Growing up, Philip Bowrey spent much of his time learning and playing in the virtual world. After realising that he could use his digital dexterity to help his friends and family through their technical issues, Philip decided to pursue a Bachelor of Information Technology at JCU. During his study, Philip not only found lifelong friends but the confidence to step into the position of Cyber Analytics Engineer at Allianz Australia.
What made you pursue a career in IT?
I have always been a curious person. I am someone who could spend hours reading about obscure parts of history, the anatomy of animals or fundamental scientific theories that you hear about but don’t really learn about. I was also pretty introverted during my childhood and computers and the internet allowed me to find out anything I could ever want to know and play games for endless hours, all while never having to interact with a human being. Being the technology solver for my family and wider friendship group also gave me a sense of purpose and value in a relatively large family. As time went on, I got more social and found my place more but always kept my fascination with computers and technology.
What subjects did you study in high school?
I actually did not study any computer-related subjects in my final years of high school and this did not provide even the slightest barrier in my degree. My electives were Ancient History, Graphic Design, Physics, Chemistry and Religion – not really a combination that shouts future IT professional. I honestly think this is one of the best things that I could have done. The ‘soft’ subjects I did made me nurture my creativity, communication skills and investigation ability. The ‘hard’ subjects allowed me to develop my problem solving and analytic skills and made me comfortable with equations and logical thinking. It is this combination that you need in your degree, and afterwards, as you will never just be coding and it will rarely be straightforward. The ability to comprehend, communicate and execute in a logical, and occasionally not logical manner, is crucial.
What was the highlight of your university study?
It was finding peers. Finding people that you share interests with, especially interests that are relevant to what you are studying and doing, is amazing. It was my friend/study group that allowed me to excel and also made the degree much more enjoyable. You help each other get through the parts of the degree that really put the pressure on you, usually through a combination of memes and frantic quizzing at the last minute.
What was something you overcame during your university study?
The biggest thing that I overcame during uni was definitely my inability to manage my time – procrastination, basically. Uni is an interesting time because although you are given a fair bit of study and you’re usually juggling a job as well, you actually have a lot of spare time. This means that even when you have a lot on your plate, it is very easy to say, “I’ll just do it next week”. After my first year nearly ended in a bit of disaster, I was able to get a better framework in place to get my work done.
What is your favourite or the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is that people look to me for answers and then trust and value what I have to say. It is an amazing feeling to study, work and develop skills and then have all that effort appreciated and rewarded. My favourite part of the job is probably the analytics work I am able to perform; the datasets and information that you get access to when you work at a large company is incredible.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part of the job is when I don’t have the answers and admitting to that. I am not the best person in social situations and I find it hard to admit that I don’t know something. One of the hardest but best lessons I’ve learnt is that it is okay to admit to ignorance because people will rarely react negatively if you genuinely don’t know and the consequences can be much worse if you pretend.
What advice would you give a student interested in a similar career path?
Keep it at an interest level and do not make it into a “goal”. I definitely recommend IT as a career path and as a degree, but go as broad as you can while you have the time and space. Our field is one that has information at our fingertips and we can quite easily do courses and certifications to get specialisations. While you are doing university and school, you are surrounded by experts and other people who are passionate about a whole range of different fields. Doing subjects like history, statistics, philosophy or whatever will actually make you look even more appealing to future employers because it shows that you are not a one-trick pony and will also make your time studying much more enjoyable.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My day generally starts with a coffee run with my team, or a coffee and virtual chat in COVID times. I then usually have reports that I have to create for different people in my team or the wider company. This requires analysing data and then drawing out the real insights or important information. The real work of my job is turning numbers and comments into something that leads to action instead of confusion. I also spend a fair portion of my time looking to improve the data that I have access to as well; this involves getting access to new sources or improving the scripts and code that I use to process the data I have incoming.
What inspires you?
The people I work with and the work that they do inspires me to try and keep up with their level of excellence. I also look for what I call 1% opportunities: what I can do today that will make my job 1% easier, will improve my work by 1%, will decrease the time I spend by 1%. Often these 1% opportunities end up being worth a lot more than 1%, but it turns something that might seem like a lot of work into something that is achievable every day.
Are you passionate about using your tech skills to help others? Consider what you could do with JCU Information Technology.
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