5 STEM grads walk us through their first big gigs

Graduate jobs
Vikram was working at Mexican taqueria chain Guzman y Gomez when he applied for a grad gig at AVEVA.

Thinking about hunting down a graduate role? We talk to five grads who found employment straight out of uni

Graduate gigs – often contracted between one to four years – are entry level jobs designed to introduce fresh uni graduates to a company or industry that aligns with their study experience and career goals.

The structured programs often often rotate across departments, which allows for a broad development of skills and exposure to a variety of different roles. Although they aren’t the only option for university graduates, they generally provide a more extensive career development program than other entry-level jobs.

The best graduate programs will provide:

  • Extensive induction and training programs
  • Mentoring programs
  • Career progression planning
  • Excellent supervision and feedback
  • Compensation and benefits
  • A good work/life balance and inclusive company culture

Which graduate employer is for you?

There are loads of ways to seek out a suitable graduate employer. Most uni’s will share job opportunities with students in their final year, and lists like the The Australian Financial Review’s Top Graduate Employers list are a great resource.

We asked five STEM graduates about what’s involved in their awesome roles.

1. Anika Fechner-Head, Graduate Environmental Scientist

Graduate jobs
Anika would eventually like to combine her love for environmental science with her passion for empowering women.

These days Anika is applying all the communication, leadership, management, tech, stakeholder relations and networking skills that she learnt at Macquarie Uni in her first paid grad gig at SAGE Environmental Services. She spends nine to five assisting an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) auditor with contaminated land projects – checking businesses are complying with environmental laws around soil, groundwater and vapour.

“I attend sites, collect samples, review results and identify areas of concern in line with government regulations,” Anika says of her busy work day. “And then there’s the business development, proposals and report writing.”

Although field work has been on pause during the pandemic, Anika is very much excited about getting into that part of the job, particularly considering how much she loved it at uni. And then there’s a bunch of extracurricular stuff she’s keen to tick off. “I would eventually like to combine my love for environmental science with my passion for empowering women somehow,” says Anika. “Whether that be in the field of women in STEM and First Nations knowledge – the sky is the limit!

Read Anika’s full profile here.

2. Christine Vinaviles, Cyber Security Graduate

Christine says her cyber End User Experience (EUX) role at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is her most fulfilling yet. She explains her job as “helping reduce malware and cyber attacks by analysing the applications used and creating the group policy that gets deployed”. Plus, she gets to practice some sweet skills every day, like “problem-solving to find the balance between mitigating attacks and not disrupting an employee’s ability to complete their work requirements”, as well as education and communication skills – because “one of the most common cyber attack methods is social engineering, which exploits people psychologically,” she explains.

Graduate role
Christine says her cyber End User Experience (EUX) role at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is her most fulfilling yet.

Christine’s career path has helped her over her biggest hurdle – finding her voice and confidence to speak up. “It’s not uncommon to feel imposter’s syndrome and doubt what you know and your abilities,” she says.

Christine is keen for everyone to know that there are plenty of opportunities in STEM, and “no one should be afraid to throw yourself in the deep end… that’s when you grow the most. There are also lots of other people in the same boat as you so don’t be afraid to reach out”

Read Christine’s full profile here.

3. Ahnaf Rahman, Graduate Cyber Security Test Engineer

Ahnaf studied a Bachelor of Information Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) through a Co-operative Scholarship Program, which has a focus on work placements, internships and industry experience.

It was through this program that Ahnaf was able to land his current graduate gig at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), where he is employed as a cyber security test engineer.

“Testing is a crucial role as it ensures potential bugs are captured, documented, and fixed prior to a project going live,” he explains. “Often, I am the only person standing between a crippling software bug and a flawless project deployment.”

Graduate job
Ahnaf believes tech – especially cyber security – is an exciting and welcoming space for young people to build their careers, bringing a range of skillsets.

Ahnaf – who is a football enthusiast and car lover when he’s not working in cyber security at Australia’s biggest bank – says one of the highlights of his CBA grad role has been all the opportunities available outside his day-to-day work.

“One of my favourites is contributing to the monthly newsletter created by graduates called GradNote,” he says. “To date, I have written pieces about Eid [festival] and managing stress.”

Read Ahnaf’s full profile here.

4. Ruhi Pelia, Enterprise Services Graduate

Graduate job
Ruhi works in enterprise services at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), which runs and supports the technology for the bank.

Ruhi works in enterprise services at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), which runs and supports the technology for the bank – from customer products to essential tools for employees. Her day-to-day involves analysing her team’s current processes and technologies to identify pain points and provide recommendations for improvements, developing tools and features to assist with automating tasks, and analysing and modelling data to help drive business proposals.

As for the coolest project she’s worked on at CBA so far? Creating a forecast tool that predicts the incoming work volume over 2021. This involved learning a new technical skill – scripting. Ruhi says the project was meaningful because she could see the impact she had made for her team and CBA’s customers. “I was also reminded that it’s never too late to learn a new skill that may originally have seemed daunting,” she says.

Read Ruhi’s full profile here.

5. Vikram Adityan, Digital solutions graduate engineer

If you’d asked 22-year-old chef Vikram Adityan if in three years’ time he’d be pursuing a career in technology he would’ve laughed. Computer science and cooking couldn’t be more different, right?

Graduate jobs
Vikram was working at Mexican taqueria chain Guzman y Gomez when he applied for a grad gig at AVEVA.

Fast forward to October 2020 and Brisbane-based Bachelor of Engineering (computer and software systems) graduate, Vikram is 12 months into a highly-coveted graduate program offered by one of the world’s leading industrial and engineering technology firms, AVEVA.

With just 30 successful candidates from more than 5,000 applicants across four continents  (Oceania, Europe, North America & Asia), Vikram likens the soft skills he used in his days as a cook to those he uses in his graduate role.

“The two careers are so alike in so many ways, just that at AVEVA there is 0% risk of getting yelled at and 100% less risk of burning yourself,” Vikram says of his unique pathway shake-up.

Read Vikram’s full profile here.


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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