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Careers that count: Meet maths grads with jobs at CBA

Maths careers

Meet three maths grads forging exciting careers at the Commonwealth Bank

Tharini Sooriyakumaran, Analytics Graduate, Commonwealth Bank

Tharini always enjoyed maths and problem-solving, but it wasn’t until attending a maths and technology event that she set her sights on a career with numbers.

“The event showcased cool technologies that used mathematical concepts,” she recalls. “For the first time, it was something I could really connect with and it excited me about the future I could be a part of!”

So, Tharini signed up for a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies at UNSW, coupled with a Bachelor of Commerce. “This degree would provide the opportunity to use my passion for maths in a practical setting – specifically, to use data and numbers as a tool to navigate risk and uncertainty,” she says.

Maths careers
Tharini Sooriyakumaran loves the black-and-white nature of maths and data – but she’s also learnt that navigating your career path involves dealing with shades of grey! Image: Lauren Trompp

Navigating uncertainty

One problem a maths formula couldn’t solve was where Tharini would take her career. But embracing that uncertainty was important, she says.

“One of the things I would have loved to have known back in school is to not put too much pressure on defining your career path too early,” says Tharini. “The skills you learn via a maths or data degree are so versatile and can be applied to a range of STEM roles, so it really is okay if you’re interested in STEM but not entirely sure what you want to do.”

As it turns out, Tharini landed a job as an Analytics Graduate at Commonwealth Bank, where she now works analysing and modelling data to better understand – and help – the bank’s customers. For example, she recently worked on helping to identify unique customer spending habits and their relationship to risk.

“What I enjoyed most about this piece of work is that it helped me understand the human element behind the technical work of analytics and data science,” she says.

While Tharini may not know exactly where her future career path will lead, her goal is to stick with banking and analytics, and she is confident that maths has given her a robust foundation for the future.

“With STEM careers constantly evolving, it’s not about how much you know, but about how you can effectively learn new information and make sense of ambiguous problems,” she says. – Gemma Chilton

Tharini’s pathway

  • Bachelor of Actuarial Studies/Bachelor of Commerce, UNSW
  • Global Markets Summer Analyst, Citi
  • Analytics Graduate, Commonwealth Bank

Ryan Suckling, Technology Graduate, Commonwealth Bank

When he was younger, Ryan loved science – especially fun, hands-on experiments – but turning that passion into a STEM career wasn’t always easy.

“I struggled with knowing how to study and I wasn’t the best student. I didn’t think I would be able to go to uni,” he recalls.

But Ryan was able to turn things around just before exam time and managed to get into one of his course preferences – a combined Bachelor of Mathematics (Statistics) and a Bachelor of Science (Physics) at the University of Newcastle.

Maths careers
From a kid who loved science experiments to a tough final year at high school – Ryan Suckling has kickstarted a bright career with data. Image: Lauren Trompp

Keep trying

“I think a lot of people don’t realise that failing is OK. You can always pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying,” he says.

While studying full-time at uni, Ryan was also working night shifts – a workload that started to hurt his grades. Unable to make more time to study, he instead developed more efficient study methods, bringing up his grades to the point of being recognised on his faculty’s commendation list two years in a row.

Ryan’s advice? “Be patient,” he says. “Maths needs a solid foundation. Building that is a better use of your time than trying to learn ahead of where you should be. It’s ok to find things difficult, eventually they’ll click.”

Now, as a Technology Graduate at Commonwealth Bank, it’s Ryan’s job to ensure new and existing data solutions are in line with the bank’s data strategy, and that “they also meet the needs of the people who use them,” he explains.

Ryan has come a long way since high school – and he couldn’t have done it without being surrounded by supportive, encouraging people. “My biggest future goal would be to support others in the same ways that I have been supported throughout my early career,” he says. – Gemma Chilton

Ryan’s pathway

  • Bachelor of Mathematics (Statistics) / Bachelor of Science (Physics), University of Newcastle
  • Technology Graduate, Commonwealth Bank

Mark Varney, Devops Engineer, Commonwealth Bank

Mark was never into maths in high school. In fact he only discovered his affinity for STEM while he was doing an arts degree – majoring in journalism – at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

“I did a very basic web design subject and enjoyed using the HTML/CSS to code up a web page,” he explains. “At the time I was also into amateur music production and became obsessed with building homemade gear which required electronics knowledge too.”

Gradually – at home and at uni – Mark got more into computer science and after graduating from the journalism degree that turned out not to be his thing, he signed up for a Masters of IT.

“I decided that I wanted a job in tech and settled on programming after I got over the initial brain pain,” he laughs.

A snap decision to upskill and add a Graduate Certificate in Maths to his list of qualifications further advanced Mark’s understanding of complex computing science subjects like machine learning, algorithmic efficiency and computer graphics.

“The structured logical thinking has proved really useful to the technical problems I face daily,” he says.

Maths careers
As a devOps engineer, Mark Varney spends his 9 to 5 mixing advanced computer science concepts with the logic of maths. Image: Lyssa Trompp

Bank on it

One of the most exciting real-world projects from Mark’s Masters involved working alongside Commonwealth Bank software engineers.

The vibe of the company, alongside the exciting opportunities they boasted for tech grads, convinced him to apply for an internship – and later a spot in Commonwealth Bank’s graduate program.

As a fresh grad, Mark helped create the code that allowed consumers to do their banking online. “If you’ve ever made or received a payment using the CommBank app, there’s a good chance you’ve used code that I’ve worked on,” he says.

However he soon became curious about what was going on in the level underneath that – servers, clouds, sandboxes, environments and processes – and is now more focused on supporting developers within the business to deploy and test their apps.

“Being a devOps engineer is very technical,” Mark says, joking that “people at parties never understand my job!” – Cassie Steel

Mark’s pathway

  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication, UTS (Journalism)
  • Masters of Information Technology, UTS (Software Development)
  • Graduate Certificate of Mathematics, UTS
  • Graduate Software Engineer, Commonwealth Bank
  • DevOps Engineer, Commonwealth Bank

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2022 in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank.


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