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Meet our 2018 GROW Graduate Lachlan - Part 1

Getting your first job or graduate placement after university is an exciting time, but can also feel like a big decision to choose the right fit and experiences for you.

If a graduate program that provides exposure across a multinational business in a variety of roles sounds like it might be the opportunity you’ve been after, then BASF’s Graduate program could be for you. Our BASF ANZ 2018 GROW Graduate, Lachlan Hedges, shares his experience in choosing the right path for him.

Ask yourself this: “Five years ago, did you envisage that you would be exactly where you’re at right now in your life and career?” If your answer is “Yes”, then I would appreciate if you could message me the numbers for this Saturday’s lottery, but if it was “No”, then you’re not alone.

Having recently completed studying chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, I asked myself a similar question, the same question I had asked myself when I finished school: “What do I want to work as?”, or more so “what is it that I enjoy doing and that I’m good at?”. In December 2012, that answer was “a Chemical Engineer”. Then, in July 2017 that answer was “a Machine Learning Engineer”. So what critical piece of information caused a change in my career path in such a short period of time? Was it the birth of Apple’s Siri and Google’s Alexa into my household, pulling me towards the digital tech space, or was it the constant headlines in the news about the “4th Industrial Revolution”? Potentially, but the word that best sums it up: experience.

One of the fantastic elements of a broad undergraduate degree in science was the ability to explore multiple disciplines; many not related to chemical engineering in the slightest. Through this, I gained experience in computer science that ultimately gave me a flavour for data science and enabled me to highlight skills of a potential profession that I strongly accelerated at. My curiosity was sparked, and as I neared the end of my degree, I wondered, “how would I continue to explore new areas once I enter the workforce?”. I found a lot of companies offering a one-size-fits-all graduate program or a ‘traditional’ graduate role. The Disneyland-like career’s fair suddenly seemed as though it only had one world available to explore. Que BASF’s entire park pass - the GROW Graduate Program.

BASF’s GROW Graduate Program has allowed me to explore fields which I studied at university (pure chemistry, materials science, finance, and computer science) and exposed me to new career paths which I hadn’t previously considered (so far marketing, and logistics). How the program works in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) is that there are three fourth-month rotations across different business units, based at the country headquarters in Melbourne, Australia. For me, I began working with the Mining Solutions team, then moved on to work within Supply Chain, and then will finish my program working within Manufacturing Solutions.

My experience so far has been a roller-coaster of emotions to say the very least. Being based at the head office for ANZ has been an amazing opportunity to rapidly meet many people from a wide range of industries, with a range of skills and experience. A major benefit has been that all the past GROW graduates are currently based there, so I’ve never needed to travel too far to seek advice. The culture across the office is supportive, inclusive and fun. It’s also very social with plenty of out-of-office activities and events.

Some of the highlights so far have been:

  • The opportunity to travel to various mine sites across Australia - from Pinjarra in Western Australia, to the Blue Mountains in NSW, it certainly has been a change of scenery from the concrete jungle I grew up in!
  • Visiting the Alcoa Alumina Refinery in Western Australia – that site was like the Swiss Army Knife of the chemical engineering world with nearly every conceivable process in the chemical engineering handbook occurring at some point within the site.
  • Driving projects which have been handed out and presented at a regional and global scale – three notable projects were undertaking and presenting a social media strategy, a digitalisation, and a warehousing modelling analysis.

What fun is a job without challenges though, and the GROW Graduate Program has certainly thrown a few curve balls at me. The first curve ball I received was living in a remote area whilst visiting a mine site for one week. I had never considered life out on a mine site, and for someone who has grown up always in an urban environment, the repeats of Kath and Kim on the TV each night amongst the tractor advertisements came as quite the culture shock.

The second curve ball was being placed in a role of which I had little to no previous technical knowledge in. For me this was marketing. At first, the idea of skipping university on the education monopoly board and advancing straight to the workplace in a field seemed completely farfetched, but with this, I soon learnt one of BASF’s greatest strengths as an organisation: their belief in upskilling their employees through both internal and external programs as they progress through their career.

Before I even began the GROW Graduate Program, I had gone through a rigorous interviewing process, which had begun to identify areas which BASF believed I required further training in. This meant that on day one, I was presented with a list of training courses that would assist me throughout my GROW Graduate Program. The benefit of this was that rather than cram me with a load of information (which I would later only use portions of at a time whilst unutilised skills and information would drift off into the distance - sounds a lot like my university degree…), I would strategically undertake a course which was relevant to upcoming projects, and then have an opportunity to apply recently learnt skills and techniques. I would love to see BASF’s approach to education become not only the industry standard, but also something adopted by the education space.

With that, I sign off until my next rotation comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience in the GROW Graduate Program so far. Please reach out to me if you are interested in hearing more of my experience at BASF - you can connect Lachlan on LinkedIn here.

Last Update 29 May 2018