By:  Heather Catchpole
March 3rd, 2018

Graduate programs

Getting into a top graduate program

Cochlear’s Chief Software Architect Victor Rodrigues reveals what makes a prospective graduate stand out.

An excellent graduate program helped accelerate my career progress.

I arrived in Australia at the turn of the century. The trigger for leaving South Africa to move here was a little-known industrial automation software called Citect. I was inspired by this Australian invention, that back then was simply the most advanced, most innovative software in its industry.

It had been less than 10 years since I graduated from university with an Electrical Engineering degree, but the first five years were the most formative. The company that employed me as a fresh graduate had a fantastic graduate program, and equipped me with essential skills that have served me well for the past 25 years.

Today I look back on the 16 years I have been at Cochlear – another great Australian innovation – and am proud to have been part of an organisation that excels at nurturing young talent.

We’ve been running our own graduate program at Cochlear for the last 10 years. Many of the graduates who began their careers in that program are now in leadership positions and excelling at their jobs. One of the reasons it has been so successful is because Cochlear focuses on hiring people with skills that set them up for success.

Possessing the technical fundamentals taught in STEM-based degrees is only part of what we look for in a prospective graduate. Other important attributes are intuition, creativity, critical thinking, communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively within and between multidisciplinary teams.

Collaboration in particular has become such an important attribute in a young people entering graduate programs. I cannot emphasize enough the need to develop this ability early, especially when aspiring to leadership roles… Continue reading

More from Masterclass

Continue reading


The days of the lone, genius contributor have all but gone. Today, the projects and startups that produce ground-breaking products achieve this because of the team-collaboration factor. Nothing says this more outspokenly than when Atlassian listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market and named their stock symbol “TEAM”.

Perhaps another undervalued characteristic in graduates is curiosity, coupled with the eagerness to experiment without the fear of failure. A number of companies have a graduate program that formalises this process.

Google and Atlassian are two companies that have successfully implemented 20% experiment time. There are countless examples of successful products that were born from these programs, such as Gmail, AdSense and Google News.

Often in an interview I will ask a candidate what they do in their spare time – the things they don’t put on their resumes, which might indicate a genuine thirst for knowledge.

Looking more closely at the foundation of Australian graduates, I’d like to add a few thoughts on STEM education. In a 2014 Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute report, Kelly Roberts provides some disturbingly low participation rates of women in STEM subjects.

Let us build STEM capability at an early age and nurture it. Let us learn reasoning and critical thinking skills as young as possible. These skills are the means to building a stronger Australia.

– Victor Rodrigues, Chief Software Architect, Cochlear

Graduate program

“An undervalued characteristic is curiosity, coupled with the eagerness to experiment without the fear of failure.”

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs

Recommended for you