GAF Story

James Hicks

Swinburne University
Bachelor of Engineering & Bachelor of Business

James Hicks Swinburne

James shares how his new role as Graduate Mechanical Engineer position with BHP Olympic Dam is developing his career skills.

Where did your studies take you after graduating in 2011?

Following graduation, I relocated to Roxby Downs, South Australia, to take up a Graduate Mechanical Engineer position with BHP Olympic Dam. During my tenure with BHP, I had the opportunity to work in various different engineering roles, supporting different functions of the business including the underground mine, surface processing operations and the vast services facilities on and off-site. The training, development and overall experience that BHP provides to graduates entering the workforce is second to none.

I lived and worked in the outback mining town of Roxby Downs for three years before making the decision to take up a new career and lifestyle opportunity in Tasmania with Simplot Australia in food manufacturing. I spent two years working for Simplot in Tasmania as the Site Services Engineer overseeing the French Fry manufacturing site’s steam, freezing and waste plant operations.

What are you doing professionally at the moment?

In January 2017 I took on the role of Engineering Manager at Simplot’s Echuca manufacturing plant, which is the home of the famous Leggo’s Pasta Sauce brand. My team consists of approximately 25 professional engineers and trades overseeing maintenance, project engineering, automation and reliability for the site.

The past 12 months has been significant in the site's history as we transitioned the manufacturing of Chicken Tonight, Raguletto and Five Brothers sauces into Echuca following the acquisition of these brands by Simplot from Symington’s in 2016.

Did the GAF scholarship influence you/your career beyond your years studying at Swinburne?

The GAF scholarship has helped shape my career and personal development beyond studying. The connection with the Foundation continues to highlight the importance of being actively involved in the community and has provided a great professional network through the foundation alumni. George Alexander's notion of ‘planting seeds and hoping they grow into pretty big trees’ has also encouraged me to support others in the form of mentoring, particularly those early in their professional careers. This has proven to be a rewarding exercise and something I look forward to doing for years to come.

Are you still involved with the community?

Living and working in regional and remote communities has provided many opportunities to be actively involved in the community. Most recently, I joined the Echuca SES (State Emergency Service) unit, which has been a great way to get involved and give back to the local community. I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities being involved with the SES will bring.

What's the next stage in your career look like? What’s coming up for you?

I have a genuine passion for Australian manufacturing, particularly in the agribusiness and value-added food manufacturing space. The next stage of my career will see me continue to diversify my experience and skillset within the food supply chain with ambition to become a senior leader in this space in the future. I am also currently exploring opportunities to become involved in advisory groups, boards and not-for-profits.