Reap the rewards of Deakin's partnerships

When Irene Giantsos graduated from Deakin’s Bachelor of Cyber Security she didn’t need to search for employment. Instead, she headed to the familiar surrounds of NAB’s offices to take up the permanent full-time role she’d secured through her 12-month industry-based learning placement.

‘It was a full-time placement for one year,’ Irene says. ‘I started out in a team called Configuration Management and after six months I moved into the Security Awareness team, where I went on to work for another two years after graduating.’ She now works as a cyber response analyst at the big-four bank – championing the role of women in tech in a job she finds both challenging and rewarding.

It’s thanks to Deakin’s partnerships with organisations like NAB, that students like Irene get a taste of the workforce during their studies and an opportunity to kickstart a promising IT career immediately after graduation.

In fact, ‘at least 60% to 70% of students who complete a longer-term industry-based learning placement secure employment at the company afterwards’, says Menuri Subasinghe, Work Integrated Learning Engagement Coordinator at Deakin’s Faculty of Science, Engineering & Built Environment. ‘We work very closely with our partner organisations to help students access these opportunities.’

Making an impression

Jade Warrener, Manager of Technology Careers at NAB, says Irene was a ‘clear standout’ during her placement, which she completed via the coveted and competitive NAB Technology Internship Program – so much so that offering her an ongoing role in the same team was a no-brainer.

‘Irene had a really clear goal about what she wanted to achieve out of her placement,’ Jade says. ‘You could see that she was very passionate about the way in which NAB protects its customers' information and how she could add value to the security space.’

‘She got a lot of recognition across the Security Awareness team quite early on and was really actively involved in all of our training and development programs.’

Jade says these attributes are consistent with many of Deakin’s graduates who secure permanent roles at NAB. ‘Deakin candidates are typically very self-driven and they haven’t been spoon-fed, so they go out there and make opportunities happen.’

Finding inside opportunities

For Irene, the opportunity to gain real-world experience in cyber security – a discipline she first read about in a university course guide and immediately ‘knew it was what I wanted to do’ – with one of the industry’s heavyweights was a perfect fit.

‘I really like the investigative side of things and problem solving,’ she says. ‘I like learning how things work and trying to fix things. And I've always loved computers.’

Along with honing and learning technical skills, Irene says the placement helped her to network and make valuable connections at NAB that enabled her to transition from intern to employee.

‘It's partially the placement that gets you there, but it's also having conversations with other people and trying to find out what opportunities are available to you,’ she says. ‘By talking to other people and having those catch-ups, I got into the Security Awareness team in the second half of my placement and eventually got a full-time role.’

Aiming for success

Indeed, Menuri says Deakin works with its IT industry partners – which include Ford Motor Company, Infosys, SecureWorx, Transurban and World Vision Australia – to make sure students have opportunities to both network and gain real-world professional experience during placement. ‘As much as we encourage our students to go out and find their own placement, we like to support them by providing these opportunities.’

An industry-based learning placement spans three, six or 12 months. Students typically take time out from university to compete the placement, for which they earn credit points – and a salary. It’s not compulsory – IT students can instead choose to complete a short-term 160-hour placement – but Menuri says the benefits are especially attractive and long-lasting when the placement is completed full-time over a longer duration.  

‘High-achieving students always try and aim for an industry-based learning placement because it gives them the opportunity to be fully immersed in an organisation and have a high chance of being retained for graduate employment,’ she says.

Jade agrees, explaining that among graduates who’ve completed a placement ‘you can see the professionalism, maturity and growth they bring in comparison to someone who might not have had that same experience’.

‘It makes them a clear candidate who stands out.’

Keen to earn a degree in cyber security and gain valuable industry experience? Learn more about cyber security degrees at Deakin.