Australia's Software Engineering Graduate Scene

The Right Role For You

Are you motivated by money? Do you care about work/life balance? Does working on one project for months and months bore you? Do you not care and just want to graduate with something secured down the line?

These questions will help you understand what companies you would favour over others, and what preparation you'll need to do to get through their recruiting process.

Let's be real though, you're probably in no position to be picky. Job searching, at the end of the day, is really just a numbers game. The more jobs you apply to, the higher chance you will have of landing a graduate role.

It's a good idea to get a general overview of the job market before you dive in head first.

Money

Outside of your salary, there can be a number of monetary benefits that forms your total compensation. Here are some of the things that can contribute to total compensation:

  • Base salary - the minimum amount you will earn in one pay period
  • Equity - ownership stake in the company, typically either RSUs or stock options
  • Signing Bonus - one-time bonus for joining the company
  • Relocation Bonus - one-time lump sum to help you relocate if necessary

At the time of writing, the average salary for full-time employees sits at around $90,000 a year. You'll quickly find that tech is quite a lucrative field, let's see how.

Company Overviews

Below, I will outline of some companies I researched in my own graduate search. I've tried my best to present an accurate and unbiased overview of what each company does, the culture at the company, and the compensation provided to graduates. I've reached out to friends or acquantainces who work or have interned at many of these companies, and I also provide a description of my own experiences. I expect these overviews to get outdated rather quickly, but they should give you a rough idea of how the Sydney/Melbourne grad scene looks like.

Technology Companies

Google

Google Sydney works primarily on Google Maps and Google Chrome. Worldwide, Google receives around two million applications a year. Only around 0.2% of people who apply to Google get in. It's a hard company to get into, but it's not impossible.

Many of those two million applicants think getting into Google is a simple three step process, and they aren't adequately prepared if they are lucky enough to even pass the resume screening stage.

Culture

Google Sydney offers arguably the best perks in Australia. Here's just a subset of them:

  • In-house chefs that cook 3x meals a day
  • Multiple kitchens/cafes stocked to the brim with free food
  • Cooking and dance classes
  • Numerous chill out rooms/quiet places
  • Sleeping rooms filled with beanbags, hammocks and
  • VR room
  • Gym

Their Sydney office is really well thought out and the best I've been to in Australia.

I left the Google Sydney office with mixed feelings. Everything was really cool, and I'm sure employees love working there. But from an outside perspective, the sleeping rooms and the fact they offer dinner made me question how much Google is blurring the lines between work and life. In fact, a friend that interned there told me how she slept overnight in their sleeping rooms once. From my own experience, at 6pm the dining area was filled with Google employees eating dinner within their cliques - make of that what you want.

For many people, work/life balance won't really matter much early in their career, so these perks and their company-wide effects might end up actually being preferred. Who doesn't like free dinner?

Compensation

In 2019, Google offered its graduates at Google Sydney:

Base Salary: $102,000
Relocation/Signing Bonus: $12,000
Equity: $60,000 USD stock vesting over 4 years*
Yearly Bonus: 15% salary/$15,300

Total Compensation: ~$150,000

  • This means that every year, you will get $15,000 USD in GOOG shares.

Canva

In short, Canva is a graphics design platform for non-designers. Canva was founded in 2012 in Sydney, where they are current headquartered. Recently they reached a $6 billion valuation. Their engineering graduate roles are typically frontend in JavaScript and backend in Java.

I really like how modern Canva is. For example, their frontend stack is built on native JS and also a React + Mobx + TypeScript combo, all hosted on AWS. These are technologies on the forefront of web development and devops, so you can be assured the skills you'd gain working at Canva are worthwhile.

Culture

I interviewed at Canva's office in early 2020. Their office vibe seemed to be very laid-back and welcoming. Their interview process was one of the best I had gone through.

Some perks:

  • Flexible working hours, they value work-life balance
  • In-house chefs that cook breakfast and lunch every day
  • Free gym and yoga membership

Compensation

Base Salary: 90k - 100k
Sign on: up for discussion, a friend told me it's comparatively small
Relocation: $5,000

They also told me they provide equity, but I forgot the exact amount. If I had to guess, I'd say their total compensation is ~$125,000.

Atlassian

Atlassian develops a suite of products targetted at improving software development processes, project management and content management. Jira, Confluence, Trello, Bitbucket are the names of some products that might ring a bell if you've been anywhere near enterprise software.

Culture

I don't know anyone that works at Atlassian, but I did go through their interview process. I prepared a number of questions for my interviewers, here are some of the questions and dot points I took down. Hopefully this will give you a bit of insight into the culture at Atlassian.

  1. How do you train/ramp up engineers who are new to the team?
  • Bootcamp classes run by engineers
  • Pair programming
  • 1 on 1s
  • In-house hackathons
  1. What qualities do you look out for when hiring for this role?
  • Aligned with our values
  • Open, humble, customer-focused, knows how to evaluate trade-offs and make decisions, capacity to learn
  • People that are willing to bring up others around them: multipliers
  1. What opportunities are available to switch roles? How does this work?
  • "So much opportunity"
  • Dedicated team for internal mobility
  1. Where do you spend more of your time, high performers or low performers?
  • Low performers. Why? Don't want them to be detractors, and want to bring them up

Compensation

In 2020, Atlassian offered its graduates a non-negotiable fixed rate package:

Base Salary: $105,000
Signon Bonus: $7,500
EoY Bonus: $10,000
Stock: $70,000 USD RSUs over a 4 year vesting period

Total compensation ~$150,000

REA Group

REA Group develops and maintains Australia's leading property websites such as realestate.com.au. They also own and operate websites in over 10 other countries. They are headquartered in Melbourne.

Culture

REA Group is probably the best place in Melbourne to start your Software Engineering career. Their graduate recruitment team under Greg Thom was great. Unfortunately they've restructured a lot of things now and I've heard their graduate recruitment team is not as good as it was (at the time of writing).

It is very apparent early on in the interviewing process that they're not just interested in your technical skills, but rather your ability to learn and grow. This wholistic evaluation of a candidate is, in my opinion, an excellent way to recruit graduates, and a number of my friends who received offers from REA are definitely all-rounders.

One thing I especially like about REA Group is that they do mentorship properly. A number of companies claim they provide mentorship opportunities, without having a proper plan in place. REA is very confident in their ability to upskill you. It is not uncommon to join REA Group and be placed in their frontend development team with no knowledge of React, other frontend technologies they use, or even JavaScript at all. Mentorship is one of the most important things you should look for in a graduate role, as it can have a big impact on how your early career shapes itself.

Compensation

I can't remember their exact compensation numbers. The base salary was around $75,000 and there was something funky about it being bumped to $80,000 once you were out of your probation period.

All up, I'd estimate a total compensation of ~$85,000.

This is obviously lower than what bigger Sydney-based companies can offer, but it's one of the highest I've seen here in Melbourne. I definitely would think twice before rejecting an offer from REA group. Work/life balance would most likely be better at REA Group, and you get to live in Melbourne!

Quantitative Trading

I consider quantitative trading a "hidden gem", as it is seldom discussed at university (except when employers come to give campus talks).

Being a software engineer at a high-frequency trading firm is similar to being a 'regular' software engineer, except you work on low-latency software to compete with other similar firms.

A quick note on compensation. Quantitative trading firms usually don't have 'clients' in the typical sense. Most of these firms take their own trading risks and reap the rewards, distributing the rewards to its employees. You'll find that bonuses typically exceed salaries by an absurd amount.

As an example, I know a recent grad that received an offer from Jane Street which outlined a ~$300,000 AUD total compensation. This can quickly progress to $500,000 in the first 3-4 years. Most of this compensation comes as end-of-year bonuses.

IMC

IMC is a wordwide leader in proprietary trading. They are also a key market maker across a number of products and exchanges across the world. They have an office in Sydney.

Culture

I can't say much about IMC specifically. I didn't make it very far into their interview process because they had already filled up the majority of their graduate roles with converting interns. However, quantitative trading firms in general treat their employees very well. This is apparent if you check IMC's Glassdoor reviews.

Compensation

Although I don't know exact numbers, IMC would definitely be up there, providing a package that would match or exceed Google/Atlassian's.

Optiver

Like IMC, Optiver is a market maker and proprietary trading firm. Software Engineers at Optiver build and maintain low latency trading systems. How low-latency? Response times are in the order of nanoseconds. Their primary development language is C++ for their backend applications.

Culture

Having accepted an offer from Optiver, it's a given that I have high expectations of Optiver's culture.

The thing that really stood out to me during my interview process with Optiver was finding out they have dedicated role for upskilling new employees "Head of IT Education". Currently, the person in this role has a PhD in computer science, and has spent many years in the finance industry - including Optiver - as a developer. When I interviewed, I had never programmed in C++ before, so I believed I may be at a disadvantage. Thankfully, Optiver cared more about my ability to learn and knowlege of algorithm and data structures than knowing any specific language.

Why would a company who does most of its backend application development in C++ give an offer to someone who doesn't know any C++? Because they're confident in their ability to upskill candidates, and their ability to select candidates that can learn effectively. This recruitment philosophy is similar to that of REA Group's.

Some of the benefits provided:

  • In-house chefs that prepare breakfast and lunch, free drinks and snacks, onsite barista
  • Weekly massages
  • Free gym membership
  • Internal and external learning opportunities

The benefits and culture at Optiver in many ways parallels that of Google's.

Compensation

At a campus talk, Optiver has advertised a graduate package of $170k. This is a reliable estimate and is similar to that of other top quant firms based in Australia.

Consulting

I initially considered consulting as an industry that I'd like to work in once I graduate, but after doing a lot of research my general advice is: stay away from consulting if you're a talented, deeply technical person.

Consultants typically work on one project for a large stretch of time. This project may be great or terrible, and you typically have no say in it. Some consulting firms may claim that work/life balance is a thing, but you might find yourself pressured into working late into the night lest your progress pales in comparison to your peers.

I have friends who work at consulting firms, and it's definitely not a "bad choice", but think carefully before you choose this industry over others.

Your work at a consulting firm will typically not be too technically challenging. As you progress, you'll likely find that you will be implementing best practices over and over again to companies that require the expertise.

I'm not sure about the specifics of individual firms, but expect a similar project-based structure across them with a total compensation of ~$60,000.

Others (Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, etc.)

The other big technology players, such as Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix etc. don't offer any software engineering roles in Australia that I'm aware of.

However, they do advertise and recruit internationally for their graduate roles overseas. It's harder to get through the recruitment process, and you'll also have to jump through some visa hoops if you do end up getting an offer.

I have a friend who received an offer from Microsoft at their headquarters in the U.S. He would've had to work from Microsoft Vancouver for around a year to satisfy some Visa eligibility criteria. Unfortunately COVID-19 has shook everything up and his future is somewhat uncertain for the time being. You should apply to all of these international roles when they come out. As the saying goes, you miss all the shots you don't take.

International Students

I'm not an international student, but I personally know many. International students already have it hard, since a large majority of companies require applicants to be Australian citizens/permanent residents or New Zealand citizens. Especially at the time of writing (2020), these students will be graduating into a pandemic.

I've found two recent resources that would benefit international students looking for guidance:

A list of companies that offer internships or graduate roles for international students.

A guide on how to overcome both the impact of COVID-19 and inherent restrictions on your job search as an international student.

Conclusion

I couldn't cover every industry here, nor every job. There are big companies such as SIG, Akuna, MYOB and industries such as banking, mining and healthcare that I've looked into but haven't written about. I believe I've covered the more appealing and most sought after companies and industries, but I encourage you to do your own research as you might find something else that really interests you.

If you work at a company that you feel should be up here whether it be due to their scope of work, work culture, or compensation please reach out to me. The more diverse viewpoints the better!