Kartik Sharma always appreciated the huge potential of technology to drive change. But as he studied for a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Canberra, he also realised how much he likes people … the newly-minted grad is now merging his technical know-how and people skills as a DevOps engineer at Seeing Machines, a global leader in human-machine interaction and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Growing up in Jalandhar, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, Kartik initially thought his destiny lay in medicine.
“I really looked up to my uncle. He was a doctor, so I wanted to be one until I was in Year 8 – but then my brother got into engineering and computer science, and I realised just how cool computers are!” he says.
Kartik was 15 when his interest shifted to computer engineering – specifically, coding. While he initially thought of studying at one of the famed Indian Institutes of Technology, he ultimately decided that studying further afield would afford him valuable international exposure.
“With my parents' support I applied to several universities in Canada and Australia and was lucky enough to receive acceptance letters from all,” he says.
Choosing UC – in part because of its location in the capital – Kartik began a four-year Bachelor of Engineering in Network and Software Engineering (Honours) in 2019.
“My uncle lives in Canberra and has always portrayed the city as a tranquil and peaceful place, with welcoming and kind-hearted people," he says.
"I've always admired my uncle and aunt and how they've achieved the typical Australian dream through hard work. Their story is a constant source of inspiration for me, and I hold them in high regard. I'm not one for wild parties, so the idea of living in a place that aligns with their values and experiences greatly appeals to me.
“UC ticked all the boxes for me – the Bruce campus is brilliant, and I have loved every minute of my time here.”
In India, Kartik had always been super-focused on his studies, and little else. But uni opened up his world – while academics were still his priority, Kartik started to enjoy meeting and getting to know people from many different regions, countries and backgrounds.
“I found myself spending a lot of time at uni – sometimes even seven days a week, because there is so much to do and so many people to meet and hang out with.
“I’d hang out in the Library, and if I saw people were working on the same assignment I was, I’d just go up to them and say ‘Hey, have you solved this problem?’ and then we’d end up friends! That really helped me build my communication skills as well.”
It wasn’t just his peers that Kartik enjoyed spending time with – he found the access to teaching staff an important part of his bachelor’s journey.
“The teachers here have been accessible – and always up for any discussion – I often went before or after lectures to ask them heaps of questions! That kind of access is really important for students. It went a long way towards making me feel that I was in the right place, at the right university – with people who cared about what and how I did.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it – but thankfully, many of the staff at UC just doubled down on their efforts to be there for students.
“It was a weird time, with the lockdowns and all,” Kartik says. “But we still had such great access to all our teachers, and that really helped.
“I had a lot of doubts and questions at the start, and when I emailed questions to one of my teachers, she actually booked a one-hour session with me – out of office hours – just to lay some of my doubts to rest.
“To me, that was just indicative of the kind of extra effort UC puts in for its students.”
As he progressed in his course, Kartik’s interests segued from coding to problem-solving.
“It’s the problem-solving that I find really interesting – it fires up the neurons in your brain, and I get such a kick out of finding a solution,” he says.
In Kartik’s second year, he got a job as a casual software engineer with Instaclustr by NetApp, which has its offices on UC’s Bruce campus. He also enjoyed several internships, part of the faculty’s Work Integrated Learning placements.
“We were working with an entity called Pracetra, which helped start-ups – and I had to come up with a funding pitch for a Canadian start-up called Nyoka Design Labs,” Kartik says. “After that particular project was over, I secured an internship with Nyoka.”
Kartik and his teammate Xuan Cuong Nguyen also scored the Best Poster award at the 2022 Capstone Project Expo, for a project on virus scanning and spam detection in email.
“We created some tutorials that would help improve the understanding of antivirus software, and that could potentially be used to enhance the cybersecurity courses offered by UC’s Faculty of Science and Technology,” he says.
All the practical, hands-on experience added up to provide Kartik with a solid grounding for his real-world career journey.
“I’ve sometimes heard people say, ‘When are you ever going to use that’ about the things you learn at uni – but what I learned at and through UC, I implement in my job every day,” he says.
This ranges from his tech knowledge and problem-solving practices to the communication skills he developed – DevOps is a combination of cultural philosophies, practices, processes and tools that helps organisations to deliver applications and services at high speed.
“It’s about building and maintaining the pipelines that all organisations need in order to deploy codes, as well as managing infrastructure and automation – a pretty vast and complex domain, because it’s made up of so many systems,” Kartik says.
“Problem-solvers love DevOps, because challenges arise every single day. Sometimes you’ll find that coding has broken something in production, and that’s when DevOps will go in to troubleshoot and see what’s gone wrong.”
But DevOps is as much about people as it is about technology, and Kartik can’t stress the importance of communication skills enough – the image of the loner computer geek is so last century.
“I think that a lot of people have this idea of people who work in IT as being dudes sitting in the dark and shouting at people because they think they’re smarter than them!” he says.
“But I think the industry has changed a lot, and I really like breaking down and explaining complex concepts to people in a fun, simple way – that’s how you help someone learn and navigate something like IT, without contributing to them developing a tech phobia around it. You walk with them in the learning, and then they have the tools for their own navigation.”
At 22, Kartik is the youngest member of his team. “I’m part of an amazing team, and I’m learning a lot,” he says.
Kartik plans to be in the role for at least the next few years – and then possibly look into following in his brother’s footsteps once again, and embarking on an MBA.
“I’m just really glad to be on a career path I love – that’s so freeing, it’s allowing me to seek out new experiences and really discover more about who I am,” he says.
“But if you ask me what I ultimately want to do, it just goes back to what I said about helping people learn – I aim to make a meaningful contribution to society and serve as a leader who not only possesses technical competence, but also the ability to inspire and guide others through my own experience, enthusiasm and curiosity.”
Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, photo by Richard Poulton.
This September, the University of Canberra celebrated the amazing milestone of 100,000 alumni.
Our warmest congratulations go out to this year’s graduating class, and to all the amazing alumni who have become part of the UC community.
Many of you have already made such an impact in your fields and in your communities; many more will go on to do so.
We wish you the best and look forward to your amazing future journeys.