IPWG Success Story-From the Automotive Industry to Public Service


The Industry Programs Working Group (IPWG) was established by the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training and the SAE-A to promote and help retain the valuable engineering skills of automotive engineers in Victoria after the closure of the OEM assembly plants.

These professional engineers hold qualifications and skill sets that are internationally recognised, are readily transferable, and can be productively utilised across the range of Victoria’s industry sectors.

The IPWG highlights individuals who have already successfully transitioned from automotive to new careers in other industries. This article tells the story of Phong Nguyen, a Program Manager in Public Service, who recently transferred successfully from Automotive.


Phong Nguyen
Program Manager, City West Water

6 months ago I made a successful career change from the automotive industry to public service.

After a 14 year automotive career with one company, GM Holden, I changed industries, moving to City West Water, where I am the Program Manager for Metering. My role involves improving the Company’s current Metering practices and developing a Metering Strategy for the future. In recent weeks I’ve taken on an expanded role with 3 direct reports.

As well as Metering, my team manages projects and develops strategies to help improve the processes, procedures and policies in our Customer Operations Department.

I started my career in 2001 as a Student Engineer in Materials Engineering at GM Holden, where I worked on selecting and specifying materials for components in the VYII, Monaro and VE/WM vehicles. My next role, as a Project Engineer, involved engineering Interior Components for the VE/WM, Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet Camaro programs. In 2008, I was elevated to Vehicle Systems Engineer where I was responsible for co-ordinating the engineering activities on Interior Components for the Holden Cruze, VF and Next Generation Commodore.

Before leaving GM Holden in September 2015, I was the Engineering Program Manager for the VF2 Commodore and responsible for the engineering activities on the entire vehicle.

Automotive is a lean, precision and process driven industry.

  • Lean - reducing costs and constantly driving for continuous improvement is an important part of any business.
  • Precision – in automotive you work in mm and seconds, so the focus on meeting deadlines and understanding and rapidly applying detailed information are beneficial skills to have.    
  • Process Driven – having a methodical mindset allows you to approach topics/issues in a very logical and professional manner.  It also makes it easier to communicate and engage stakeholders as they can see and understand your thinking. 

In my opinion, Project Management and Effective Problem Solving are the two most important skills for an Engineer working in automotive. The skills I gained from automotive were universal skills that allowed me to transfer them to a Public Service industry. Also, the global nature of the industry allowed me to travel to some fantastic locations and exposed me to a diverse cultural workforce.

I learned a great deal during my time at GM Holden and I am now enjoying the opportunity to apply my knowledge in a new field.

Written by: Phong Nguyen


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