With a career spanning three continents and early aspirations to be an aeronautical engineer, Mohammed Hayat took on his biggest personal and professional challenge to leave the industry he had worked in for many years to explore his passion for the environment. After starting an Arts degree in 1995, Mohammed discovered his heart wasn’t in it and transferred to a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, graduating in 2000.
Originally from South Africa, Mohammed migrated to Brisbane in the late ‘80s and worked part-time as a soil tester throughout his undergraduate studies. “For this particular role, there was a lot of on-the-job learning. I was exposed to some environmental components and I got to interact with what I studied such as water, air and noise monitoring.” His degree took him to CSIRO where he would test different rocks from the mines in southern and western Australia.
Then, an initial eighteen month internship exchange program with a small company in the US extended to eight years. “Initially I went over as a student and learnt a lot of on-the-job skills for geophysical surveying”.
“As an intern, you have a thirst for knowledge and you want to gain as much experience as you possibly can.”
Mohammed’s experiences in the US exposed him to the harshness of outdoor work. “It didn’t matter what the temperature or season was. 50% of the work was outdoors. We would still be out there in the snow working.”
After returning to Australia, Mohammed landed a demanding fly-in, fly-out mining industry role focusing on geophysics for mineral exploration. Several years later, however, the GFC caused a downturn in the exploration of geophysics, with companies pulling out of projects.
These changes prompted Mohammed’s decision to leave full time work altogether and return to study a Master of Environment. “My original goal was to study Environmental Protection to re-enter the mining industry and use the academic side of things to facilitate better compliance with their environmental obligations.” By actively networking with people in his industry, Mohammed gleaned where the industry was heading and what sort of areas to concentrate on. “It changed my focus and I looked at other areas which ranged from consulting companies to local councils and state and federal government.”
Taking the step to move across industries isn’t always an easy one. It often presents challenges, as Mohammed discovered in his journey.
“One of the biggest obstacles was trying to get information from people as it is very valuable. If you have information at the earliest point, you can make decisions and plan for certain things”.
Mohammed’s attempts to develop contacts in his industry led to his ‘unofficial’ mentor becoming ‘official’ through the Careers and Employment Service’s Industry Mentoring Program. “My mentor really helped me get to a position that I could see myself in”.
After these valuable experiences, Mohammed now works as a Quality Systems Officer focusing on controlling liquid waste from commercial businesses and managing its disposal.
So after leaving the comforts of full-time employment to explore his passion, what did Mohammed learn from his own experiences?
“It doesn’t matter what degree you do, it’s the skills and the knowledge that you leave university with that equip you to do any job and those skills are researching, being able to communicate with people; being able to think outside the square”.
“Try to get into some form of networking with the industry you are interested in. Start talking and approaching people by asking questions. The Internet is also very useful for networking by emailing people, researching company websites and seeing what they are all about and getting key contacts and approaching them. Why not take a chance and see what happens?”
Top Tips from Mohammed:
- When it comes to looking for jobs the best thing is to use your resources wisely and the best resources you have are people.
- Actively network with the people who are in the industry you want to work in.
- Be flexible in changing environments and industries.