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Leaders in training

PART-TIME participation in the Defence Reserves is playing a crucial role in many Perth professionals’ achievement of their career aspirations.

The Reserves offer the opportunity to advance not only their technical skills, but also to receive officer training. And it is this instruction that is claimed to develop management and leadership skills better than traditional training or corporate experience.

A reservist for more than 10 years, KPMG IT services manager Stuart Walsh said his officer training and field experience helped him achieve his management position.

“When I originally started I was a senior technician. I sought out the IT manager position. I had the technical knowledge but my leadership skills were sold to get the management position,” he said.

“It was an advertised job and I was one of 27 applicants. With some of the criteria it was only my military experience that enabled me to answer the question.

“I could say that I led groups through training and planning and had the skills to manage large groups.

“It certainly helped very much during the interview stage. I was before these very senior people and it was a performance-based interview. I was bringing up examples from my army experience a lot; I could immediately bring them to mind.”

Mr Walsh said his officer training continually helped him perform his job as a manager.

“It has been particularly useful for my job. The management and training is generally under stressful conditions,” he said.

“You are tested under difficult conditions and you have to make a good decision and fast. It has been good, particularly in a crisis situation, like when a server is on fire. You can be calm and set people out on tasks and resolve the problem.

“There is a leadership element that you don’t get in business. In business they teach you how to manage, but to lead a group, to a achieve a business goal, is missing.”

University of Western Australia director of human re-sources Bob Farrelly said his part-time role as the commanding officer of the Western Australian University Regiment had assisted him in getting ahead in his profession and had given him the skills to improve his work performance.

“Any person in management doesn’t like giving bad news. In the army you get taught how to do that and to act as a counsellor,” he said.

“How do you do it in the nicest possible way? You can’t afford to be soft.

“The training you do is focused towards people man-agement and how to get the best out of people and to deal with people effectively in different situations.

“One of the skills that has helped me in my civilian career is using the thinking process to solve problems on a regular basis. It’s a systematic approach to any problem. I also do some lessons with things here [UWA] that relate to HR. My training [in the reserves] has given me skills in being able to instruct groups.

“A lot of people would be surprised that the army isn’t about yelling orders.”

Fremantle Hospital’s staff specialist in emergency medicine, Dr Norman Gray, said his overseas experience, including time in Rwanda and East Timor, had helped him in the practical component of his job.

“You have less resources and you have to deal with the basics. It makes you rely on your clinical skills and improve your bedside skills,” he said.

“You are a lot more isolated and you don’t have the technology and the same standards that we have here.”

Dr Gray said the leadership skills were also transferable to his role at Fremantle Hospital.

“In the army you are in charge of a team of medics and nurses, all of different backgrounds,” he said.

“At the hospital I have junior doctors of different levels of experience and backgrounds.

“The structure in the army and in the hospital has a lot of similarities.

“The modern Australian army isn’t about screaming orders, you need to develop different communication styles.

“You won’t get the response you want from 20th century educated Australians by yelling at them.”

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