Ready for the future
GradX participants reap benefits of program while contributing to Australia’s Defence
The chance to work on “some pretty cool high-tech stuff,” as well as “incredible support” throughout his final year of university, are what drew Liam Parker to apply for Raytheon Australia’s GradX program.
Parker was among 10 undergraduates selected in 2020 for the GradX program, where students receive $5,000, a paid internship during his final year of study, the support of a mentor and, importantly, a guaranteed full-time job upon graduation (subject to successful completion of studies).
GradX saw a second group join in February 2021, and a third will start the program in February 2022.
“I applied for the GradX program because I had been interested in working in defence for quite a while throughout university and because you have the chance to work on some pretty cool high-tech stuff that you don’t really get anywhere else in the industry. That was a big draw to me,” Parker said.
“Job security was also a big one because it’s an industry that’s really going places,” he said. “Also, in South Australia, defence is definitely picking up, and there’s more and more on the horizon.”
Parker graduated in 2020 with a degree in mechatronic engineering – a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science.
At the beginning of 2021, he started working for the company full-time as a systems engineer on the LAND 19 Phase 7B project.
“It has been fantastic being able to see the full engineering lifecycle for a big project like this, transitioning from design to integration into acceptance testing, on to production – so seeing all the different stages across the project,” said Parker.
“I am really enjoying getting hands-on with all the equipment and seeing theory that I’d been studying at university being applied to solve real world problems,” he said. “Even if I’m not going through and solving all of the long-winded equations like I would be doing at university, I’m still relying on a lot of that knowledge to understand how all the different components work.”
Parker said he works as a systems engineer most of the time and every couple of weeks gets together with other GradX participants and some of the leaders of Raytheon Australia to hear and share stories.
“I also had support from my mentor who helped me out with my final year project, professional development and that sort of thing,” Parker said.
“That really stood out to me, having that support throughout your final year of university, as well as the chance for a bit of internship work to give you a head start and get you ready for full-time work,” he said.
Mentors provide a guiding light
Mentors play a key role in the development of GradX participants, guiding them through their last year of university as they take their first step into the workforce and then supporting them as they progress.
Merwan Khoury’s eagerness to share his wealth of knowledge and experience with others made him an ideal candidate for a mentoring role when Raytheon Australia launched its innovative GradX program in 2020.
With more than a decade of informal mentoring experience, Khoury volunteered as a GradX mentor to support those starting out in their profession.
He said it gave him great pleasure to see people excel in their field and reach their full potential.
“I love to see them apply their best, and a little bit more, and strive to reach those goals they’ve set,” said Khoury, a Raytheon Australia engineering fellow, software discipline lead and chief engineer.
One highlight of his mentoring, pre-GradX, was to actively support a graduate into a management position within seven years, when usually this would be expected to take between 10 and 15 years.
“What I did as a mentor actually helped the individual reach their goals earlier then they had planned,” Khoury said.
Within the GradX program, Khoury meets his mentees at least once a month for a session of one hour or more, although he has an open-door policy if they ever need to discuss anything.
“I let the mentee do a lot of the talking – about 70% – so I can be an active listener, soak all of it in and provide some experiences for them to draw back on,” Khoury said.
Khoury has informally mentored four young engineers within Raytheon Australia and two engineers under the GradX program. He said that he is looking forward to supporting another later in 2021.
It’s one thing to learn how submarines work and help reengineer their design, but it’s quite another to know firsthand what the Australia’s sailors face deep in the ocean’s vastness.
Getting an up-close look at a submarine was “a real eye-opener” for Courtney Battle, a GradX participant and systems engineer for Raytheon Australia
“You see all these pictures of the submarines and get told they are really small, and this can’t fit here or there, but to actually see one in person and see what the sailors have to deal with daily — it’s a real eye opener and really helps you to picture things a lot better,” Battle said.
Battle was studying mechanical and mechatronic engineering at the University of South Australia when she applied for the program having reviewed all the benefits.
“I already had an interest in defence and defence engineering but the support in my final year and the work experience Raytheon Australia was offering was such a good opportunity,” she said.
Battle said the support of her Raytheon Australia mentor while she was in her final year of university and when she started working at the company had also proved invaluable.
“At university, our discussions were mostly via phone calls. Now we catch up have a coffee and talk about how things are going,” she said.
“That really was a standout for me,” Battle said. “The support, which isn’t offered in a lot of other places, having a senior mentor, gaining work experience and getting a job out of it so you know you have genuine security to finish university and have a career at the end.”
Battle has also shared her experiences and knowledge with others, recently speaking to girls interested in pursuing careers in STEM.
“Hopefully it will help get some more young people into engineering,” she said.
Battle encourages other undergraduates to apply for the GradX program and “give it a go; give it their best shot.”
The GradX door is open to undergraduates across a wide variety of disciplines. Minh Nguyen, who studied a commerce degree at The University of Adelaide, was attracted to the program as he knew it would give him the chance to combine two of his key interests – technology and finance.
“I’ve always had an interest in technology, but specialising in finance, it is difficult to come by roles where we get to see both the technology and the finance sides. So that naturally drew me to defence,” said Nguyen, who majored in Corporate Finance.
“When I saw that Raytheon Australia was offering the GradX program, I thought it was a really good opportunity,” he said. “There is a lot of support going through the final year of university as well as a guaranteed position after we graduate, plus so many other benefits. So, I had to put my name down for that.”
Nguyen has been working for Raytheon Australia full-time since October 2020 in the financial planning and analysis team and will soon move to project accounting, the team responsible for recording costs and completing forecasts.
“We have so much going on in finance, and my job is different every day. That makes it really interesting,” he said.
“I would tell students doing finance-related degrees that going straight into accounting or a ‘Big Four’ firm is not the only option,” Nguyen said.
“In fact, there are so many options out there, like working in defence. It’s really cool.”