How John Edward Collins began his career as a tech entrepreneur

John Edward Collins, headshot

John Edward Collins did a one-year diploma through Swinburne online whilst bootstrapping to grow his tech start-up, CareerLounge. Now only 28, this entrepreneur shares how he got started in business.

“I’m Branding Communications Director at CareerLounge, a business I co-founded with my mum, Dominique Fisher. What I really do is whatever the business asks me to do, but with a focus on branding and product strategy.

I was quite frustrated transitioning from high school to further education. I spent three months at one university and lasted eight months at another. In hindsight, as a 28 year-old, I’d love to have a Bachelor of Business but there was no way I could have stuck it out then. I did know I was interested in branding, design and marketing. I also knew I would never be happy working for someone else.

In 2008 we had what we thought was a great idea – CareerLounge. It’s a web development house that builds applications. We work with educators, industry and students equally to help people on their professional journey.

We spent two to three years proving the business model. We are now in our ninth year of operation. Like many start-up businesses we self-funded, bootstrapping to keep operating, and now have a group of really incredible shareholders backing us.

A couple of years into my business I did a Diploma of Project Management through Swinburne online. The course validated and refined a lot of the ideas we had for the business.

"Commitment to a degree is a commitment to an industry, so get experience in that industry early."

Project management is about establishing workflows and coordinating people, projects and plans in order to reach an outcome. Much of the work I was doing in the business was ticking off core components of the diploma.

I never actually met my lecturer face to face, yet he was involved in the processes I was running in my business as a user of our online project management tools. Our learning was a two-way street. We were able to share and collaborate and I was able to introduce him to new ideas whilst learning project management fundamentals. For example, we were using an online project management tool he hadn’t even seen before.

We just launched Paddl. It is designed to help students find casual work related to their course.

If you’re studying engineering at Swinburne but pulling beers at the Hawthorn pub, we want to put you in an entry-level role at an engineering firm. Even doing reception at an engineering firm puts you in a role more aligned to your career. Whereas if you’re a William Angliss student who wants a career in hospitality we want to put you into a role at a pub.

We are working with companies such as Myer and Australia Post and educators such as Deakin, Holmesglen Institute and reputable registered training organisations.

The advice I give students is not to waste time. Every opportunity is a learning experience, yet there is no time like the present to jump right into the industry you are studying to see if this is what you really want to do. Commitment to a degree is a commitment to an industry, so get experience in that industry early.

The start of your career is day one of your degree, not the last six days when everyone has a panic attack and tries to figure out what graduate programs they can get into.

When you enrol in a course, even working only a casual role in that industry while you study can fast-track your career.”