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How award winner used life lessons for academic success

As Defence Connect prepares to host the 2022 Australian Defence Industry Awards, BAE Systems Australia’s Brett Smith recalls how work experience catapulted his academic success – and led to him being crowned as Graduate of the Year last year.

As Defence Connect prepares to host the 2022 Australian Defence Industry Awards, BAE Systems Australia’s Brett Smith recalls how work experience catapulted his academic success – and led to him being crowned as Graduate of the Year last year.

Defence Connect recently launched the fourth annual Australian Defence Industry Awards with principal partner KBR, which is designed to recognise the best and brightest in Australia’s defence industry across 10 individual and 18 company categories.


Scheduled to take place on Thursday, 15 September at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, the black-tie gala awards ceremony will celebrate those professionals and businesses who have gone above and beyond to build a stronger and more innovative defence ecosystem.

At the end of the ceremony, one person will be selected from all individual category winners as the recipient of the coveted Excellence Award.

Giving it everything you’ve got

For Brett Smith – who is a digital detail designer in the Hunter Class Frigate Program, layouts at BAE Systems Australia – it was an eventful couple of years leading up to the 2021 awards ceremony as he juggled his career with a diploma.

As part of the Hunter Class Frigate Program, Smith’s role involves digitally designing Australia’s future naval assets and the platform and auxiliary structures for the Royal Australian Navy.


Alongside this, he undertook a diploma of digital technologies at Flinders University over 2020 and 2021, where he not only achieved some of the highest marks in his class, he completed his course with a high distinction and a grade point average of seven.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he capped off 2021 by picking up the Graduate of the Year trophy at the 2021 Australian Defence Industry Awards.

He was also a finalist in the prestigious Excellence Award category.

Smith attributed his victory to being a member of Project Noah (which is a part of the BAE Systems, ASC Shipbuilding and Flinders University development program), where he gained critical knowledge in the engagement and enhancement of disruptive technologies in the future of Australian shipbuilding construction and design.

Smith gained an upper hand by applying the practical lessons he had learned during his 10 years in the defence industry to his academic pursuits.

“I continued my academic journey in the same way that I conducted myself in the workplace: by giving it everything I had and learning as much as I possibly could,” he said.

“I tried to apply my life experience to the academic environment, which was a huge benefit, and the results were quite positive. I was extremely happy with the final result.”

Smith told Defence Connect that he was humbled by his victory at the “esteemed” awards program, and that he always aspired to meet an incredibly high academic standard in his diploma course.

“It was a recognition of my efforts in the defence industry over the years, and to be respected by my peers and leaders in the industry is quite an honour,” he said.

Awards program will grow significantly

As such, he urged other individuals in the Australian defence industry to submit themselves for the 2022 Australian Defence Industry Awards and be acknowledged for their efforts and achievements by their colleagues.

“I strongly believe that recognition on an individual level is critical, particularly for those people who may feel they are contributing to the industry with everything they’ve got,” Smith asserted.

“Moreover, recognition of their efforts from peers and leaders in the same industry is really important. It also allows people from other industries to really see what’s going on in our industry without any rose-coloured glasses as well.”

He also noted that entrants “may very well be pleasantly surprised” by the outcome on the awards night, and as such, pushed them to capitalise on this opportunity.

“The awards night is quite incredible so give it a shot. You have nothing to lose, and you may actually be under rating your capabilities,” he said.

“I definitely see the Australian Defence Industry Awards growing quite significantly now that a lot of the manufacturing will hopefully be brought back on to our shores. And the more people hear about our achievements and effort, the better it is.

For those entering the awards this year, Smith recommended that they provide a clear picture of their role in their submissions, and how they are benefiting the industry.

“For example, my submission was based around my research and experience in the defence industry over the last 10 years,” he said.

“I’m glad that I impressed the judges enough to be selected as a winner.”

To enter the awards this year, register your account through our secure awards platform and fill in the details of your submissions. When you’re happy with your submission, press save and lodge it.

Nominations and submissions close on Thursday, 21 July 2022.

Click here to submit an entry or nominate a worthy colleague for a chance to take centrestage and walk home with a trophy.

For more information about the awards program, including categories and judging process, click here.

How award winner used life lessons for academic success
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