Having recently commenced in the role of Communications and Policy Manager at the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) (EWOV), I was impressed with the access I had to EWOV’s data and the way it was being presented to me for the purposes of influencing policy outcomes and driving effective communications. It was then I learned of Amelia Cahyadi and her PhD in Information Systems, focusing on the Design Thinking perspective on the design of dashboards.

Impressed by the support this provided my role, I wanted to understand why EWOV had decided to hire a PhD, I sat down with the head of EWOV’s Information Technology, Damien Osborn.

A little over a year ago, Damien was looking for a data analyst to join his team, with specific technical expertise and skills that would help drive the success of the team within the organisation. That was when he first considered the recent PhD graduate from Swinburne University of Technology.

Damien outlined his decision behind Amelia’s appointment as a matter of aligning both the particulars of the role and organisational culture, with her skills proposition. She presented as being both disciplined and with deep technical knowledge, skills demonstrated through the completion of a PhD. This and the knowledge gained, reflected in the topic of her PhD were extremely relevant to the role. Combined with this, Amelia demonstrated her ability to communicate effectively and importantly, to collaborate. This has been particularly important when working across the organisation and with EWOV’s data set.

Damien Osborn, IT Manager – EWOV and Amelia Cahyadi, Data Analyst – EWOV

EWOV resolves disputes between Victorians and their energy or water provider. With over 30,000 cases per year, this provides a large amount of data – and a critical insight into market operations. Amelia’s role is focused on optimising visualisation of that data for the purposes of improving EWOV’s case handling processes, through predictive analytics, and importantly accessing that data to communicate issues and trends in the market to policy makers, regulators, industry, and the community. Damien highlighted that through Amelia’s expertise, the ability for them to provide this information to teams within EWOV in a more dynamic manner, means that those parties are receiving relevant information about the state of the energy and water markets at pivotal times.

Quite simply, the skills acquired through completing a PhD presented incredible opportunities for the organisation.

It was also important to understand Amelia’s experience having gained a PhD and how this impacted her employment decisions and experience. Speaking with Amelia, she mentioned that the success of completing a PhD was marred with making the decision to remain in academia or to return to industry. Both presented many opportunities, and having decided to return to industry, in the case of IT and for Amelia, this presented several barriers too.  On top of cultural and gender bias – was the issue regarding the perceived relevance of a PhD, and the view that someone with a PhD would be overqualified for the role. This was certainly the experience for Amelia. Before she landed the role at EWOV, Amelia made close to 200 job applications.

Damien was able to see more opportunities than barriers, when deciding to bring a PhD onto his team.

“As IT Manager at EWOV, my background is in engineering and within the team the roles are traditional IT roles, systems analysts etc. The team needed additional skills in critical thinking to enable them to pursue the scope of technical opportunities within the organisation. Amelia’s research, problem-solving, and critical thinking capability has proven itself time and time again.” – Damien Osborn

Through leadership and experience, EWOV is able to pursue a diverse and inclusive agenda – with a focus on putting the right people in the right roles. According to Damien, Amelia has contributed to meeting the team and organisational needs with her energy and enthusiasm coupled with analytical skills and design thinking capability.

Amelia Cahyadi, Data Analyst at EWOV

For Amelia, following the academic focus of her PhD, this role not only provided a creative outlet, it also presented an opportunity to apply her skills in real world context and EWOV’s purpose was a good fit.  The role presents an opportunity for innovation and her expertise and experience in machine learning and predictive analytics provides an opportunity for EWOV to be leading edge while creating a real and positive impact on the wider community.

“The workforce, especially the IT industry, needs more open-minded leaders like Damien who would be willing to give PhD holders a chance to prove ourselves, to be influential, and to contribute to the organisation and community.” – Amelia Cahyadi

From a hiring perspective, from what I could see and from the benefit flowing to my own team’s success, when it comes to hiring a PhD, the question isn’t why, but why not?

About the author:

Janine Rayner – Policy and Communications Manager at EWOV. With over eight years working in energy policy as a consumer advocate, Janine is highly passionate about driving reform in the public interest through transforming political agendas, institutional programs and business accountability.

Janine has a deep understanding of complex consumer and energy policy, as well as regulatory and market issues, across both traditional and emerging energy markets.

A particular focus in her current role is to ensure the lived consumer experience is central in government, industry and consumer policies and processes. Providing advocacy directly into regulatory processes at all levels of government, though developing relationships with key stakeholders, ministers and advisers, departmental officials, regulatory bodies and across industry has been key to the success of my role, supported further by engaging in media, communicating both our policy positions and consumer rights, directly to consumers themselves.

In 2005 Janine completed a Masters in Environmental Management and moved from recruitment, to her role at Consumer Action, with a short stint as a sustainability consultant. This transition has provided Janine the opportunity to develop strong skills in advocacy, policy, media, and analysis, and has enabled her to further develop the relationship, leadership and project management skills, gained in her earlier career.

About Amelia

Amelia completed a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Information Systems, focusing on the Design Thinking perspective on the design of dashboards.  Her PhD followed her experience as a systems analyst in leading companies in Singapore. She is now working as a data analyst at the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria).

About Damien

Damien is a high-performing IT management professional with more than twenty years’ experience in non-profit organisations, private and public sectors. He is a visionary and an inspired self-starter, specialising in green-field environments, with the ability to manage multiple projects and teams with diverse backgrounds. His expertise in business and IT strategy, incorporating the oversight of multi-faceted projects, enables the effective delivery of longer-term objectives. He is a thought leader in advanced analytics, delivering frameworks that transform descriptive reporting into actionable business insight, and now is the head of IT at the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria).