'A manager once told me, ‘If a door opens, walk through it. Don’t ask questions. When an opportunity is presented to you, take it - you’ll never know where it’s going to lead.’ That has, and always will, be one of the guiding principles of my career.'
When Brian Stevens left school early at fifteen in Wellington, New Zealand, he had not the faintest idea about what he wanted to do. He began working as an Optical Technician in Wellington followed by OPSM in Auckland, navigating his way up from retail, to the call centre in Sydney, and finally to project management. Brian ended up travelling around the world, managing the implementation of the company’s IT systems in new stores across China, South Africa, Singapore and the UK. Feeling as though he had progressed as far as he could at OPSM, Brian was ready for a change.
'When I moved to Toowoomba, I came without a job lined up. I wanted to work for a larger organisation to progress my career without a formal education; I needed a place where I could gain experience and embrace new opportunities. I started to look closely at the University of Southern Queensland as I had a strong feeling it would be exactly what I was searching for.'
Enhancing the student experience
Brian joined USQ in 2012 as a Project Manager within our IT Department. Now, almost eight years later, he’s the Associate Director of Integrated Frontline Services for Toowoomba. He provides a streamlined service point for students seeking support and guidance.
'In the past at USQ, various departments offered face-to-face support for students, but the feedback was that it was too difficult to know where to find specific services. Our vision was to create a service centre point in the centre of the university, clearly visible to students. They would be able to go there, ask questions, and not worry about anything else as we could find the answer for them.'
Brian says that a project of this scale always comes with its challenges, and COVID-19 certainly took its toll. However, his team discovered a silver lining in the opportunity to bolster their online services.
'At the beginning of semester one, we opened our doors to offer the service to students for the first time. Six weeks later, we had to close them and go home. But we realised the whole COVID situation actually became an opportunity for us to advance our virtual service offering.'
Brian and his team had only a three day turnaround to get the service platform online. It was tight but they made it. Brian says this couldn’t have been achieved without the support of his colleagues.
'Everybody in our team was ultra-responsive and happy to embrace the change. At the end of the day, no one could have done this by themselves. It doesn’t matter how good a Project Manager you are, if you don’t have the right team, you’ll struggle to deliver.'
Brian is proud of the progress his team has made, and regularly receives positive feedback from students who are appreciative that they don’t need to go searching for support.
When asked about why he chooses USQ, Brian says he feels connected to his team and united in a shared mission to deliver great outcomes for students.
'When the opportunity came up to take on my current role, I saw this as my chance to reinvigorate my love of frontline customer service, after having spent some time in the IT department at USQ. Throughout my life, I’ve always enjoyed frontline customer service. I like to think that I’m really helping our students and they are leaving happy. Our ultimate goal is for every student to come to us in the first instance for any university-related enquiry.'
As he reflects back on his early days as an Optical Technician, Brian never imagined he would be where he is today. He says the opportunities you take with both hands shape who you are and where life will take you next.
'My advice to others is to move slowly and surely towards your career goals and be patient with yourself. Don’t try to rush the process as there is an invaluable amount of learning to be gained when you work your way up through the ranks, as opposed to leaping straight into a top job. I can guarantee having a solid grounding will be your safety net – you’ll know your customer, how to provide the service, and what is needed to improve on the experience.'
Thank you Brian, for your dedication to always improving our student experience at USQ.