Gautam - 2011 Graduate Program

Universities

  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Delhi

Qualifications

  • Master of Applied Commerce
  • Bachelor of Commerce

Background

I migrated to Australia in 2006 to pursue a Master in Commerce from Melbourne University. Prior to that, I worked as an executive producer in India producing radio and television public awareness campaigns for various government agencies in the field of education, health and social welfare. Some of these campaigns included raising AIDS awareness, rural welfare programs, substance abuse amongst teenagers, woman and child welfare etc.

Post my masters, I worked in Melbourne in the utilities industry on the Victorian Government's Smart Meter Program in deployment, data analyses and systems testing. Having worked extensively in the private sector on government projects, I was very keen to pursue a career within the government itself. In this regard, the graduate program has been a fantastic way for me to start my career with the Australian Public Service. It's given me the opportunity to explore a very diverse department and enhance my skills in project management, policy development, grants administration and program design.

Placements

The strategy that I adopted was to do a rotation each in a project management/program delivery area, a corporate area and a policy development area. This strategy helped me maximize my learning and development during the graduate program and gave me a well-rounded understanding of the working of the government.

First Placement: Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia Section, Water Efficiency Division

The section is responsible for delivering the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program (SRWUIP), including the delivery of the State Priority Projects in Queensland and for the delivery of election commitments to boost irrigation development in Western Australia and Tasmania.

I got an excellent understanding of Australia's water reforms and the public service in general during this rotation. I assisted with the Healthy Headwaters Water Use Efficiency Project undertaking various analytical, evaluation and research tasks to assess the viability and feasibility of these projects. I got the opportunity to travel to Queensland and engage in stakeholder consultations with the state government and the proponents.

I drafted and presented the Branch Operational Plan for the Irrigation Efficiency Northern Branch. This involved liasing within the different sections of the branch for project status updates and also incorporating the findings of the staff survey for action. I also assisted the section with an upcoming ANAO audit.

This rotation gave me an excellent exposure to the Water Group which is a dynamic and upcoming area within the department and has many opportunities to offer.

Second Placement: Procurement and Contract Management , Policy & Communications Division

I chose this section to get an insight into the functioning of a corporate area within the department. The section provides critical services to the department in areas of legislative compliance, procurement processes, approach to market, contract management, identification of procurement and contract risk, compliance controls, strategic advice, panel management, reporting, probity, business process improvement related to our services, capability development and procurement helpdesk advisory services.

I got a good understanding of the legislative requirements surrounding procurement and contract management especially the Financial Management Act and the Chief Executive Instructions. I drafted the project plan for Phase 2 of the Procurement Information Management System which is a project to automate the procurement process within the department. During this rotation I undertook a lot of external procurement and risk management trainings as well.

I would very strongly recommend at least one rotation in a corporate area be it procurement, grants, legal, finance or human resources as you would most definitely utilize these services no matter which area of the department you work in.

Third Placement: Suburban Jobs, Housing, Population and Communities Division

The Suburban Jobs program was announced in the 2011-12 budget and will assist state and local governments to plan and provide for employment hubs to support local jobs close to residential areas, in order to reduce travel times to work and services. It will also provide grants to companies who fund innovative ways to use the National Broadband Network to reduce travel times. The program will focus on the outer suburbs of our major cities that are experiencing pressures from population growth and transport affordability.

I chose this section to get exposure to a newly announced, high profile program and get first hand experience in policy development and best practice program design. I assisted in synthesising stakeholder feedback into the final program guidelines, risk management, project and grants management. I evaluated tenders to establish an expert panel and assisted in executing deeds with the shortlisted applicants. This included liaising with the legal section for deed variations. I liaised with Public Affairs for the development of a communication strategy and established a framework to evaluate the grant applications. I also got exposure to the Cabinet process. I also assisted in developing the funding agreement which involved liaising with legal and probity advisers.

This rotation gave me excellent exposure to designing a new program and the processes involved in doing so. I got the opportunity to participate in strategic planning discussions, project scheduling, research and stakeholder engagement.

Final Placement - Portfolio Management Section, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO)

As part of Murray-Darling Basin reforms, the Australian Government is acquiring water entitlements with the objective of returning more water to the environment. These entitlements become part of the Commonwealth environmental water holdings and are managed so that increased flows are provided to rivers and wetlands. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is an independent statutory position created by the Water Act 2007 to manage the portfolio. The portfolio management section is in the process of developing a trading framework under which the CEWO will trade water in the different water markets.

This section excited me because it is an economic and strategy driven area and there is no precedence for the work being done here. Some of my responsibilities include developing contracts, guidelines, evaluation plans and supporting documents for the proposed trading activity. Other responsibilities include establishing internal governance issues such as code of conduct, conflict of interest, risk assessment, ringfencing etc. I also manage various consultancies that have been contracted to external service providers.

'the best thing about working for us ... is the environment'