Why I became a government consultant
January 20, 2021
Luke Elton never expected to find himself in a job leading stakeholder engagement that pushed him out of his comfort zone. The appeal of constant problem solving, always learning and doing work that benefits the community have seen him grow from a technology grad to a Business Analyst advising on Federal policy execution.
I was a technology grad, and I’ve been working alongside Federal Government ever since I started my undergraduate studies in 2011, and I’m still here because I like problem-solving; that’s what drives me. As a business analyst, a lot of the job is: “Hey, here’s this great idea. Figure out how to make it work in practice.”
I started my career contracting for the government during my first uni semester break. I was studying for a Bachelor of IT because I was interested in technology, but I quickly realised I was drawn to the business – not the technical – side of the fence. I just couldn’t see myself sitting there programming all day, as in the real world it was different to tinkering with programs for fun. I also really enjoyed getting inside knowledge into future government directions, and my work enabled me to see beyond the public face of government.
In my early career, I was fortunate to work on some big Australian government reforms, including a second pass business case for biosecurity reform, where I had exposure to a number of consulting firms in the work I was doing. One of these consulting firms was Apis, part of Accenture, whose approach was refreshing compared to other consultants I had observed. I went into a conversation with an open mind, and it reinforced my initial impressions of the people, the work they delivered, and their culture as an organisation, so I joined the team in December 2013. In 2019, the Apis Group was acquired by Accenture, and our combined expertise further enhanced our services to government and health clients in Australia.
While a number of consultants parachute in, write a report with some recommendations and hand it over, Apis, part of Accenture, gets in right at the beginning – often at the inception of an idea – and sees it through. We help to formulate the business case and actually work alongside Federal Government employees to execute the project and make reforms happen. I like working in a blended team and I think it’s one of the reasons we're so successful. The people I work with are my colleagues, not my clients.
In my time here, I have been involved in a number of interesting programs covering many different parts of Australian society and culture, which have allowed me to continue to grow and learn from some really switched-on people. For example, I once spent a year working to help improve the systems that support Australia’s live animal exports. I led roadshows around the country to test potential system enhancements meeting everyone from horse exporters (shipping racehorses) to large commercial companies shipping pets. This work ultimately saw me performing end-to-end activities spanning project management, business analysis, test planning, and execution and release management.
I’ve been working on enhancements to an IT system with a major Federal Government Department for three years now. One of the biggest challenges I’ve had in this time is when I was tasked with running 10 weeks of accelerated design to kickstart thinking on what solutions to resolve stakeholders' current pain points could look like. With a multidisciplinary team involved across five sprints, I facilitated three all-day workshops for each sprint with consumers, assessors and service providers. By the end of each sprint, we had working designs to showcase back to our participants and industry peak bodies.
This was a major step outside my comfort zone to facilitate conversations with large groups of external stakeholders and really required me to think on my feet to playback what I was hearing from participants and guide the conversation.
I’m naturally shy and never saw myself as a leader, but with the right support, anything is possible. If I was to tell my 16-year-old self I’d be managing teams of people and leading design workshops I wouldn’t have believed it!
Following this work, I moved into a role as the product manager on a government website that launched last June. It was very satisfying, and a real highlight of my work so far was engaging across a range of internal and external stakeholders to ensure successful delivery, making sure the vision described by end users was clearly driven throughout the project. The website won the inaugural Australian Government Digital Award for outstanding digital delivery: product or service. Even better, when I left the project in May the website’s customer satisfaction had reached its highest point in years, so it was great to see that this work was making a difference.
I’m Canberra born and bred, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Canberra hits that nice middle ground – most of what a bigger city has but so much more convenient! The job opportunities are good, there are great day trips to the beach or wineries and I love being so close to nature. I live five minutes drive from work, but I can still take my dog for a walk up Mount Taylor next to my house!
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