Operations Manager at Navantia Australia, Jamie Gibbs has had a diverse career and is focused on making a difference within the industry.
We chat to Jamie about how he got to where he is today, what has contributed to his success and what advice he has for managing a career in Defence Industry.
What was your first ever job?
My first “real” job was as a project engineer with General Motors Holden. I provided electrical system designs for GM vehicles being built in the Asia-Pacific region, including India, Thailand and China. This role provided me with a wide range of exposure to vehicle electrical system design, from wiring harnesses to audio systems. This was a very rewarding 10 year career with Holden that spanned electrical system design in the local Commodore platforms, global strategic purchasing and engineering management roles.
My opportunity with Holden came about from university placement work during my undergraduate studies. This reinforces for me the importance for universities to actively engage industry with internship and work experience programs, providing opportunities for students to build their career networks and gain valuable practical experience. These programs also provide a great opportunity for companies to engage talent from a grass roots level.
Tell us a bit about what you are responsible for at Navantia Australia.
Navantia Australia has embarked on a very exciting venture to establish a marine engineering office in Melbourne. Melbourne has a fabulous pool of exceptional marine engineering talent which has developed on the back of over 70 years of naval shipbuilding, including the ANZAC Class frigates, the FFG frigates and most recently the Canberra Class LHDs (Landing Helicopter Docks). Whilst the days of building navy ships in Melbourne seem sadly to be over, the marine engineering talent remains and is as vibrant as ever.
I am responsible for establishing and managing the operations of the Navantia Australia engineering office in Melbourne that will work in close partnership with Navantia Australia offices in Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra. The office will provide Navantia Australia with a highly capable engineering capability for the localised support of Navantia platform designs including the Canberra Class LHDs, the Hobart Class DDGs, the new AORs (Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessels) and hopefully the SEA 5000 Future Frigate program to be announced in 2018.
What is most rewarding about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?
The most rewarding part of my job is the feeling of pride in having contributed to something significant. Shipbuilding provides a great range of engineering challenges and requires the collaboration of many talented individuals all working towards the same goal. There is a great sense of satisfaction to see the Royal Australian Navy displaying the fantastic capability of their ships, especially in situations of humanitarian assistance, and knowing that you contributed to the realisation of that ship.
I think also there is a genuine feeling that I am helping in some way to support the Australian Defence Force in defending Australian national interests.
What’s surprised you most in your career?
The value of a network had not really become apparent to me until recent years. I always figured that as long as I worked hard my career would look after itself. However, I have come to realise that it is the people that you work and associate with in the workplace that can make a real difference to your career. I have had the fortune to work with some wonderful people through my career from whom I have been able to learn from, collaborate with and who have ultimately helped to shape my career.
How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?
What I know is that it is not always easy to establish the right balance, and I am often guilty of not following my own ideals on the subject.
My advice to others is to vigorously pursue your ambitions and goals, but remember the importance of looking after your own well-being and those important to you. There is always enough of you to go around, and it is a matter of clearly setting your priorities.
When you love what you do and are driven to make a difference it is not always easy to find the balance point – a conscious effort is required to find some measure of equilibrium.
What would be one piece of advice you could offer someone looking to take a similar career path?
I think it is important to always pursue what you are passionate about, and do your job to the best of your ability. Take pride in your work and be accountable for what you deliver. Not everything you do in your job is glamorous, or even recognised for that matter, but take satisfaction that you are contributing in an important way to something significant – the recognition will come.