A common question that plagues the mind of a PhD student is whether to stay ensconced in academia, or to leave the comforting ivory tower and venture out into the wild unknowns of industry.

Studying a PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, I had the same thoughts and doubts. I was afraid; I did not know what monsters lurked in the unknown, what dragons lived at the edge of the map. However, curiosity drove my desire to explore so I sought out opportunities.

One day, my PhD supervisor told me about an internship at Telstra offered through APR.Intern. This sounded like an excellent opportunity for me to test the waters, and to investigate a potential career path without committing.

When I read the project description, I found that it was in an area related to my studies including a strong practical component. This made me excited to get started on real-world practical problem-solving.

My internship experience was amazing – I gained new skills, had the opportunity to apply my mathematical and programming skills, and I worked with kind and encouraging people; it was all I could have hoped for and more.

My internship supervisors from both Telstra and University of Melbourne were friendly and encouraging and I learned many things from them. Most importantly, the experience transformed me from being a student to a professional.

Towards the end of my internship, I had my heart set on having a career at Telstra. The monsters of my fear were all slain and the dragons vanquished.

My hard work did not go unnoticed at Telstra. I was offered a position in the same team that I was working during the internship. After finishing my PhD, I have been working full-time as a Senior Networks Engineer.

These days, my work involves modelling wireless networks to analyse the customer impact of introducing new products or changing network configurations – giving me plenty of opportunity to spread my mathematical wings. I also get the chance to work with cutting-edge technologies such as 5G and Narrowband-IoT, which makes my work very interesting.

The work environment is welcoming and friendly, too, and Telstra invites interns and graduates with varying levels of experience every year. This not only helps young professionals to build up their careers but also allows the business to recruit fresh, innovative minds. In my opinion, it’s a win-win for both parties.

When I look back at my journey, I realise how extremely fortunate I have been. Every day at work I apply my skills and knowledge to solve problems in a professional environment, all while doing what I love.

During these unprecedented times, Telstra has made a massive effort to ensure the health and safety of its employees. Telstra has set an example by being one of the first Australian businesses to accommodate working from home for all office-based employees. Personally, I have struggled; I miss the pre-COVID-19 personal interaction with my colleagues. However, I am fortunate to be a part of a company that has made it possible to remain working through the uncertainty.

If you are a student and find such an opportunity presented to you, my advice is: jump in! You might not wind up where you think you’re going to, but you’ll certainly have an interesting adventure along the way.