Mitchell’s idea to become an engineer sprouted from watching his father build his family home throughout his childhood “I’ve always had an interest in structures, but particularly buildings. I blame a combination of the TV show Grand Designs and my dad’s efforts building our family home. Fortunately, both the show and my dad are still building to this day 20 years later, so it’s been great to see (if you ask dad now he’ll finally admit to biting off more than he could chew with the house … only took 20 years).
What are the advantages of a secondment?
According to Mitchell, secondments open up countless opportunities. They help to acquire new skills, in-depth industry knowledge, and encourage you to take on new challenges. “Simply put, same work but different office … the beauty about combining travel and engineering is that you learn to work with changing natural elements, different design parameters and new systems on how things are done from location to location, as well as meeting various characters.
In particular, the great thing about engineering is that it’s a universal language and it can take you anywhere, from some random street on the South Island in New Zealand, to the beaches of Exmouth, to the desert oasis that is Meekatharra (great place and even better pub!). The numbers are all similar, but the design parameters and project challenges change every time!”
“In Melbourne, I really enjoyed working on several projects with one of the bigger highlights being a King Living Whitehouse furniture shop extension project. It was a great mix of existing and new structure that we were asked by the Architect to completely gut and then tie back together. The project utilised a range of building practices including steel framing, precast panels and suspended composite slabs which made it a challenging but rewarding job. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the differences between Melbourne and Perth regarding achieving BCA compliance (Building Code of Australia), different building practices between the states and how each team operates. Overall, it was a good time.”
Unique company culture perspective
In addition to all those valuable insights, Mitchell believes that individuals taking on secondments are also exposed to a rather unique vantage point – a first-row seat to immersing yourself in the company culture. “The secondments help to understand what the business is about and get a better idea as to how to pluck the good from each place and possibly transfer them to the other. They help to make the systems better. I think each office has something to provide.
The culture at WGA to me is the main selling point, the balance between work hard and work-life balance, is something that not many places have achieved and it’s a constant battle to uphold. The fact that most people in leadership roles recognise the importance of this balance gives me hope that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”
‘Secondment first-timers’ – hear out!
While Secondments can be exhilarating, Mitchell reminds us that it is also important to acknowledge the spectrum of highs and lows that come with it.
“Secondments can become trying at times with, occasionally leading to feelings of disconnection or solitude. After all, you drop your life and familiar surroundings in Perth or wherever you come from and land in a completely new city. That being said, it can be a great time to focus on your work and getting to know yourself better and it goes by in a flash so lean into it!
Melbourne has many cool places to enjoy (especially when the footy season is on), from the food, to the bars, to weekend trips outside the city, you never run out of things to do (only time and money!)! Highlights have definitely been the Corporate Triathlon in my first week, watching footy with folks from the office and weekend hikes out of town!
Consider it an excellent social shake-up and a mini working holiday wrapped together—a healthy way to experience a change of workplace without having to change jobs.”