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Cobalt’s (not-so) secret ingredient

Since 2002, Cobalt has partnered with Swinburne university students as part of their professional placement program. Innovation has always been one of Cobalt’s core values, and fostering it requires a culture of continuous learning and multiple perspectives – new and old.

A day in the life

At Cobalt, being an intern is more of a label than a job. Interns are immediately placed in the thick of things, with the expectation that they are part of the team from day one. One of our guiding principles is to always ask “What if?” All ideas are good ideas, regardless of whose idea it is. Interns have many opportunities to exercise this as they are thrust into real and meaningful Cobalt work. Cobalt currently offers two placement roles – a Product Design Engineer Intern, and a Marketing Intern.

An important element in our company culture is that of mentorship and knowledge sharing. While this is probably most relevant to the intern experience, it is still important for all other staff. Whether someone is a Principal, Project Leader or a fellow Designer or Engineer, everyone actively supports each other either by sharing knowledge or taking on a mentor/mentee relationship.

“All 3 Principals really invest in our team. [We] love to see the team develop and for us all to be our best…– Steve Martinuzzo, Cobalt Founding Principal

Responsibilities are numerous for both interns. On the engineering side of things, interns are placed on a variety of project teams to develop the skills necessary in all areas of product design, such as CAD, or prototyping. Marketing duties involve maintenance of all of Cobalt’s marketing channels, such as the website, social media and the content creation that is required for these (yes, hello, this article is written by yours truly…).

It’s a learning experience for everyone

Over the years, we have found that while this experience can be life-changing for interns, it’s has provided invaluable learnings for Cobalt and our staff. With fresh people comes fresh ideas and perspectives. A constant cycle of new interns every year means that everyone is exposed to different ways of thinking. Without being bogged down with the usual practices and familiarity of the business, they can provide the insight of an ‘’outsider looking in’.” Every intern is different, and despite the wealth of knowledge and experience that the Cobalt staff already have, there have always been new discoveries, lessons, and knowledge that we learn each time.

Many times, interns have then continued at Cobalt after graduation. Others have gone on to successful careers elsewhere. Regardless, it has always been a fulfilling experience for all involved.

Get to know the 2021 interns: Mo & Zoe

Why did you choose to do this?

Mo: Because PDE design engineering is the border between Design and engineering, and its one step closer to my dream of being Q from James Bond!

In all seriousness though, the placement at Cobalt was ideal for me as it allows me to explore and learn in the exact field of my choosing, with the support of the Cobalt team, some of the most highly regarded consultancies in Melbourne! Amongst other internship opportunities it was obviously the dream Choice!  I think the consultancy is also great as it gives me exposure to hundreds of different design problems and experience over a wide breadth of topics.

Zoe: This role covers so many areas of interest for me! The wide range of skills required for Cobalt’s marketing channels is similar to my own personal interests and skills, covering a bit of everything. As someone who can’t pick between things such as design, marketing, or photography for the current moment, I wanted to pick a job that would challenge me in a variety of ways, and it definitely has.

What has so far been your favourite part?

Mo: I think seeing parts that you have designed come to fruition and work.  When your CAD files become real life prototypes that you get to assemble, or when calculations you have made are confirmed by testing.  There is just something about seeing something go from a sketch on a page to a real tangible item! This is extra good when your coworkers are equally enthusiastic!

Zoe: Probably the challenges to my skills that I’ve been put through, and the people I work with – it’s great to be in such a supportive environment. That, and being part of a major project behind the scenes that I’m not sure I can quite mention yet!

Has your perception of university changed since being in the industry?

Mo: I don’t think that my perception of university has changed that much.  However, I would say that the major differentiator between academia and working in industry, particularly at Cobalt is that you really cannot leave no stone unturned. So, I would say that the depth of knowledge on projects is a huge difference.

Zoe: A little bit. Sometimes I couldn’t see the importance of some tasks that we would do at uni, and now there is a clear translation. While there are many ways into marketing without a degree, this experience had made me fully realise the value in my course.

And lastly, here’s some Words of wisdom for other students out there

Mo: There are so many different fields of design and engineering available for people to work in that it is literally impossible to list. So, I would say just explore your passions and interest and keep an open mind to exploring other areas. I think many students, even before they have left high School feel as though they are being funnelled into certain career.  “oh you like maths, be a mechanical engineer…” “Enjoy drawing, do architecture” This is simply not the case, with their being so many other careers that are less explored, or cross-disciplinary roles such as PDE are kind of swept under the radar.

Just explore what you like. Something will show up.

Zoe: Completely agree with Mo on this one! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. The only way to find out what you like is to experiment, explore and put yourself out of your comfort zone. Internships are one really great way of doing this.

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