones, like to have a “flat structure” for management, which is to say, the chain of command is usually quite small. These companies are also really keen on adapting new frameworks and work methodologies. Agile and Scrum is a good example.

James’s company photo from his internship at NAB (National Australia Bank).

WLI: I am aware you both received job offers at the termination of the internships. What are these offers and how much do they match your expectations and plans for your short term professional development? What were the reasons (in your opinion) you were offered these jobs? Did you accept them? Why?

Draga: I was offered a graduate developer position, and they were more than happy for me to start immediately on a part time basis. I knew I was too busy over the coming six months to take on part time work, and they were flexible enough to allow me to start back with them in February for one day a week in the initial phase. I was quite pleased with the offer as it took a lot of the pressure off of graduating. I enjoyed my time at Readify, I had made friends and become very comfortable with the culture in the office, the work was challenging enough to keep me interested, but I found I was able to easily relax at the end of the day and ‘leave the work at work’. Readify will also soon be going through an interesting transitory phase, so it also piqued my interest to be able to observe this. Finally, I mentioned before that Readify offers Professional Development days for all of its employees, and Graduate Developers get unlimited professional development time, meaning I would be able to rapidly accelerate my career development in comparison to other industry positions. I think my attitude played a big part in being offered the position. I was always flexible and willing to take on more challenging and less clearly defined problems. I was friendly and took part in the office culture and community engagement, volunteering to help out with events, attending community meet-ups, etc. I never did anything I didn’t enjoy, or just for the sake of looking good in front of the supervisors, but I think my attitude made me out to be a good cultural fit for the team. I’m also fairly resourceful, and the work I produced was always of a high standard as well.

James: I was offered a contract to continue to perform the duties of my internship, but in a paid capacity. I don’t know the pay rate offered, I didn’t even ask. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I feel like taking that job would have been a waste of my degree. Its caused me to worry that if I do take a job in industry, that I will have a similar experience with tasks far below what I’m capable of doing. To me, this would be wasting the time I spent at university.

WLI: What do Australian companies do to attract and keep their IT specialists? Do they have difficulties in this respect?

Draga: This is a pretty topical question in Australia. Retention in IT companies is relatively poor, in comparison to what ‘older’ industries would use as a benchmark. It’s very common for IT professionals to switch jobs every 2-3 years, despite having a great work environment. In terms of what companies do, they’ve certainly got their work cut out for them. Paying more isn’t usually enough – lots of companies are willing to pay more. Increasingly, cultural fit and flexibility are becoming some of the main considerations on the job hunt. It’s a job-finder’s market, to an extent. IT professionals (especially competent ones) are privileged enough to have their livelihood more or less assured in the current market. This means the focus switches to life fulfillment and flexibility. Professionals chase jobs and projects which are challenging and exciting, they chase companies which play with the latest technologies and have the capital to allow for trying new things even if they may not work. Companies which are failure-averse are typically seen as hindering innovation and less desirable. From the more practical perspective, being able to choose the hours of work, work from home, take parental and personal leave and have flexibility in choosing (or at least nominating a preference for) the projects you work on are also highly sought after. I believe companies have their hands tied to a certain extent. I think retention is no longer feasible on the scale that it once was, where offering a decent package would secure a professional for life (or at least, for 10 or more years). I don’t even necessarily think it should be a goal. Readify has what they call a ‘revolving door’ policy. It’s quite common for employees who leave, to come back a few years later, and leaving employees are always told the door is open for them to return whenever they wish. And Readify almost sees this as a bonus. This employee has now gained new skills, worked with different technologies, and is bringing across wider network connections – and they’ve done it on somebody else’s dime. Of course there are other considerations, but I think ultimately, blindly aiming for retention is being blind to the potential benefits of a ‘shared’ workforce.

James: A lot of IT companies boast a “hip, cool community/culture” and I think this is what draws a lot of people to their company in particular. I’m not particularly drawn to this, and the more hip and fresh a company tries to appear, the more suspicious I am of them. I’m not too aware of many difficulties, although I have read that the Australian government has recently passed legislation that attempts to force Australian cyber security experts to engineer backdoors into encryption. The “Assistance and Access Laws” go againsts to nature of privacy and encryption, and international companies are now wary of both catering to an Australian market, and hiring Australian cyber security professionals ( https://www.cso.com.au/article/650939/signal-we-can-t-comply-aussie-encryption-law-even-we- wanted/ , https://signal.org/blog/setback-in-the-outback/ )

WLI: What are your short term plans, professional and personal?

Draga: I’ve been at uni now for about 5 years, so it would be great to finally graduate. Because of my personality, I throw myself very passionately and deeply into everything I do, and this has been taxing on me. My very short term plans are to find a position where I can make a decent enough living (Readify has ticked that box) and take a step back, breathe, relax a little, maybe travel some, and reassess my long term goals. Ultimately I think I want to teach. I love tutoring, I love teaching, and I love sharing knowledge. A full-time lecturing position would be my dream, but those do not really exist – there’s always a research component. I do enjoy research, I think I will do a PhD at some point just to make sure my academic pathway is left open. Ideally I’d have an industry sponsored PhD, because the resources available in industry definitely trump those available from government institutions. But then again, if my ultimate goal is just to teach, maybe having a University sponsored one would be a smarter choice? So I think my short term plans are to chill out, earn some money, and figure out a way to get exactly what I want (and also probably what that actually is).

Draga receiving the Cliff Bellamy Award for highest achievement in the Faculty of IT last year

James: I want to finish my honours year (next year, 2020) and get myself a position at Monash University lecturing and/or tutoring, while contributing to research projects. I don’t have desires to make lots of money, just enough to pay back the people who have helped me get to this point in my life.

James tutoring at the Programming Bootcamp.


IT students at painting class.
The tutors team for the Programming Bootcamp (introductory course for new students).

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