Sulmaz is a Participant in our John Holland Pathway Program. Here’s a snapshot of her experience.

Sulmaz Afrugh | Bachelor and Masters of Chemical Engineering from the Tehran Polytechnic, Iran | Junior Engineer – John Holland.

Looking for new opportunities

Like many others who arrive in Australia, Sulmaz settled in the country in 2017 looking for new opportunities and hoping to grow professionally.

With four years of experience as a Chemical Engineer in Iran, and holding a double degree in the field, she was full of optimism about what her new journey may look like.

Sadly, she was surprised at how challenging it was to find work in her area of expertise in Melbourne.

Sulmaz enrolled in a course at Melbourne Polytechnic to secure a local qualification and volunteered with a range of organisations hoping this would lead to securing meaningful employment.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Sulmaz applied for 40 or 50 roles in her area of expertise, and received constant knockbacks citing either her ‘lack of local experience’ or being ‘overqualified’.

Overcoming barriers to employment

Sulmaz continued to persevere and was connected with Jesuit Social Services, where she enrolled in a course run by our Jesuit Community College.

The College supported her with job readiness training – such as professional resume and cover letter writing as well as interview advice.

Through Jesuit Social Services, Sulmaz discovered the John Holland Pathway Program. The program provides a foot in the door for qualified engineers from migrant and refugee backgrounds at one of Australia’s leading engineering, contracting and servicing providers.

From her first enquiry call about the program, through to the interview process, and then receiving the job offer Sulmaz found her contact with Jesuit Social Services “different from any other experience and a really pleasant one”.

Sulmaz was delighted to be one of the 23 successful Participants that commenced as part of the first intake of the John Holland Pathway Program.

She adds that the training Jesuit Social Services provided before she started in the role, “really gave me an insight into the Australian corporate culture, ways of doing things, thinking, and expected beahviours….it set me up on the pathway to success.”

Feeling a sense of belonging

Through the six month paid program, Sulmaz has felt “right at home” working as a junior engineer on the Murrumbeena Main Drain Duplication project.

Sulmaz works with a wide range of subcontractors and is responsible for Quality Assurance, cost tracking and reinstatement.

“This program has finally given me the opportunity for my skills and talents to be given expression and I’ll be forever grateful for that”.

Project Manager, Lucas Martinez saw Sulmaz’s potential when he first met her, and empathised with her situation. From a migrant background himself, he has experienced the conscious and unconscious biases in the Australian recruitment system.

Sulmaz’s Manager, Matt Razkenari worked with Sulmaz initially to build her confidence and six months down the track has disclosed that “she’s made herself indispensable. I need her on this project – she’s brilliant!”.

A clear path ahead

After successfully completing the six month program, Sulmaz was offered a permanent role at John Holland as a Junior Engineer as part of their Melbourne Water team.

Finally, Sulmaz feels that the “new opportunities and professional growth” that she was seeking when she moved to Australia are now hers for the taking.

If your organisation is interested in finding out how to develop your own program, please contact or phone the Corporate Diversity Partnerships team on (03) 9421 7600.