Dean Helm’s focus on professional development has helped guide his career path, be it moving from defence to transport or the UK to Australia.
Acting Managing Director at Transdev Sydney Ferries Dean Helm hasn’t always worked in transport — he spent 18 years working in defence.
That included service in the Australian Navy and the UK Royal Navy, but he’s been working with machinery of one sort or another since he was 16 years old.
“I started off life as a diesel technician at 16 years old and very quickly realised that I wanted to get into solving problems and becoming more enabled around compliance and the engineering capability of machinery,” Helm told create of his path to engineering.
Since then he has earned multiple degrees, worked in a variety of industries in the UK and Australia, and gained accreditation as a Chartered Engineering Technologist.
“The ability to be able to achieve Chartered status provides evidence of professional learning and its application through the years, from 16 years old to where I am today,” he said.
“Being able to tell people that you’re a Chartered engineer also does come with the benefits of applying for further opportunities and opening doors that may once have been closed.”
That has seen him advance through a variety of sectors even after joining the civilian workforce. From working on ships in the Navy, his next step was a role as Fleet Maintenance Manager for Sydney Trains.
“The application of knowledge is the same,” he said.
“You’re just applying it to a different asset, which operates in a different environment with similar principles applied. When you look at the concepts around a vessel and a train, there are lots of interdependencies.”
This ability to draw together disparate concepts — ships and trains, defence and transit — might be why Helm was able to adapt so deftly when he found himself back on the water with Sydney Ferries, though this time on ferries rather than ships.
“We operate multiple assets across various areas of Sydney stretching all the way out to Parramatta in the west and to Manly in the east,” he said.
“Some of our recent projects involved quite dramatic improvements in reliability. Engineering practices were utilised to develop reliability growth plans to ensure the vessels are optimised and utilised effectively.”
For Helm, his career focus on professional development, including Chartered status, has ensured he has been able to make the moves he has.
“I think it certainly assisted when I was manoeuvring from the maritime industry into rail,” he said.
“That allowed not just for a transparency of skill sets, but also the ability to be able to ask relevant questions of people who had experience in that industry.”
4 tips for success
- Be selective about your first graduate position and make sure it is the right one for you.
- Don’t just measure the money; look at a company’s values and the opportunities it offers.
- Start professional development early.
- Wherever you go, look for a mentor who will challenge you.