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Jeremy’s path from graduate to Software Engineer

After finishing university, Jeremy Lai found it hard to narrow down a career direction. After applying for Saab Australia’s Graduate Program and completing the two year rotation, he landed a spot in Saab’s coveted Swedish exchange program and became the youngest ever Local Network Chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). 

Now back from four months in Sweden, he hasn’t looked back from his decision to commence his engineering career at Saab Australia. Today, Jeremy is working as a naval combat system software engineer. 


In three years, Jeremy has gone from a graduate to an award-winning engineer. Having completed a degree in Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation engineering, coupled with a second major in Computer and Software Engineering at Queensland University of Technology, he had many paths available for him to pursue, so narrowing down a direction was hard to do. 

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that Jeremy applied for a role in the Saab Australia Graduate Program, seeking post-graduation employment. A mentor recommended he apply for the graduate program at Saab and the rest is history.

“2019 was my final year of study and I was due to graduate in the middle of 2020. I applied for lots of jobs, including some in the defence, mining and consulting industries. This so-happened to be at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty due to peak COVID chaos. I noticed Saab pushed through with their graduate program during the COVID-19 crisis, despite all of the uncertainty, which speaks volumes about the culture of Saab.” 

Jeremy soon joined the 17 graduates who made up the 2021 graduate intake.


A world of opportunties

“I applied for a software graduate position but the program turned out to be more than that and I was able to do some systems engineering and I really enjoyed that.” Jeremy recounts.

Having completed the two-year program, he’s now a full-time Software Engineer and spends his days working on combat system development, sustainment, and capability insertion programs for major naval vessels. The role is challenging and as anyone in defence tech understands, there is a certain level of excitement that comes with working on highly classified projects. To be building software for major vessels in the Royal Australian Naval Fleet makes the job even more rewarding. 

Outside of work, travel has always been a big part of his life and has continued to remain a priority while working full-time. Jeremy always aspired to work abroad during his career and applied for a position within Saab’s Swedish exchange program, enabling him to experience a four month placement working at Saab AB in Sweden. He was accepted and left for his placement in August 2023.

Working internationally has always been the highest priority in terms of my professional career, I guess I didn’t think it would happen so soon.
Jeremy on moving to Sweden

“Moving to South Australia from Queensland was a baby step and then moving to Sweden was amazing. Being able to spend weekends at restaurants in Poland and visited the Northern Lights in Finland was incredible. I was really living the dream!” says Jeremy.


A little bit of Sweden in Australia

Whilst in Sweden, Jeremy noticed how the Swedish culture prioritises work life balance and immediately connected how this has translated into the culture at Saab Australia. “Sweden has always been the capital of work–life balance and the Swedish work culture is very relaxed and focused on work-life integration. At Saab AB most employees can work from home, on certain projects. These principles have filtered down to Saab workplaces worldwide and Saab Australia is no different."

There is a big emphasis on wellness, work-life balance and finding time to socialise together at work.
Jeremy on work culture

Also part of the social club committee, Jeremy helps organise the monthly company BBQ and events like paint & sip, mini golf, lawn bowls, go karting, escape room nights and tickets to food festivals and big theatre productions. The events are subsidised and usually open to partners and friends of employees. And when he’s not organising get togethers, he’s taking time to decompress with sport.

“If I’m not playing volleyball or football outside of work, I’m playing with the Saab Sports Club, run by a small group of volunteers at work who organise weekly games. They put a poll out at the start of the week for like volleyball or indoor soccer and we play weekly. We also have taken up the game of “Inabundy”, traditional Swedish floorball’.”


Developing at Saab and with the IET

On top of his day job, Jeremy’s also on the committee for the Institution of Engineering Technology (IET).


“When I was 24, I took up the Chairperson role for IET. I was the youngest local network chairperson for IET globally. It’s helped my soft skills, leadership etc.  I know we’ve had a positive impact not just for the IET but with other organisations in providing programs with engineers in Australia.”

I have been focusing on giving back to the community through the resources that the IET provides.
Jeremy on his work with IET

Not satisfied with contributing on a state and national level, Jeremy is also involved in IET’s Asia Pacific committee and is supported by his leader and the Learning & Development team within Saab. Late in 2023, Jeremy flew to London to receive the Paul Fletcher medal from the IET, a recognition awarded to an early career IET volunteer for outstanding achievement in contributing to the IET.

“Saab Australia have been incredibly supportive of my involvement with the IET…My team lead especially. He is really flexible around the big IET events. Learning & Development, they encourage me as well. Overall, I’m lucky enough to get support from a lot of different angles and on-top of the cool projects, the support has shaped me as an engineer as well as a leader.”

Jeremy has been able to fast-track his career and his travel bucket list while working at Saab. He can do both while working with a great team and in a role he is passionate about. 

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