Where did you grow up? Talk us through some important stages of your life in regards to your schooling, education, experience abroad and so forth.
I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole life. I went to high school at Santa Maria College in Northcote and studied a Bachelor of Information Technology at La Trobe University in Bundoora. I was working in various casual and part-time jobs as soon as I could (14 years and 9 months to be exact). In my second year of study at university I got a job representing Microsoft. This was a role focusing on marketing, sales and merchandising for Microsoft products and services in retail stores across Australia, such as JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman. After graduating, I took a year off and travelled the world (all continents except Antarctica – 46 countries and counting).
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I am currently in the graduate program at Coles and have been here just short of 18 months. I applied online, which saw me through to a full-day interview process amongst around 500 or more other graduates from around Australia.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
The Coles graduate program has a great reputation for a fantastic acceleration into your career straight out of university. I had heard about the opportunities Coles could provide its graduates and of course, being one of the largest national companies, it oozes an almost never-ending range of long-term career opportunities. At the time of applying, I had been browsing for a step in the door at any IT company, but found that I didn’t quite know exactly what role I wanted to go for. The Coles graduate program presented as an opportunity to work that out, while building skills along the way and not losing my passion for IT.
Coles has such an array of jobs and business areas, which made it even more appealing as I always knew I wanted to be in the IT industry and this job didn’t close those doors for me despite Coles not being a tech company.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The interview process was a challenging and competitive experience. It began with two rounds of group interviews in which you were asked to discuss two different case studies amongst a group of fellow applicants. After this, there was a round of one-on-one interviews that then saw you through to the last round where you were given time to prepare for a business-idea pitch related to Cole’s current challenges. I remember leaving the interview wanting the job more than when I got there, as it was also a great display of Coles as a company and it’s well known cultural reputation. It was definitely the hardest interview I’ve had to go through, which made it all the more satisfying when receiving the call two weeks later!
What does your employer do?
Coles is one of the largest grocery retailers in Australia, as well as having chains in service stations, financial services and the liquor industry.
What are your areas of responsibility?
Being in the graduate program, the level of responsibility can be completely driven by your own interests and drive to learn and grow. I generally have been focusing on IT project work, eg a focus on business analyst and project management focused roles. I was also lucky enough to work on the Coles Digital Strategy and do some work around more high-level and strategic focuses for Digital as a whole.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
A typical work day would be full of interactions and engagements with all parts of the business. I am currently working in the Liquor Digital team whereby there is a program of work that allows us to continuously improve and deliver in the IT space. For example, I am currently focusing on four different initiatives for this program of work and am able to manage a small project team to deliver the IT needs of the Liquor business.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
The main career prospects from the pathway I’ve gone down is business analyst to project manager. I would particularly like to work towards an engagement lead type of role, where I would be the main point of contact between IT and the rest of the Coles business.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Definitely. We get plenty of graduates who come through Digital and have never studied IT at all. There are many pathways you could take within Digital that don’t require a niche skill set.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I believe I’d be on a very similar pathway, however the opportunities that Coles has provided me in the graduate program have allowed me an accelerated start to my career.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love the engagement and interactions with all the people and teams across the business. I love working with stakeholders and assisting with finding a strategic IT solution that will benefit Coles – whether it’s a small scale initiative or a multimillion-dollar project. There is always a sense of pride and true accomplishment which helps to keep me motivated. The one thing I love about the graduate program here is that you are given full responsibility and accountability for your work, which has truly set us up for our future career.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job?
The biggest limitation is that being in such a large company it can be difficult to come to conclusions quickly, as there are necessary processes in place that can take a lot of time out of your week.
Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
There is a healthy amount of responsibility at my level. Being a graduate you are expected to take ownership but are given plenty of support to ensure you are able to continue to learn and make mistakes. I am not expected to work on weekends, which ties into being able to wind down at the end of the week if the stress levels get high. Naturally in a large company things can get stressful and demanding, but having a supportive team makes all the difference.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?