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John Wiese, defence systems project director

Adeline Teoh
March 1, 2011

Young talent time

A neophilic desire to experience and create new things also comes through Wiese’s enthusiasm for the undergraduate programs he’s involved in, adjunct to his day job managing projects. For almost a decade he has worked with Curtin University in Western Australia, appearing pro bono as a guest lecturer three or four times a year.

Thales also hosts student projects under a scheme that allows computer science or engineering undergraduates to gain almost a year of experience running a project with an industry partner. “By giving them a real project they can make real mistakes early and get experience,” he says. “It’s great that we can take graduates and effectively turn them into professional engineers by teaching them the right tools and techniques and processes in a short time.”

Wiese is also involved in a mentorship program at the University of Western Australia, coordinating mentors for students over four sessions throughout a semester, and contributes to Edith Cowan University as an occasional judge for competitions, as well as liaising on research. “It does require a reasonable amount of my personal time, but it is nice to be able to give something back. I had a lot of very good mentors who passed on a lot of knowledge to me so now I’m passing on my knowledge to others.”

It also has some tangible rewards, he notes. Hosting student projects means Thales “get to try some of the best engineering students and hire the ones we like,” says Wiese with his recruitment hat on. It also means “getting to explore some technologies that may not be on the roadmap for our customer or our company R&D”, an essential part of innovation.

“I’m looking at technologies that are just being discovered and utilised now so I can have those in real products in a year or two, whereas my competitors may not have that for five or 10 years,” Wiese explains. “That’s where working with universities is helpful, you can explore these new technologies. It’s getting exposure to some of the brightest minds around the country. I’m looking at what my customers need today but I’m also looking two to five years out.”

The creative process and problem solving are two aspects Wiese enjoys about project management. Coincidentally he has the same balance outside of work married to an artist—”we have an interesting divergence between the structure that I provide and the freedom that she provides”—while the technical and creative also find harmony in his hobby, photography.

As for what’s next, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Wiese still seeks the next big thing. Dedicated to conceiving good products and interesting technology, he’s excited about forthcoming mapping initiatives in the 3D geographic information system space, and having more students to develop. “I can’t see myself escaping from universities any time soon. Every time I give a lecture I have two or three more lecturers say ‘can you come and lecture for us?’” he muses.

And education is changing, he adds. “The courses now are similar to physical engineering where they want engineers with practical knowledge to go into roles; software engineering is much the same, employers now want practical knowledge and universities are now leaning more on industry to provide that knowledge.” No doubt he will.

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Adeline Teoh
Adeline Teoh is the editor and publisher of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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