Justin Bush graduated from Swinburne in 2011 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Robotics and Mechatronics).
We talk to Justin about how his degree gave him the practical skills and experience to take his career to the next level, and how his work as a technical lead at software consultancy Tigerspike helps to create digital solutions to improve the world we live in.
Why did you choose your course at Swinburne University of Technology?
When I was looking at universities, Swinburne seemed to be known for practical excellence in engineering, so that was definitely a factor. The biggest factor though was that I’ve always “learned by doing” and out of all the universities that I looked at, Swinburne seemed to have the biggest focus on “learning by doing” with their Industry Based Learning program.
Could you give us a brief overview of what you’re doing today, your specific role and contributions?
Today I’m working in the software industry, at a consultancy called Tigerspike. Our reason for being is to improve people’s lives through technology. I’m a technical lead, which means I’m responsible for overseeing a project from a technical perspective, and coordinating a team of developers. At the moment I’m working with a public transport company to help improve the quality of their data, but in past projects I’ve worked with startups to get products to market and a national retailer to develop a cashier-less shopping experience.
What were the key relationships that mattered most or the key sources of support/resistance that you encountered when starting your career?
After I graduated, I went travelling for a year. When I got back to Australia, I was a little worried that I’d struggle to find work, and I still wasn’t really sure where I wanted to work. The relationships that mattered most were my friends from university who were already working in industry. Through them I was able to get referrals for jobs and get some insight into what companies were looking for.
In the end, my anxiety was probably a little unfounded as it actually wasn’t too hard to find a job, but knowing someone in a company prior to applying for a job is definitely a good way to have some assurance about the culture you’re signing up for. In fact, when I decided that I wanted a change from the first company that I worked for, the first thing I did was ask my friends in the industry for referrals, and it was through one of these referrals that I ended up at Tigerspike.
What has been most rewarding about your career so far?
A few things come to mind. Firstly, working in a job that is fulfilling, and feeling appreciated and empowered by your employer are pretty rewarding. Not since I was working a casual role during uni have I caught myself looking at my watch wondering how long it is until I can go home!
I think what’s been most rewarding for me though, is working in consultancy - as opposed to working in-house for a company. In-house you get to know one domain really well, but in consultancy you get to deep dive into a myriad of domains. One of my favourite books as a kid was “The Way Things Work”, as it really fed my curiosity. That’s my life every day now. One month I’m learning the ins and outs of electricity meter reading, another month I’m learning about the different stages of the property conveyancing process, and the next I’m unravelling the intricacies of timetabling for public transport services.
What are the practical things you’ve done or implemented that you feel has set you apart / helped you stand out from the crowd?
As a kid, my folks enrolled my sister and me in public speaking lessons. I think this is one thing that has helped set me apart. In most lines of work, you’re going to have to call on your presentation skills at some point. Whether it’s presenting findings to a client, advocating for a change at your work, or explaining a new concept to a colleague; being able to articulate your ideas and do so confidently, in my experience, go a long way.
What would you say to someone who might be on a similar journey as you?
Don’t be afraid to course-correct. I actually started out in an Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering degree and changed to Mechatronics Engineering with two years of study to go. I thought about changing degrees for a while. I thought I would enjoy Mechatronics much more, but part of me felt like I should just finish what I started. I worried too that changing degrees, so far along in my studies, showed that I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Which was the truth, and what’s more, still is! And I came to realise that that’s ok.
In the end, I don’t think I’ll ever work in a mechanical or electronic engineering role, but I’m really glad that I made the decision to change to Mechatronics all the same. It was a great experience, and that’s what uni should be about - exploring your passions.
Where do you see yourself in 2025?
In 2025? Geez, that seems like a long way away! Did I mention that I’m not much of a planner? Well, I’ll still be working, possibly part-time to have time with my kids (none at this stage). Best guess, I think I’ll most likely still be in consultancy, probably still in an engineering role, but less on the tools, and leading more.
Unless of course I come across a software role for a product that aligns really well with a cause that I’m super passionate about, in which case I might leave the consultancy world behind.