Day in the life profile—Harith Ahmad

Graduate Program Officer


Waking up is hit-and-miss for me; sometimes it is quite challenging, other times, I don’t even need an alarm. Today it is easy! The Department encourages flexible working arrangements, which I capitalise on by starting work early and finishing early. This gives me time in the afternoons to go for runs, swims or just do an extended grocery shop. After showering and breakfasting then, I jump in the car and it’s a quick 10-minute drive to the office.


I arrive at the office after a 15-minute walk from my carpark. Walking through cool Canberra mornings is a refreshing way to start your day. I generally spend the first half-hour of my day checking and replying to emails, reviewing my calendar, and prioritising my tasks for the day. If I have any unfinished tasks from the previous day, I’ll also try powering through them while I have that early-morning energy. No unfinished tasks today, so onwards and upwards.

My day typically begins by reviewing any media from the day before. Whilst media activity is not the main driver of my work, it is still important to keep up to date with news and developments in my portfolio; it provides rich contextual knowledge that informs the tasks I work on. It also provides a good gauge of what other priorities a Minister’s Office has for the day and how busy they may be.


Usually, I will have lost my early-morning energy by now and today is no different. Coffee time! My coffee buddy today is Caillin, a fellow graduate, and an excellent coffee companion! Our graduate cohort this year comprises 35 graduates and with all the programs and events organised by the Department’s Entry Level Team, it is easy to make good friends. Caillin and I catch up on all the happenings in our lives and share a few laughs.

two people sit outside drinking coffee

Upon returning to the office, I prepare for a group presentation with a senior executive. As part of our program, groups of graduates participate in various research projects that are sponsored by senior executives in the Department. My group examined revenue generation opportunities in major transport infrastructure. We are now in the final stages of a report for our sponsors. Before finalising the report however, we take our ideas to our sponsor to hear her feedback.


Our group presents our ideas, key themes and recommendations to our sponsor. She confirms she is happy with our progress and direction, and provides us helpful feedback. Our research project has been great not just for learning opportunities, but also for the networking opportunities. In addition to working closely with senior executives in the Department, we also spoke with State and Federal infrastructure bodies, private financiers, construction firms and infrastructure operators. One airport executive even extended a standing offer for a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the nation’s busiest airports, anytime we were in town!


I spend some time after our presentation to review the notes I took. Once satisfied, I move on to my business-as-usual work. In my current rotation, I am working in the Project Inception and Delivery Branch in the Department’s Significant Projects Investment Delivery Office. A key piece of work I am involved in is the development of a business case for a Brisbane Inland Rail Intermodal Terminal. Today, I am looking into some simple, Excel-based economic modelling to do a high-level estimation of the long-term viability of sections of the Inland Rail. Economic modelling does not come naturally with my background in law, but my supervisor is awesome, and has walked me through setting up an Excel spreadsheet using basic discounting formulae to calculate costs and benefits over the life of the project. For the next hour or so, I research demand forecasts for key freight categories to plug into the economic model.


Lunchtime! I usually go for walks at lunch when time permits. Today however, I feel like a sit down lunch. I head out with Isy a graduate friend who works on the same floor as me. We head to a nearby park with plenty of shade and catch up whilst eating lunch. Canberra has only recently come out of lockdown, so it has been good to catch up with friends in person.


I return to my demand forecasts and economic modelling. As I am new to this rotation, I also undertake some self-led research into broader topics such as Inland Rail, intermodal terminals, South-East Queensland geography and some of the key economic activities in the region. This helps me familiarise myself with various aspects of the project.

As someone who enjoys learning, I have thoroughly enjoyed the graduate year. Graduates get to choose their rotations, so I sought out a variety of roles in subject-matter areas that were completely new to me. This has allowed me to acquire new subject matter expertise in diverse policy areas such as communications, arts and now infrastructure!


My Branch has a quick Teams meeting to discuss a few developments regarding the planning for the intermodal terminal. Most of our meetings are held virtually as staff work remotely from home in Canberra, or even interstate. There has been a key development in relation to a specification of the terminal, which has the potential to have significant flow-on impacts to the rest of the planning. We discuss what next steps are required to mitigate the impact of the changes.


In my current team, I am provided ample opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the Branch’s work. One task offered to me was to manage a consultant that had been engaged to advise on the validity of a key piece of modelling relied on for the project planning. The consultant returned an interim report to us yesterday. I spend my last hour reviewing the report, focusing on its key findings and writing down some comments and feedback against it. My next steps will be to brief my team and Assistant Secretary, and take the comments and feedback back to the consultant when we next meet.


It’s a wrap! As I mentioned before, I start early and leave by late afternoon. Whilst I usually spend these late afternoons going for walks, runs or swims, today, I am in for a treat. Joe, another graduate friend, had his brand new set of golf clubs delivered today. When we learnt the clubs were coming today, we quickly scheduled a post-work session to try out the new clubs. We spend the next several hours whacking unsuspecting golf balls around Capital Public Golf’s Pitch & Putt course and driving range. A cracking end to an excellent day.

joe holding a golf club at the thirteenth hole