Over recent years, we’ve been fortunate to be chosen as the career launchpad for three talented young graduates.

Having recently been promoted to Project Manager, we reflect on the experience of our first Project Management Graduate- Declan Cashin.

Around two and a half years ago, having completed University, Declan responded to our advertisement on Grad Australia.  With a number of his peers seeking and securing jobs within the industry’s larger organisations, Declan had a different path in mind.

‘The size of the company at the time really appealed to me.  The ad said a team of 5 Project Managers and I hoped that meant that I’d have the chance to actually tag along with someone and learn.  Whereas with a larger company the story was that you get a Grad role and you have an organised schedule.

As a teenager, Declan’s career goal was to be an Architect.  Around half way through his Construction Management and Design Architecture degree he realised he was better suited to Construction and Project Management. ‘I wanted to be an architect but early in my degree I realised that it wasn’t for me.  I wanted to be up front and hands on.  When the Construction Management part of the degree kicked in I realised that was much more suited to my personality.  The leadership role I was doing at work and growing up playing team sports, specifically football and being a leader in the team, aligned with that side of my degree.’

Reflecting on his expectation versus reality as a new Graduate within a boutique firm, Declan has clearly embraced the opportunity at SEMZ ‘It’s been intense – even more than I expected.  I wanted this role to be really hands-on, that’s why I chose SEMZ, and this role and my learning has been exponential. It’s been fast moving. When it’s been busy I’ve been thrown in and the learning curve has been steep but that’s what I wanted.’

SEMZ Director of Project Management Ken Santamaria relishes the opportunity to make a positive impact on the early career of our graduates.  ‘It provides us with an opportunity to seek a candidate with the right attitude and talent and to train them in our values and our philosophy, to shape their every-day behaviour, habits and approach.  We have great culture and a lot to offer at this stage of a young person’s career.’

‘We allow time to learn about the industry and market, how it works and how we work. Our Graduates are exposed to so many projects and people early on.  Being a smaller organisation means that there are ongoing opportunities to be involved with the whole team, chairing staff meetings, working through project issues and getting out on site with us.  They’re certainly not just left behind a desk working through policies.  When they’re ready to take on their first project they have a solid foundation and plenty of support.’

‘There is a sense of fulfillment, we enjoy being able to mentor and provide a pathway.  I get a great sense of satisfaction watching our graduate recruit of two years ago chairing a project meeting with control and confidence.’

Declan’s experience with SEMZ has shaped the path for following and future Graduates.

‘I was closely knit with a senior PM and Director for two years and now I feel like I’m really ready and armed with knowledge and experience I need to run a project.  I wanted the opportunity to have autonomy while working collaboratively within a PM team structure, and SEMZ has backed me and provided me with that opportunity.’

Any chat with Declan about his time at SEMZ will sooner or later lead to The Espy, the $15M fit-out of St Kilda’s iconic Esplanade Hotel, where Declan worked as Project Coordinator from project conception to completion late last year. ‘At this stage of my career to have been involved on such an iconic project from concept to completion has been amazing. ‘

‘Being supported and knowing the senior team here believe in me has been really good.  A few months back heading to a new project overview meeting with a client, I realised Ken and Tom were prepping me to take on the PM role. It’s great how quickly you can learn when exposed to, and part of day to day issue resolution within projects.’

With the Espy project in final stages, Declan’s focus is now on Kooroora in Mt Buller and Wonthaggi’s new Senior Secondary College.  ‘I’m managing meetings on the Kooroora project where we’ve proven we add value to the project and it’s great – such an exciting development to be involved with.’

Asked about the SEMZ values – Respect, Honesty, Leadership and Fulfilment, Declan’s experience with SEMZ has been especially supported by strong leadership.

‘Probably more than any for me has been the leadership.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn from various leadership styles here. Ken and Jon have such different styles of management and having the opportunity to work directly with both of them and a number of Senior Project Managers on different projects has been great.’

‘The benefit of being with a small organisation means that I have worked closely with many people – there is no hierarchical barrier between our team members.’

As we begin discussions around recruiting our fourth SEMZ Graduate, we’re proud to have opened the career path for three talented young Project Managers and we will continue to invest in and support career growth for the next generation.

A final word from Declan on being a Graduate at SEMZ– Opportunity! The learning curve has been steep but the opportunity is definitely there if you want it.