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July 19, 2020

How to get the most out of a graduate program

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Mojdeh Salehi describes her career as a whirlwind, having gone from being part of nbn’s Graduate Program to their General Manager of Products (HFC, FTTC and FTTP) for Residential Sales and Marketing in six years.

She shares why a graduate program is the perfect platform to kick-start your career, how to make the most of the experience and what she attributes her career success to.

The advantages of a graduate program

In her final year of university, Moj applied for a number of graduate programs, but nbn’s excited her for a number of reasons.

“I liked the idea that nbn was this startup company, and I could get involved in new initiatives and innovation. Plus, to play a role in this pivotal project that would create such a positive social impact across Australia sounded like an amazing opportunity,” she says.

Although Moj had a finance degree, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go down that path. The graduate program provided her with the perfect platform to learn about different business functions, try a bunch of things, and identify her passions and skills. “It was my ticket to learn, develop, connect and kick-start my career.”

Over the course of the two-year program, Moj was able to rotate through four different business units she was interested in. She spent time in procurement, which she discovered “wasn’t her jam”; nbn’s transformation office, working on high-profile projects; and product management and product development, having narrowed down her focus area.

Moj shares her tips for getting the most out of a graduate program:

  1. Own your career path – “It’s natural to feel nervous, but don’t let that hold you back. This is the best time to soak up as much as you can, and understand the business, the people, different management styles, what motivates you and importantly what you don’t enjoy.”
  2. Be courageous – “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Seek out leaders that inspire you, a team culture that you want to be in, and work that excites and challenges you.”
  3. Know your worth – ”Remember, as a graduate, you’re extremely sought after. You bring a fresh perspective into the company, and have a level of motivation and passion that’s contagious. Use this to your advantage!”

Finding her passion in product management

A year into the graduate program, Moj had learnt a lot about herself. Realising she needed to work with people and loved to problem solve, she felt she had found her fit in product management.

“I remember watching a product team presentation, and I decided then and there I wanted to be in that team. The work they were doing sounded challenging and impactful. So I spent my final year of the grad program in product management and product development, and worked super hard to prove myself.”

Her hard work paid off. At the end of the graduate program, Moj landed a full-time role as a Product Development Manager.

“This was a huge step for me, and it felt like I’d been thrown into the deep end but in a good way. From here, I really started to grow my wings.”

Avoiding your comfort zone

Moj loves working in product management because “you’re a jack of all trades”. You need to understand customer’s everchanging needs to deliver and grow the product value proposition. This means bringing stakeholders together to collaboratively solve problems in order to provide a high level of customer experience, while also achieving long-term commercial sustainability for the company, she explains.

“In the product space, it’s always challenging because our customer and business needs are always evolving, so you continuously need to think differently. I find that super motivating, because you’re always pushing yourself and challenging the status quo. I never want to be at a point in my career where I’m comfortable. For me, your comfort zone is a no-go zone!”

Moj applies this motto across her entire life, loving to push her limits when it comes to fitness.

“I enjoy getting my heartrate up to the point of exhaustion. I’ve gone from being a traditional gym junkie to an avid F45 fanatic, and now I’m into CrossFit training to keep things challenging. I also enjoy a good trail run, obstacle course racing and hiking hours to get to the top of a mountain [Roys Peak in New Zealand and Cape Pillar in Tasmania are two of her favourites].

“I truly live by the saying: ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you’.”

How women can get ahead

In a short space of time, Moj has gone from a manager to executive manager and is now a general manager leading the product management team that looks after three of nbn’s broadband technologies. “I still need to pinch myself every now and then.”

She attributes her career success to her tenacity, passion and the thought-provoking way she goes about things, but also that nbn has invested in her development and created an environment where diversity thrives.

“We have such amazing leaders at nbn who truly care. They give you opportunities to grow and the spotlight to shine,” says Moj, who took part in nbn’s sponsorship program for women in 2018.

Moj’s advice to women wanting to grow their careers within a company is to embrace opportunities, even if you’re not an expert yet.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Women often shy away from taking on roles because they think they’re not qualified enough and this impacts your progression. If you embrace these opportunities with a good attitude, strong aptitude and humility, it will set you up for success.”

Another takeaway from the program for Moj was the importance of personal brand and being clear on what you want to be known for; something that has aided her transition to a GM role.

“For me, it’s knowing the kind of relationships I want to build. People remember how you make them feel, not necessarily the work that you’ve done.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.