- Major(s): Physics
Monash Science graduate Leon Cooper is a case study on how a physics and maths graduate can go on to have a career beyond the traditional expectations of becoming a teacher, academic or researcher when studying these disciplines.
Leon is currently a Director of Technology Strategy with PricewaterhouseCoopers – a somewhat unlikely career choice for someone who graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics. He works with executives to help them understand the opportunities and impacts of emerging technologies on their organisations, and how to make better and more strategic decisions accordingly, through maturing capabilities in big data analytics and artificial intelligence.
Recalling his curiosity about the natural world and its inherent complexity, Leon loves studying maths and physics to explore and understand natural phenomena in depth. “Studying these disciplines also allowed me to pursue interests in the fields of computer science, cognitive psychology and complex adaptive systems, as they all tend to reinforce each other when modelling the natural world (and our perceptions of it) to a sufficient depth.”
To doubters who think that studying science is irrelevant to the real world beyond academia, Leon makes a strong case against it. “I think studying any scientific discipline provides a critical thinking and problem solving framework which can be applied in almost any field of endeavour. This skillset is particularly relevant in professional services, as we are continually faced with new problems, hypotheses, systems, data and paradigms that require a structured approach to understand and address them.”
“My career success in consulting has largely been a product of my ability to understand concepts from first principles, apply a data-driven approach and model outcomes from alternative scenarios. Each of these skills were refined through my studies in physics and mathematics.”
An active undergraduate life as a Science Student Ambassador, founder of a Monash society for Scholars and Advanced Science degree students at Monash Science developed Leon’s skills in networking, seeking out mentors and developing his own personal ‘brand’ that reflects his own unique personality, attitude and skills. He represented the University at conferences, co-founded a Monash society for Scholars and Advanced Science degree students, and was a Science Student Ambassador to promote science to students. Leon hopes that undergraduates makes the most of their time at university.
"My career success in consulting has largely been a product of my ability to understand concepts from first principles, apply a data-driven approach and model outcomes from alternative scenarios. Each of these skills were refined through my studies in physics and mathematics.”"
“Get practical experience in an industry which interests you, and learn how to add value by using and refining your skills. It's not essential to get the 'perfect' job straight away, but it's important to have a longer-term vision of what you want to create for your life, and how you hope to achieve it by taking measured steps. A large aspect of career success, even in highly technical disciplines, comes from the cooperation and trust of working in productive teams.”
Seeing that Leon works with clients to adopt emerging technologies, we had to ask the question – what’s the future of work going to be like?
Says Leon, “It’s going to be one where we are working alongside intelligent machines, which we must understand how to instruct, optimise and draw insights from in order to be productive in our own roles. The workforce of the future needs to develop skills particularly in interacting effectively with them, or have uniquely human qualities that machines will have difficulty to emulate.”
“Interacting with machines will require skills in areas such as systems architecture and design, programming, workload balancing, and rapid information transfer (interfaces). Developing our more human traits are equally important, particularly in creativity, empathy, communication and teamwork, as a way to achieve the best synergies and work outcomes.”