GAMING LEADS TO GLOBAL SUCCESS – HUNTER STUDENTS EXPERIENCE BOHEMIA INTERACTIVE SIMULATIONS
by Kate O’Mara
Turning a love for ‘gaming’ into a job is just a pipedream for many young people with a passion for I.T, but not for Port Stephens based, global software company Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim). Gaming technology is its lifeblood: it underpins its differentiation and has led to its global success.
From unassuming beginnings re-purposing gaming software in Anna Bay near Newcastle, BISim is now at the forefront of developing simulation training solutions for defence and civilian organisations globally.
Bohemia Interactive Simulations is the industry leader in game-based virtual simulation technology. Our core technology Virtual BattleSpace (VBS) has become the de-facto industry standard for virtual simulation and has seen extensive adoption across NATO nations. VBS has been selected by a number of armed forces, most notably the ADF, US Army and US Marine Corps, and the UK Ministry of Defence as their official virtual simulation platform. VBS is also widely used by the defence industry, with over 80 companies ranging from major system integrators to small firms procuring commercial licenses in order to deliver technology and training systems based on VBS.
“We work with the world’s militaries to develop and deliver tailored, cutting-edge simulation products and technology for tactical training, scenario experimentation and mission rehearsal. It’s an exciting space to work in,” said Group General Counsel of BISim Group & Managing Director of Bohemia Interactive Australia, Mr Ryan Stephenson
“We develop our products in-house so there’s no doubt that what we do is specialised,” Ryan continued. “Technical skills in I.T and gaming are a given, but our work is specific. Each military organisation has a different and individual need so to continue to tailor solutions, be responsive to our customers’ needs and stay ahead of the curve with ongoing R&D, we’re looking for people with the right mix of skills and passion.
“Our Australian presence, which is headquartered here in Williamtown, isn’t large but we’re innovative and combine our range of skills to ensure our customers are getting the interactive simulation product they need but as a tailored, tested, complete solution.”Access to the ‘right’ people is key for BISim who are always looking for new ways to disrupt its global markets as well as its own software products.
“People are our biggest asset. We can’t deliver what our customers need without people who have the skills to understand their requirements, engineer software to make it possible and maintain relationships to keep them happy.” Ryan continued.
BISim has been working with RDA Hunter and its STEM Workforce Initiative since 2017 to help build a larger local talent pool.
RDA Hunter’s work helps build a work-ready, skilled homegrown workforce to support the region’s internationally competitive industry base through a collection of discretely funded initiatives. Activities span the student continuum of primary through senior school and the transition to higher education by providing students with contextualised roadmaps to real Hunter jobs.
“RDA Hunter works with companies like Bohemia Interactive Simulations to help promote the career opportunities that are right here on the doorstep of Hunter students,” said RDA Hunter’s Director of Regional Development and Executive Officer, Mr Trevor John.
The ME Program is RDA Hunter’s most mature workforce development program and anchors the organisation’s workforce development initiatives. Funded by the Australian Department of Defence it commenced in 2009 to help build a defence industry workforce to ensure the successful delivery of Australian Defence projects.
“Our programs aim to give students a mix of STEM and work-readiness skills like communication and team-work to help prepare them for industry jobs.” Mr John continued.
Through ME, RDA Hunter facilitates formal partnerships between Hunter high schools and Hunter based defence prime contractors and SMEs. It aims to contextualise curriculum by incorporating scenario-based problem-solving and builds awareness of defence industry career pathways. It has a strong focus on developing students’ science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills as well as their work-readiness.
Industry experiences are a popular component of the ME Program and I was lucky enough to join a group of senior students from ME partner school Hunter River High (HRH) when they visited Bohemia Interactive Simulations recently. HRH’s year 11 student Isabella Zdravkovic, who was keen to understand what a computer science job really entailed, asked her teachers whether the excursion was possible. And thanks to the ME Program partnership, it was!
Isabella told me she’s always loved I.T and really wants to work with computers as a career but wasn’t sure what the jobs were or how to get them. “I knew that there must be businesses in Newcastle that specialised in this space, so my Dad and I googled and found Bohemia Interactive. It’s exactly the type of business I’d love to work in and I thought some of my friends would too, so I asked my teachers whether we could visit – and they made it happen.”
Hosted by Lennon Willoughby, BISim’s Senior Support Specialist – APAC Lead and Nick Oliveri, Quality Assurance Analyst, nine HRH students were given a run-down of the business – how it started, how it grew, it’s customers, how it utilises gaming technology and its ethos. They also took turns on the F18 procedural training and gunnery training simulators, giving them a hands-on look at how gaming technology is used in military applications.
Importantly, Lennon and Nick also explained to the students that there were many different pathways to jobs in this industry.
Nick shared his personal story, “I love working at Bohemia – it’s so cool. I didn’t do well in my HSC but I knew what I wanted to do and I worked hard to get here anyway. I found that the subjects I didn’t do well at in school were easier when I had some context, so, after TAFE and Open Foundation I finished my computer science degree.”
“I think that doing some extra work at home to demonstrate your skills and interest is important in helping you stand-out. Making 2D platforms, for example, shows that you can apply your technical skills and solve problems, which is an important part of what we do.”
According to Lennon, STEM subjects are a great grounding for the type of work BISim does, “Maths and physics are important for the software engineering we do, but problem-solving, communication and presentation are also key skills to have when working in a customer-focused business like ours.”
The BISim industry experience is exactly what Isabella had hoped for, “The simulators were great, and it was so interesting to hear directly from Lennon and Nick. They’re young and have amazing jobs. It reinforces that I’m on the right pathway to a great job here in Newcastle. It’s a valuable experience for us to see companies like Bohemia Interactive up-close. It’s definitely inspired me to keep working hard and I’m excited for the future.”