Alexander Eagles, Product Manager, joined WiseTech as an intern more than a decade ago and now leads the Productivity Acceleration and Visualization Engine (PAVE) product team. In conjunction with building a successful career, he has also dedicated the last 11 years to supporting his community as a NSW SES volunteer.

We caught up with Alexander to find out about his career journey at WiseTech, how he got involved in the SES, and his experiences, both challenging and rewarding, as a volunteer.

Can you share a bit about your career journey?

When I was at the University of Technology Sydney I joined the Bachelor of Information Technology Co-operative Scholarship Program and that’s how I got my internship with WiseTech. While I was studying, I worked in the accounting development team and that’s where I learned how to code professionally.

I worked throughout my university degree, mostly at WiseTech, but then I was required to do another internship. Ultimately, I came back to WiseTech after I completed my degree because I really enjoyed this place. I believed in what we were doing, and I found the work very interesting. I came back specifically to work on the product that I'm now responsible for, which is the PAVE product.

When it came to deciding on a career path, my parents were a pretty big inspiration to me. I think if you’re lucky enough to have supportive parents who encourage you to go after your goals, it makes it much easier. Product Management to me allows me to mix two interests, business and software.

Building software to me is about solving problems, so if you like building things, assembling different pieces and experimenting with different options, technology is probably the career for you. In my career I’ve constantly been challenged with problems to solve, and love the variety of them.

You recently celebrated your 10-year anniversary at WiseTech, why have you stayed so long?

For myself, I feel like I have a substantial amount of autonomy, ownership, responsibility and accountability in my role. This means that I can try different things and experiment within a certain remit and make things happen whilst having an open dialogue with my colleagues, which I really enjoy.

I think everyone at WiseTech have very good intentions around trying to build a quality product and we are all having fun at the same time.

The fact that I’ve had the opportunity to move around and try different roles within the business has been hugely beneficial for me, and as a result I’ve never been bored. Some people may feel that they can only grow and develop their career by going elsewhere, but certainly for myself and others I know we feel that we can achieve that progression internally.

Outside of work you’ve been a NSW SES volunteer for more than a decade, can you share a bit about your experience?

Straight out of school I decided I wanted to give back to my community, as it was something that had been ingrained from a young age. I wanted to find something that had some structure to it and I wanted some diversity in what I did. So, I thought the SES was a fairly good way to learn a whole different set of both soft and hard skills.

I knew that my career would probably be quite mental, so I wanted something different, something community-oriented that had a bit of excitement. I signed up as an SES volunteer with the Ku-Ring-Gai Unit and started going through the training. I’ve now been there for almost 12 years, and I’ve probably been involved in all the major storms throughout Sydney during this time as well as a number of other emergencies.

During the bushfires at the end of 2019, we were requested to support the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) by finding areas where fires had gone through and then removing dangerous trees and clearing roads and driveways where critical infrastructure was blocked. I wouldn't say my role was as dangerous or as important as the RFS, they do a tremendous job, but it was meaningful being able to assist in some way.

In the recent Sydney floods, we assisted by being out on the water, doing door knocks and evacuation orders and providing help to anyone who needed it. There was one particular person who wanted to leave their house because they were quite unwell, so we drove the boat over to them, picked them up and transported them to safety.

What do you enjoy most about being an SES volunteer?

As someone who has grown up in the grand scheme of things with a relatively easy life, I recognize that there are people out there who have had a much more challenging time than me. So being a volunteer means that I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to help my community.  

That in their time of need, these people can receive assistance from someone who is dependable, respectful and professional and who they can trust to help them, is something I find really rewarding. Just knowing that on their worst day, I’ve made it slightly better, makes it worth it.

For a long time, I've really enjoyed being a team leader. With over 10 years’ experience I know most things like the back of my hand, so it's really enjoyable watching others grow and making sense of some pretty catastrophic situations.

The second part I enjoy is incident management which is ultimately making sense at a much bigger picture level. For example, say you turn up to a house and it’s completely destroyed and we’ve got 100 people who have requested assistance; incident management is looking at all elements and prioritizing where to focus our time to achieve the best outcome.

I'd strongly encourage anyone wanting to give back to their community to become a volunteer. I think it provides plenty of skills around being a member of a community, and you’ll learn a lot about how things work, how governments work, as well as a lot of valuable skills along the way. I also enjoy getting out doing things with my hands, and the friends you make along the way is also another major benefit.

How has being an SES volunteer impacted you?

Well, in a light-hearted sense, I know that if I decide to buy a house in Sydney that I'm not going to buy property with any trees close to it or anywhere near a flood zone.

Mentally though, I really hope it hasn’t had a toll on me. I don’t think I’ve seen particularly horrific things compared to the first responders; they do witness things that would be very confronting. But the emergency service put a lot of time and effort into the emotional support and the mental health of their volunteers, which is great.

In terms of lasting impacts on myself, I think I've become quite calm under pressure, and I've got my process of how to make things work. Generally, things don't particularly faze me in that regard.

How would someone get involved in the SES and what could they expect?

If you wanted to become a volunteer, you can sign up on the SES website and then attend their information evenings. In your first year, you're going to do quite a bit of training, and that may mean some extra nights throughout the week or some weekends. But once you've done those first couple of years of training and you’ve got a basic set of skills, it’s more around whatever time commitment you can provide.

How does WiseTech support you as an SES volunteer?

WiseTech provides Voluntary Emergency Management Activities and Crisis Leave which means employees are entitled to up to 10 days of paid leave per year. In terms of volunteering around my work, there’s a fair amount of flexibility in catering to this and sometimes it will be a matter of saying, “hey, tomorrow I'm going to be at SES, so can we complete a couple of things today and bring things forward?”

Most SES units have plenty of volunteers, so if I’m unable to make it then it’s not the end of the world. But I like to think that I make a useful contribution, so if everything at work is under control and we can shift things around, then absolutely I’ll take that time off to help out.