Degree by distance for DP World automation manager

This article was originally published by the Australian Maritime College –

In his working life, Mitch Hawkins is responsible for the optimisation and development of automated equipment at all of DP World Australia’s terminals. As Australia’s leading port and supply chain operator, it’s quite a remit.

He’s also the first DP World Australia employee to be sponsored by the company to study at AMC, beginning a Bachelor of Business in Maritime Logistics Management by distance in February 2016. We caught up with him to find out more.

Hi Mitch – can you tell us a bit about your work at DP World?

I began my career at DP World as an electrical contractor, and my work with the company has taken me around the globe: from Dubai to Spain, Melbourne, Sydney and finally Brisbane, where I’m now based.

As an electrician, I was already involved in a lot of the company’s automation work – for example I worked on an Automated Stacking Cranes project in Brisbane, which saw robots handling and optimising the complete process of moving containers from the waterside onto trucks.

In March 2016, I moved to my new role as National Manager – Automation. I now look after optimisation and development projects for the automated equipment in our terminals, as well as some corporate development for our planned Port in Burnie. This sees me making regular trips to Tasmania to deliver education sessions on the port and logistics industry to local high schools and hiring of apprentices from January 2017.

Sustainability by community engagement is something both DP World Australia (DPWA) and I are passionate about, so it has been very rewarding to be involved in the DP World Global Education Programme, which aims to reach out to 34,000 young people (8-14yrs) by 2020.

What are the best bits about your work?

It’s an exciting time to be involved with automation: as an industry, we’ve only been moving containers in this way for around 20 years, and the equipment and technologies are constantly evolving. Computer-controlled equipment systems are not only efficient because they can operate 24/7 but they also contribute significantly to safety in port operations, which is really important.

The best bit of the work for me is working with such a diverse range of people. Being a global business, we deal with companies in many countries and our employees are from a great mix of cultures.

What inspired you to want to study for a bachelor’s degree?

I’ve been interested in business throughout my electrical trade career, and felt I was at a good stage to take on the new direction; leveraging on my industry experience and understanding obtained from the ground level.

Studying since early 2016, I can see that the units are already helping to refine my work practices – which in turn benefits DP World Australia, as well as myself.  I’m always eager to get stuck in to the next course unit so I can improve on current skills and gain new ones.

Why were you selected by DP World Australia for a degree at AMC?  

I was very honoured and proud to be selected as the first employee to be sponsored for a degree at AMC. DP World Australia has a great Learning and Development Policy which supports further education of its employees, and I understand it is interested in offering more sponsored degrees in the future. The Australian Maritime College is the obvious choice for educating DP World Australia’s staff, given our position in the maritime and logistics sector.

I was awarded the opportunity as someone who had been identified as a ‘high potential employee’ and because I was deemed to have displayed a level of commitment beyond the normal duties of my role.

How have you found your studies so far?

Interesting! I’ve enjoyed reading the included study material and prescribed textbooks, which are current and provoke thoughtful consideration, whilst also being great source of references to include in assignments.

Not having face-to-face contact with the tutors and student peers can make some of the assignments difficult to manage, but I have been in regular email and phone contact with a number of students studying via distance in Australia and overseas.

The flexibility of being able to catch up on lectures and learning material when time allows is the biggest advantage. As I am often working and studying whilst travelling, the Microsoft Office 365 and MyLO applications available from UTAS have been invaluable—I am always able to access my assignments and course material wherever I am, across a multitude of devices.

How are you balancing work and study?

It’s no surprise that working full-time and studying via distance part-time is a challenge, especially as my role includes plenty of travel. As this is my first year of tertiary study, I am still developing my time management and study strategies; so far, I have invested in a good home office setup, so I am in the best environment to achieve good grades.

Where do you hope your degree will take you?

I believe the degree will enhance my understanding of business to a level expected by industry executives and also compliment my work ethics. I plan to be involved in the industry for a very long time, so the degree will see that I am capable of taking on new challenges and expanding my career pathway.

Thanks for your time Mitch and we wish you every success as you balance your work and degree over the coming years!

Thank you!