USP Alumni Network

Name: Asheesh Gautam

Country: Fiji
Programme: BEd (2001), PGDip (2004), GCTT (2006)

Why did you choose your field of study?
Education was a sensible option to get into, because there is always going to be a need for educators. I chose Physics as the subject to teach because itís an unpopular subject, and I would like to help change that. So I started my working life as a Physics teacher at Marist Brothersí High School, the same place where I spent my formative secondary years. USP was the premier institution in the region, so it was the natural choice. The possibility of studying as an international student was always alluring but cost prohibitive. A PSC scholarship to fund my undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Education) also really helped.

Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?
Those were the days. Lectures were exciting since the AUSAid lecture theaters were brand new and the Southern Cross eatery was not open. Long hours spent reading up lecture notes and tutorials at the concrete benches, dashes to the AUSAid lecture theaters and then Labs in the School of Pure and Applied Sciences (SPAS) building. All coupled with lots of playing cards Ö.later on when I started post graduate study in Physics/Energy things were more serious as the content was tougher, and with work and study, it became a fine balancing act, but great educators like Associate Professor Surendra Prasad of the Physics Department made it worthwhile. It was also nice that a cohort of us who completed our undergraduate degree continued into postgraduate together so having classmates you knew made life and study so much easier.

Greatest achievement[s] as a student
ē    Graduating with a good set of grades in my undergraduate degree from USP.
ē    Graduating with a Master of Educational Leadership (with First Class Honors) from the University of Waikato
ē    Represented USP in a number of inter-tertiary chess competition, winning in 2006, 2007.
ē    Represented Fiji in the World Chess Olympiad in 2004 and 2006, becoming the first player from Fiji to win a game against an International Master.

Career Highlights since Graduation
I started by going back to Marist Brothersí high School and teaching, giving back just a little of the great care and nurturing the place given me as a student. After 3 years, and having served out my scholarship bond, I moved to the College of Foundation Studies at USP and worked there for 2 years.
After that, I moved to the Planning and Development Office at USP and worked there till early 2010 when I moved to New Zealand and took up my current role at the University of Waikato.  
I have had a chance of working at two excellent Universities, in very rewarding and challenging roles in the area of business intelligence and reporting, predictive analytics and planning, first at USP, and then in my current role at the University of Waikato.

Who/what do you credit your success to?
This is a hard one. I canít credit any single person. Being very self-motivated, I credit my education at Marist Brothersí High School from 1994-1998 as a significant contributor. It prepared me very well for study at University

What inspires you?
The desire to continually improve myself, to raise the bar and every time strive to surpass previous performance. Though there is always natural luck, we also believe in making my own luck in life by being in the right place at the right time.

 How do you think USP helped you in your career?
USP got me started down the path to gaining qualifications. In the workforce today, almost everyone has a degree, so having one of my own was a great start, but gaining a competitive advantage requires postgraduate qualifications, some of which I also gained at USP.  

Describe any challenges you face to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges?
Moving to a new country, finding work, while studying at the same time is always challenging. I come across many migrants who are unhappy with their lives and were happier in Fiji. The common thing I have observed is that they take little responsibility in trying and uplifting themselves, instead expecting god or someone else to do it for them. I have always practiced a proactive approach, getting out and about, meeting people, making connections and networks.
As a result, I have been able to surround myself with positive people who can help me get to where I have been try to get, and it works. Itís a mindset. It can be learnt and you can adapt. Equip yourself with the correct information and make sensible decisions, not emotional ones.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)?
I have completed a Master of Educational Leadership (with First Class Honors) from the University of Waikato, and am actively pursuing an MBA which I should have completed by the end of 2017. After that itís a doctorate focusing on Leadership in Higher Education.
On a personal front, being mortgage free and travelling Europe and North America are things that feature prominently for me.
Having had a chance to work at USP in the past, someday I would also like to return and give back to USP some of what I got out, bring with me best practice and institutional knowledge from some of the best universities in the world, and hopefully helping USP eventually become one of them.

What advice would you give to current and future students of USP?
Enjoy your time at USP, you will make friendships that will last a lifetime. You will learn new things and you will grow as people. Your life will never be the same again. You will find that things change very quickly. After some time, return trips to USP will be a walk down memory lane but only the building will be familiar, all your friends will be long gone. Each of you will take something different away, even if you learn the same thing. Think about life beyond your comfort zone, challenge yourself as you will be the force that shape and mold the future.
Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths.
1.    You are a commodity, market yourself well. Use the networks you build to maximize your competitive advantage. Play on your strengths, and if anyone asks you if you can do a job, always say yes, even if you canít, you can always learn later. This is the best advice you can get, and this is exactly what the most respected gurus in Silicon Valley and Wall Street will tell you. And guess what, they are right.
2.    Be prepared to start you career with a low paying job because no one starts out as the CEO. Those who accept this will go far, those who struggle with this, will struggle the rest of their lives. Accept it and move on. Once you have accepted it, you will figure out quickly your threshold for change, that you cannot live your live at the bottom of the heap. Hopefully that will mean that you will take steps to move forward, be that by changing jobs, moving countries, studying further etc.
3.    Never work hard, that is advice from last century and shows is that you have no imagination and are mediocre, destined to be a drone all your life. What this means is that it does not matter how long you study in the library, all that matters is where anything is sinking or not. If itís not, no amount of time in the library will help you. Maybe you learn better in a group setting sitting under a treeÖ if that works for you, use it and learn. This means you work smart but ethically, so donít walk over others to get to where you want to go, uplift them and take them with you on that journey. Learn to create your own opportunities and to identify opportunities when they arise. You will change career often, and your life will not be like your parents, because the world you will live in will not be like that of your parents. Be ready to change with the times, of be left behind. Most importantly, learn from other peopleís mistakes, so that you donít have to repeat them.

What has your involvement been with the University since you graduated?
I worked as at Physics Tutor at the Pre-Degree Studies Units (College of Foundation Studies) Mar 2005 Ė Oct 206 and as the inaugural appointee to the position of Institutional Researcher in the Office of Planning and Development.
I have also been a long time member of the USP chess club in its various incarnations between 1999 and 2010, winning 2 inter-tertiary games, in 2006 and 2007.
Participated in the Inaugural USP Alumni event in Auckland in 2010.

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