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Sam Williams

What's your job about?

My first rotation in the University of Melbourne Graduate Employment Program has been with the Sustainability Team. I’ve been working with this team for 7 months, helping my colleagues with operational and strategic work to improve environmental sustainability on University campuses. This has included writing a Sustainable Transport Strategy for the University, launching a sustainability change and engagement program for staff and students called ‘Green Impact’, and helping to coordinate a number of events run by our team.

A normal week for me includes a bit of time at the computer drafting strategy documents, lots of communication with staff and students who are part of our Green Impact program, conducting a training session or presentation about sustainability, and time spent organising and running at least one or two events hosted by our team on campus.

What's your background?

I grew up in England and Kenya before arriving in Australia at the age of 16. Having finished high school in Melbourne in 2010, I lived in Nepal for 1 year volunteering with an International Non-Governmental Organisation in Kathmandu.

My interest and experience living across four different continents by the age of 18 shaped my decision to study anthropology at Monash University as a Dean’s Scholar in the Faculty of Arts. Later during my honours year, I had the opportunity to head back to Nepal for a year to research ethnic-identity politicsas a New Colombo Plan Scholar. It was another exciting year in Nepal in 2015: living through the devastating Anzac Day earthquake, having the opportunity to intern at the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu, and meeting an amazing Swiss lady who is now my wife!

In 2016 I applied for and was accepted into the University of Melbourne Graduate Employment Program. The program is an excellent opportunity to develop a real breadth of professional experience in one of the biggest (and most complex!) organisations in Australia. It is definitely exciting to support the amazing work that the University does in research and teaching for the benefit of future generations!

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes. I don’t have an academic background in environmental sustainability, but if you are able to learn quickly, to write well and to engage people then you can definitely do what I do! Some of the most important skills in my job are to be flexible to adapt to a real variety of different tasks, and to always be willing to help. Seriously, it sounds simple, but I have discovered that offering to help and being an approachable and friendly presence in the office goes a long way to gaining trust and winning more responsibility and challenging work from managers.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love being part of a team that is doing whatever it can to improve sustainable practice on our campus. It is a big and sometimes demoralizing job, but the passion of my colleagues to make the University a world-leader in tackling some of these big issues is infectious. And obviously, it is always rewarding to see small behaviours change around the campus as well as to be part of the big things like installing $9m worth of solar panels on University buildings.  

What are the limitations of your job?

One challenge to our work in the Sustainability Team is when we make changes that members of the University community don’t like! The job requires diplomacy and tact, and I think I am slowly learning those vital negotiation skills that help you to navigate some of the more tense or difficult moments.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Focus more on learning than on assessment! Talk to lecturers more and be more curious about the content of the course, not just on what the next assignment is.
  • Look out for internship and work experience opportunities from year 1. Don’t wait until final year to start thinking about it!
  • Don’t look for work based on what is prestigious or respectable. It is easy to be tricked into thinking that this is the only kind of work that you want, but really it is far more important to learn about yourself – what you enjoy and are excited about – and to pursue that.