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Written By

Hannah Gray


College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

15 September 2021

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From high school to university and beyond

Three recent JCU graduates, Matt Rooke, Ryan Clark and Jay Davis, have been in the same circles for quite a while. Each of them attended St Andrews Catholic College in Cairns and all of them went on to study a Bachelor of Information Technology (IT) at JCU. Today, you can find each of them again in the same place: True North Technology, an IT support service in Cairns. Though their paths look similar, these JCU alumni have had great individual experiences, which they share below.

Q: How did you know that you wanted to study information technology at JCU?

Matt: I originally studied a double degree in engineering and IT at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. I found that engineering was not a good fit for me, so I left after one year to work as an IT field tech. Working in the smart home industry, I got exposure to cutting edge technology that really excited me, expanded my interest in working in the IT industry and made me want to go back to uni. I wanted to go home to study, as financial pressures contributed to me dropping out the first time around. I heard JCU had a good IT department, so it was the obvious choice.

Ryan: I was introduced to programming by school friends in Grade 10 and I soon developed a passion for all things IT. I chose JCU particularly because I wanted to stay in Cairns.

Jay: I didn't know what I wanted to study until Grade 11 at St Andrews Catholic College. I had a very inspiring and encouraging IT teacher, Craig Hovell, who graduated from JCU prior to working full time at St Andrews. At the time, I was deciding whether to study engineering or IT at university, and after more exposure to the broad aspects of both, I discovered I enjoyed IT significantly more. What made me choose JCU specifically was the conveniency of having family nearby for support that I needed during my studies. After attending a few of the Open Day events at JCU, I realised the University had a lot to offer and I knew it was the right choice.

University study: a stepping stone to the future

Q: What were some highlights from your studies at JCU?

Jay: The highlights from my study have been learning multiple programming languages, such as Java, HTM and Python, designing my first website and improving my leadership abilities through the Design Thinking subjects.

Matt: Meeting like-minded people that have the same passion for IT that I do and making long-lasting friends were definitely a highlight for me. Programming subjects were my favourite throughout my degree. My internship included a trip to Outback Australia, in Adels Grove, which was a great experience. I also really liked taking part in the yearly IT Design Sprint.

Ryan: The three Design Sprints I attended were the most enjoyable parts of my study. Coming together with other students to produce solutions to real-world problems is a nice change from other assessments.

JCU Information Technology's annual two-day Design Sprint gives students an opportunity to gain practical experience in goal-oriented, collaborative IT system development for a real-world problem. Industry experts partnering with JCU Information Technology attend the event to provide insight and mentorship to the students as they use technology to address issues such as disaster management or failing systems.

Q: How has your study prepared you for your career?

Ryan: My studies have given me a deeper knowledge on how systems work rather than a basic, "click here to do this" type of understanding, which is integral for the problem-solving that's inherent to IT.

Matt: My university studies helped me build on my existing IT knowledge and fill gaps in my understanding that were important in getting a job in the industry. My studies exposed me to all the different fields of IT and helped me to find what I most enjoyed doing. It also taught me the best ways to keep learning in the ever-changing environment that is technology.

Jay: As I am still studying full time at JCU and working part time at True North Technology, my career is only just beginning. So far, my study has prepared me for my career by introducing me to the theory behind both simple and complex aspects of information technology.

Putting their skills to the test

Q: What is it like working at True North Technology (TNT)?

Jay: Even though I am the youngest and least experienced employee at True North Technology, I still feel confident in my ability and love working there because I am surrounded by a motivational team. Studying at JCU while working at TNT really complements each other because I get to implement the theory that I'm learning at JCU to the work I do at TNT.

Ryan: True North Technology is a great workplace. Since I have studied with most of my co-workers, I have great relationships with them and a good deal of trust in their abilities. My boss has been very considerate during my studies, allowing time off to complete exams and assessments.

Matt: TNT is a busy but relatively stress-free workplace. I'm always doing or learning something new alongside our usual weekly tasks, be it a new project, new software to learn or a new Microsoft certification to study for. There's a good amount of variety and our clients are nice to work with. Staff and management are also friendly and supportive.

Q: What has your experience been with the transition from study to work?

Matt: I started at TNT part time during my third year at JCU and I also did my internship here. So, I found the transition from full time work quite seamless because learning the ropes through part time work helped a lot.

Ryan: The transition from study to work was a bit jarring for me. I realised that study and work have different definitions of "full time" and had to adjust to the number of hours as well as the routine of full-time work.

Jay: Studying full time at JCU and working part time at TNT has been busy, but a good challenge for my time management abilities.

Q: What advice would you give to future students interested in studying IT?

Jay: For anyone who is constantly hungry for knowledge, I would tell them that a degree and a career in IT will always provide them with something new to learn. If you feel like you haven't found a particular subject or field that you want to pursue, don't rule out IT because it has a broad range of career paths to choose from and you may discover a passion you didn't know you had.

Matt: Find something in IT that you're really passionate about, like programming or web design, that helps to motivate you and then incorporate other subjects where you can. IT is pretty flexible and most subjects work well together. There's always more than one solution to problems that you face in IT and having knowledge of areas outside of the one you specialise in helps you to creatively address those issues.

Ryan: Try to get as hands-on as possible! Theory will only take you so far, and having an idea of how to navigate servers and interfaces will give you a leg up as you study.

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