Interview with Charlie Douglas (2020)

In this interview we chat with Charlie Douglas, Technology Product Advisor in the Technology Team at WesTrac Tomago.

meet charlie

1. What led you to a technology career at WesTrac?

I started my apprenticeship with Gough & Gilmour (the Cat dealership in NSW prior to WesTrac) as a Plant Mechanic working in Canberra then later Albury. Back then, electronics didn't play a huge role in the market. However, I could see technology as the future of our industry, with products like Electronic Fuel Injection slowly taking over the mechanical fuel pumps.

Electronic Fuel Injection

From there I always knew it doesn't matter how good a mechanic you are, or could be, if you don't understand how to diagnose and repair electrical systems you'll never completely fix the machine, at least not without help. That led to me to pursuing an electrical trade and a career in technology.

2. What were you doing before joining the Technology Team at WesTrac?

After I left Albury, I ventured overseas and found work at Cat dealerships in Ireland and the UK. While there I watched the technology space grow and evolve rapidly. Working for a Cat dealer meant I was fortunate enough to work on a product that was, and still is, at the forefront of it all. I was exposed to a huge range of Cat construction equipment, both big and small. Innovations in technology, like “Auto Dig” in wheel loaders, were popping up all over the place and, instead of being wary of it, I embraced it.

Returning to Australia I then looked after field service at WesTrac Parramatta. Itching to get my hands back on the larger mining gear, I later moved to the Hunter Valley and supported BHP's mining operations. Enter the world of VIMS (Vital Information Management System) and MVRS (MineStar VIMS Reporting System).

EMS Screens

During this time WesTrac were building a new state-of the-art $170m facility at Tomago and that was something I wanted to be a part of. I moved to the local area and took up a role at WesTrac Tomago as a Technical Rep.

3. How did you first hear about the technology job opening up at WesTrac?

I was already working at WesTrac as a technical communicator. I worked closely with the Technology Team and this further sparked my interest. I applied for the job when it was advertised internally. The Technology Team is a fantastic group of people and I believe we collectively work in the most interesting space within this industry.

4. What is the most interesting part about working in a technology role at WesTrac?

We get to work with, and trial, new technologies just as they are released. It's like getting your hands on the new iPhone before anyone else has seen it. In my role as a Technology Product Advisor, I'm challenged to support any technology issues as they arise. It's not always smooth sailing but with an excellent team and expert backing from the product groups, the result is always rewarding.

Cat Drone

5. What's a challenge you've overcome in your role and how did you do it?

Every new technology issue that pops up is a challenge. I very rarely get easy ones but that's what I love about my role. I overcome each one the same way - with perseverance. You need that if you want a career in technology.

6. What is the environment and atmosphere like at WesTrac?

The people are really nice, the work is challenging, and the company is supportive. There is a huge network between all the branches and people alike. Every day I work with people with all sorts of skill sets and backgrounds. I'm always asking questions and learning. I know WesTrac seems like a big place, and that can be daunting, but the Technology Team is a small, supportive, like-minded and tight-knit group of people who live and breathe technology - you'll fit right in.

7. What are the best perks about working at WesTrac?

The opportunities for career advancement. Who would've thought a plant mechanic would go on to train, manage and advise technicians, then one day become a technology specialist? Not me, that's for sure. Where will I go next? I find the only restrictions here are our own attitudes. If you want more, you can be more at WesTrac.

8. Do you have any interesting stories to tell from working in the Technology Team?

Many. Come on board and maybe, if you're lucky, I'll share them.

9. If you could give some advice to someone applying for a technology career, what would it be?

We have a very dynamic skill set in our group. People in my team have trades and/or degrees in Communications, Survey, Electrical and Electronics, Plant Mechanics, Project Management, IT and so on. There is no chance you will understand every facet of the product but there is a huge support group here to guide you on your journey. Who knows, you may even learn a thing or two along the way? The journey matters more than the destination.

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