Engineering Graduate story: nothing happens without a reason

Meet Joshua Leach, he studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Griffith and now works as a Mechanical Engineer for one of the world’s premier infrastructure firm AECOM. Joshua shares his journey and insight to some of his career highlights on how he got to where he is now.

Where are you working now?

I’m currently employed by AECOM. It sounds like a bit of a fairy tale but I moved to Brisbane (from Gold Coast) and lived across the street from the AECOM office and always wanted to work for a large company (in such a nice office) with so many opportunities – the AECOM sign was in my direct line of site every morning when I made breakfast.

Share something exciting about your job?

I could talk about exciting projects and the sheer scale of some of the projects we work on but what really stands out at AECOM is the culture. Going to work is part social outing and part work. It makes a difference when you enjoy spending time with the people you work with. Additionally, as AECOM is a global company, I am currently planning to relocate overseas temporarily to gain experience in another country while working for AECOM. The opportunities within AECOM are a real standout.

What have been some of your career highlights?

I’m an advocate of wide-ranging experiences; whether that be travel or a project that is on the edge of my usual capabilities. Currently, I am midway through the design of a health facility refurbishment in Cairns where sometimes I get to spend the weekend exploring Far North Queensland. Another project, nearing construction completion, involving a Defence facility that has tested my capabilities and something that I’m not likely to see again in Australia which has been very interesting and challenging.

“ University is a fun and exciting time of your life, make the most of it! ”

How did Griffith prepare you for your career now?

Two things stand out that I did not think were going to impact me as much as they did positively:

  • Group projects with randomly selected members – For reasons that are now obvious; a workplace is precisely that, a group project where you don’t have a say in your team members. You have to learn to get the best out of people and ensure they enjoy what they do – everybody is different, and workplace culture is paramount.
  • Industry Affiliates Program (IAP) now Work Intergrated Learning (WIL) – similar to my work experience, but more extreme as I did my placement in Guangzhou, China. Griffith also helped me to obtain a scholarship through the New Colombo Plan (NCP) grant, which funded my three months and five days in China.
What was your experience finding employment after university?

The Griffith Partnership Office that manages IAP, assited me greatly by sharing recorded lectures and workshops that helped with meeting Engineers Australia criteria, developing a CV, developing a function LinkedIn profile (essential) and also suggesting extracurricular groups and events to attend.

Through these activities I have been able to expand my professional network and meet some inspiring people that are more than happy to help young aspiring graduates. These people were the pathway to gaining employment. Through Griffith, I was able to secure a position on the Engineers Australia Gold Coast Regional Group and Griffith University Industry Reference Group.

What would be your top advice to current students?
  • Choose electives wisely. Remember that they should be interesting, fun and have minimal impact on your essential subjects.
  • Join groups within Griffith, from experience; Camping Boating and Fishing (not sure if this is still running but we are still producing merchandise), Griffith Racing Team (students other than engineers are very much encouraged and this is as close to a professional workplace you will get while at university and is also fun).
  • Spend a fair amount of time regularly updating your LinkedIn profile, starting with a professional photo then with current projects and employment – it all matters!
  • Do not send spamming emails or LinkedIn messages – meet people face to face at events or get referrals through mutual associates. If you do get a referral but don’t get what you want out of the referral, make sure you keep in contact with the person of interest. The amount of times that students that have been referred to me that I could not give a job and never heard from them again is embarrassing – you never know what the future holds.
  • Step outside of your comfort zone and study abroad – an overseas internship is easily the best experience I have had and is a gold star on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Expand your network whenever you can. If you meet someone who is genuinely inspiring, ask them to grab a coffee, you have nothing to lose and usually, these people are more than willing to help out the future generation of eager professionals.
  • Find at least one mentor – there is no excuse for not having a mentor.
  • In line with above, I gained employment through the people I knew, not by submitting job applications to random companies (although I tried with around 100 job applications in 2016). For example, AECOM ANZ receives around 4,500 graduate applications a year and hire approximately 150 across all industries and professions. If you aren’t in the top 1% of graduates, then you need referrals. If you are in the top 1%, do you want to be put on that pedestal with those expectations?
  • It is highly unlikely that you will work in the company you are first employed by for the rest of your life while enjoying it. Try different companies but be wary of trying too many. Absolutely do not stay at a company you dislike just because it is secure. Find a company with a great culture, and I believe everything else will fall in place.
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