Interview: Alex Von-Limont
In the following interview, construction manager Alex Von-Limont discusses the evolution of his global project management career, quitting smoking, finding RPL, and how he is now going to use it to save $14,000 off the cost of an MBA.
Congratulations on your Graduate Diploma of Strategic Leadership and your Advanced Diploma of Work Health and Safety.
Thank you very much.
Alex, can you give me a summary of your career history, what brought you to Churchill and why you wanted to look into Recognition of Prior Learning?
Yeah, sure, not a problem at all. Basically, I left school quite young, back in New South Wales at the time, many many years ago, and then I went back to TAFE college to do some further studies, which I did at a later age.
From there, a father at a young age of 18 and was working six days a week on a big project back in New South Wales. And I thought one day, “I don’t want to keep working on the tools et cetera, watching everyone break their back.” So I figured the only way was to do a bit of study, which I did, and I kept working and working and basically I went from working on my tools to leading a project to managing part of a project and then being promoted to superintendent and then construction manager. And that was over quite a few different years from being in the mining and marine sector in New South Wales. I worked in Matilda in Western Australia and Darwin, Queensland, Abu Dhabi, parts of Asia and of course Kazakhstan and PNG. And Iraq; I was in Iraq as well. I was there 2004, 2005 with Oil Search in Iraq for a year.
But going back to study-wise, it was just on nine years ago nearly, I thought, “No, I’m going to enrol in uni,” which I did, and did the Grad Cert at the time. In Project Management. That was at University of South Australia.
So anyway, that was nine years ago, when we came back from overseas from Abu Dhabi. I was on a $60b project there with Laing O’Rourke as construction manager. I had one parcel of the project, looking after some bridges over one of those highways between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But anyway, came back, and then I started on the Pluto gas project in WA, with Foster Wheeler Worley Parsons as the supervisor on that, for night shift.
Then moved back to Adelaide and worked for Baulderstone which is now Lendlease. During my tenure there I was seconded to a joint venture with Transfield and Transfield poached me to come across and work for them. I’d only been with them sort of just on the year, I think it was, and I was promoted to Project Director for Roxby Downs in South Australia, coordinating tenders and bids.
And then I got a phone call out of the blue in, I’ll never forget this, in 2011, from a company called Oil Search in PNG, saying, “Would you like to come work for us?” I actually hung up on them three times because I was in meetings, and the guy said, “Please don’t hang up me.” He said, “How would you like to work six months of the year? We’ll pay you this tax-free.” I said, “Beg your pardon?” And so that was my journey into PNG.
So I ended up walking in, they flew me up for eight days to have a look at the projects. I flew back on the Wednesday night. Thursday, I was in the office and they said, “What are you up to?” I said, “Here’s my computer, my credit cards, laptop, my phone et cetera. I’ll finish up on Friday.”
It happened really quick, and to cut a long story short, I was back in PNG on the Monday evening. So I’ve been up here ever since, backwards and forwards.
But going back to study-wise, one of the things that really got me when I was at uni was seeing the frustration at some of the people that were there, some professional mature people that had experience, and they didn’t know anywhere to go to source some RPL. And the RPL hierarchy of evidence-based assessment for uni, is really, really stringent. When I say stringent, it was really sort of archaic back then, and I think they were a little bit scared of it. And I thought, was walking around one day, “Wouldn’t it be nice to find someone, or an organization that counted history that way?”
So, going back last year, I looked at joining Swinburne University to do my Master’s degree and I deferred, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, and then by chance, after looking through all the different education providers in Australia, I came across Churchill Education. And I thought, okay, because I’m a pretty lateral thinker, before I actually make a decision, you know, I think about it. But this one was actually quite quick. I didn’t harbor it. I just picked up the phone and called you people and I spoke to John Brayshaw, and that was the start of it.
John was really, really good. He wasn’t your typical young uni kid that’s trying to sell you a degree and get you in there and sign you up to get their KPIs and little bonuses. He was the opposite, which I thought was refreshing. He said, “Give me a buzz if you want a chance to talk about this.” He never pushed it, and I was a little bit taken aback. I thought, “Why isn’t this guy pushing me about this?” And I really was, to be honest with you. I thought, “This is just not the way things get done in business.” But it’s amazing, reverse psychology or just his mannerism. I thought. “No, no, I like this. This is how things should be done.”
And I’ll never forget when I sent it through and it was just a couple of days later, that’s when John came back, he said, “Alex, I hereby based on what I’ve got here and your transmittals from you et cetera, this is what I can offer you.” And I never hesitated or anything, I just went, “Yep.” A lot of people procrastinate and go um and ah, it’s a bit of money. Well, it’s not a bit of money, it’s an investment in yourself, investment in your family, investment in your career. –
And half the price for studying the same qualification.
Absolutely, absolutely, yeah. You’re not wrong about that, because the study doesn’t worry me, it doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s actually quite satisfying some ways, but it’s the commitment of finding the time to do it when you’re flat out working away, that’s the hard part.
And also the time to study something that you already know, to gain skills that you’ve already got.
Exactly, exactly. Now you know, it’s a bit like going home and open the freezer up, and then walking down the road, buying a $10 ice cream, when you know you’ve got the same $10 ice cream in your freezer.
Doesn’t make sense. So anyway, hence I signed up straight away. John and your team, they really assisted me. I don’t know who’s the actual instigator of pushing things along to make things go quick but I was really, really impressed, Leonie, on how professional it was.
But seriously, I really was. I sprouted you up. I wish I was your Fiji manager, because you’d certainly be getting a lot of sales from the PNG market. I’m serious. I’ve not stopped talking about you.
I couldn’t be happier. It’s my intent now moving forward with the next two calendar months, could happen next month, definitely will happen the month after, where I’m going to take up the Grad Diploma of Portfolio Management.
Put it this way, Leonie, I used to smoke, I used to smoke a lot, and I now have a bit of a vape thing. I gave up months ago, but I told myself, “Okay, idiot, you’re spending $200 a week, $1000 a month nearly for eight months or nine months you can get yourself an Advanced Diploma, two Grad Dips, if you use your brain properly.” So that’s all about, why burn money away now when you can actually be investing in yourself?
You got money to spend on qualifications!
Exactly. No, exactly right. You are exactly right though. The other thing as well is that, based on … Now here’s a little kudos for you guys, because as I said, I was looking at doing the MBA, I’ve been in contact with a guy called Scott from the Australian Institute of Management. Now Scott just got back to me this afternoon. He went, “Alex, based on the fact that you’ve now got the Grad Dip and your Grad Cert, you’ve been credited five business credit units towards your MBA instead of doing the 12 units.”
My intent now is to not start the MBA based on that. I want to get the next Grad Dip, add that. That will give me two more credits. So instead of doing 12 units of the Masters, I would end up doing five. That would be cool.
So instead of me forking out $2,800 per unit and paying $36,000, I’ve actually saved a lot of money. But I’ve done it the right legal way, and that’s by you giving RPL.
So it’s going to save you $19,600 off the cost of your MBA?
Correct. It’s a great outcome. I wish I knew about you people long before.
So how did you find us? Just through Google or did you have a recommendation from somebody?
No, no. It was done basically through Google. Now what it was, I’ll give you a little funny one here. I spoke to the Australian Institute of Business in Adelaide, talked to them. And I came outside and I overheard a conversation. Now, I don’t know who the two people were but one guy said, “Look, I went to uni, and so my lecturer said ‘You know, there’s better providers out there, you don’t have to spend $25,000 per year, whatever, to say that you have been to uni when there’s the equivalent providers who are just as good, if not better for less cost and they’re more personal towards you.’” And I went, “Okay, that really makes sense to me.”
So I Googled it a bit more and sure enough, I’m thinking who are the top providers in New South Wales and you guys came up straight away, believe it or not. Now, I don’t know what button I pushed but seriously, it came up Churchill Education, highly recommended, blah blah blah. Had four stars out of five or something. I went, “You know, this is pretty damn good.”
So I read about you and by just making that first initial phone call and John speaking to me, that sort of sealed it for me. It was his very first conversation. He was very approachable, very easy going. As I said, not pushy but really, “Look, I can certainly help you with this, if you provide blah blah blah.” He came back with a long email of a list of requirements and scenarios on what sort of evidence to provide. And I went, “Yep, I got those things there on my hard drive, got those in my system, I’m currently doing this, I’m currently doing that. I’ve just done this recently.” And that’s when I sent, I think it was 21 or 22 emails to John with a lot of attachments et cetera and I said back waiting, waiting and then you should have seen … If you could have seen my face when I opened the email up and it said, “You qualify for this,” it was priceless, honestly.
It’s like winning the lotto.
I was so happy. And to be honest, when I walked into your organization last Monday, I got out and came to you, I didn’t know what to expect. I walked in and that friendly face, that first lady I saw said, “Of course, you’re Alex.”
And then I didn’t even open the actual envelope, or the folder, until I got back in the taxi, and I just went, “Oh my God, look at these, they look so good.” Those parchments, you know, the way they’re done? Really, really smart looking.
Alex, John sent me a note to say that you initially were told by recruitment company that you would get the job that you were applying for if you had the Graduate Diploma of Strategic Leadership, is that true?
Correct. That’s true. There was a position I was looking at. It was a high profile position, and one of the things was they said, “Listen, if you had this particular degree.” And then I read into it and the aspects of it, and I thought “Well, I actually can do all this. I’ve done all this.” You know? And that was the part that frustrated me. But again it comes down to the wants and needs these days and the requirements of the employer versus employee. It’s a big market out there. There’s a lot of marketable people, and there’s a lot of frauds as well. And I just went, “No, no, I’m going to do this.” And so hence, that was probably one of the biggest players.
And now that I’ve got it, it’s amazing because I put it out to … I wouldn’t say to tender, but I’ve put out to a few organizations that I had my CV with previously, and said “Here’s my updated CV.” I had a phone call the other day from Singapore. “Yep, thanks, Alex. This changes everything completely, the way that now you’ve got this other one.” And even with the Advanced Dip now, having that as well gives so much credibility and kudos moving forward.
Such a great story. The reality is behind the scenes, Alex, there are so many people that touch each file in terms of … It starts with John, and then it goes to the assessor and then there’s ground support who process all of your information and actually create your certificate. And as you saw, we’re not a big team, so we pretty much know every client that comes through. We know their name and we know who they are. So this is going to be a great feedback for everybody in this company.