George Vuckovic:

My name is George Vuckovic and I'm the General Manager of the Patents Mechanical and Oppositions Group of IP Australia. I'm also joined here today by colleagues representing the trainee cohort, the Patents Management team, the Training Academy and also people from HR. Now, they'll introduce themselves shortly but I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today the Ngunnawal people, and offer my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. And I extend that respect to any first nations people joining us today.

 

George Vuckovic:

As you all know IP Australia is looking to recruit several entry-level Patent Examiners and so the purpose of this webinar today is to firstly introduce you to IP Australia and who we are, what we do and why that's important. We'll take you through the role of an Examiner to help you understand what they do, and how they do it and the skills you'll need to do the job. Provide you with an overview of our training program, the recruitment process and why you should come and work for us. We'll also provide you with some tips and tricks and, I guess, more importantly, what not to do when applying for a Public Service position. And then finally, we'll open up for questions from you through Sli.do and so if you're interested in asking a question, just go onto Sli.do, and enter the code, #Patents.

 

George Vuckovic:

So, with that said, I'll kick off with a bit of an introduction to IP Australia. So, who are we? IP Australia is a government agency within the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio of the Australian Government. We have around 1200 staff and of these approximately 400 are scientists and engineers who are working as Patent Examiners. We're based in Canberra but we also have a satellite office in Melbourne and most of our staff work from one of these two locations. Now, I say most, because we also do have a small proportions of our staff who are working flexibly from their homes in various parts of the country.

 

George Vuckovic:

So, what do we do? Well, we administer four of the six intellectual property (IP) rights and those are patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder’s rights. In addition, we provide policy advice to government on IP rights matters, we work with a range of international agencies to build and strengthen the IP rights system, and we have a role in promoting public education and awareness of IP in the community. So, why is this important and why is IP important? At a macro level, having robust intellectual property protection, incentivizes research and development, which in turn leads to increased innovation and increased innovation generates economic growth and jobs. And so we, along with other parts of the Australian Government are focused on providing jobs and growing the Australian economy.

 

George Vuckovic:

On a more granular level, and focusing now on patents specifically, granting a patent does two things, first, it provides the inventor, who spent time and money developing their invention with a return on their investment by giving them a monopoly over the commercialisation of that invention for 20 years. Secondly, in return for this, the inventor agrees to make the details of that invention public, so that others can develop and improve on that idea, leading to more innovation. So, you can see how important the role of a Patent Examiner is to promoting innovation and jobs and growth. I hope that's given you a bit of insight into IP Australia and what we do and how important we are to the economy. I'll now hand over to Kevin who'll talk you through what an examiner does in more detail.

 

Kevin Restrick:

Thank you very much, George, and good afternoon everybody, I trust you can hear and see me okay, and that you're keeping well and safe. I'm one of the section heads in the Mechanical Engineering space and I've been in this organisation for 12 years now. When I was in your shoes, I went through a very similar process albeit without the benefit of technology. So, I do hope you find this useful and I do encourage you to ask questions and engage with the panel.

 

Kevin Restrick:

I want to talk today about Patent Examination, what it is, what examiners do, and what we're looking for in applicants. Now, the first thing I'll say is that your ideas come in lots of different guises some of which you'll be familiar with and others not so much. If you take, for example, this bottle of moisturiser, so a patent for chemical composition, what might come in its formulation, is in its compounds, it's in the chemical makeup of what goes into this. Unfortunately, as a Patent Examiner, you don't get sent samples and might have to buy this, in fact, you don't get to see the products at all. What you'll get is a typed document called a patent specification which will tell you what the invention is, how it works and it will define the scope of the invention. And your job as a Patent Examiner is to compare the new patent with all of the other examples of similar products on the market.

 

Kevin Restrick:

Now, if this chemical composition is different, we call that being new or novel. And that's one of the first tests that we live by. Now, many of the tests we use in patent examination, they'll be new to you. Typically, we'll recruit people with science or engineering backgrounds and then we'll give you training in the patent law, my colleague Sophina will talk about that in a bit. So, one of the first things that I look for in a new Patent Examiner is the ability to learn new ideas, especially in that legal and technical space. A big part of the job is doing research and searching for similar products. Another example of a patented product is the DC brushless motor that's in my Dyson vacuum cleaner.

 

Kevin Restrick:

So, DC brushless motors, they've been around for a very long time but there's still a patent for the one that's in here. And so, as an examiner, what you'll need to do, is show a high level of detail and critical thinking about the invention that's in here and why it's different to all the other brushless motors on the market. Often there will be differences between similar products, that's why this is patented, and what you then need to do is work out whether those differences are what we call invented. Now being invented is another test we apply that needs you to think like an engineer or and scientist. And look at the technical contribution that the brushless motor or the inventive concept in this brushless motor makes an advance over all the other examples.

 

Kevin Restrick:

So you're going to need to apply your technical background, in concert with your new legal skills. Once you’ve understood the new invention, you've compared it to all the existing products and patents that are out there, you need to communicate your findings to the applicant or their attorney. Now, this is done via written reports but can also include a video meeting or over the phone. One of the things we look for in new examiners, is the ability to communicate well, really high quality written and verbal communication.

 

Kevin Restrick:

Some of the patent law issues can be complex and quite contentious. Many of you have seen the technology race and court battles associated with the smart phone. I'm an Apple user, don't hold that against me. You've also seen WIFI, Corning Gorilla Glass, the chips in these, even the gestures and the shape of my iPhone, they've all been patented in some way. And then, on top of that, there's designs and trade marks and trade secrets and the like. So, some of the differences between my iPhone and other products might be very small, but they could be huge financial gain for the applicant that are granted patent. So, explaining to Apple's patent attorney why they can't have a patent and then hearing back from them is a real exercise in you as a Patent Examiner working in that grey area.

 

Kevin Restrick:

So, lots of patent issues, they're not black and white, and so, one of the things you look for in prospective applicants is a strong professional judgment and being able to deal with and work with that uncertainty. So, I started this little spiel about all patents are different and I've given you three patents, one mechanical, one electrical and one chemical. But even in the mechanical space, which is where I work in, you're going to see lots of different patents. So, if you work with me, one day you'll see a train, the next day a turbine, the next week a brake pad. And so the ability to learn and adapt to new technologies and being able to jump between things that are quite different is a real big skill that we're looking for.

 

Kevin Restrick:

Anyway, so I've given you a bit of a flavour of about what it's like to be a Patent Examiner, I'm happy to take any questions at the end, but for now, I'll hand over to my colleague Sophina, who'll talk about our training program.

 

Sophina Calanni:

Thanks, Kevin, hello everyone. So, as Kevin's mentioned, my name's Sophina Calanni, I'm from the Patents Training Academy. And I'm just going to tell you a little bit about the training program, not an awful lot. And then I'll hand over to a very recent trainee, who commenced with us in June this year to give his perspective. So, in terms of our training program, we have a Training Academy that you will join when you join the office, and our role is to get you through this program, so we will introduce you the all these concepts that you're beginning to hear about, such as novelty inventive step, or the various different tests.

 

Sophina Calanni:

I know it's very intimidating to hear all these terms initially, for the first time, because you haven't had exposure to that previously, but as I've just mentioned, our role is to get you through that program, through that learning and to get you familiar with those concepts. We have a team in the training academy that includes learning community leaders who will deliver training to you and then you have a workplace coach who will then work with you to apply the knowledge you've learned these learning communities. We have a blended learning model, which includes some face-to-face learning and then a large component of on-the-job training, though admittedly, in your early days you do have a lot of that face-to-face learning.

 

Sophina Calanni:

But you then work on a range of examples so we introduce you to the concepts of patent examination with quite simple concepts that we teach across the range of technologies so you will see cases that might have a more mechanical bent even if you are a chemist, but I think in terms of the feedback we have from trainees, they get more comfortable with their learning when they work with their workplace coach and they start to do examination in their preferred technology area. So, I will pass over to Nic now, to give you a bit of a view from his perspective as a trainee to what the training program is like.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

Thanks, Sophina, hi everyone, my name is Nic Alcaraz, and I am a four-month-old trainee, I would say, so as Sophina mentioned, I joined in June and I went straight into the Training Academy. As mentioned, I started as a scientist originally and came across into this world and that's a pretty big change, I would say. But my experience so far has been really positive.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

The Training Academy is a really good mix of hands-on and self-motivated learning and you have a really strong support network. It's very well structured, and so you have a series of learning communities that are run by coaches that, a big part of their day-to-day is actually coaching and training new recruits so, it's a big part of their responsibility and they take it very seriously and do it very well. Then you have a whole bunch of e-learning and self-motivated learning that is also really well done, that has been made specifically for the Training Academy and so because it's targeted, it feels much easier to get through than something that would be considered more general.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

I've had a really good experience so far. In terms of what the day-to-day feels like in the Training Academy, is, it's a really nice mix of learning communities about once or twice a week, which are these longer form, more intense, activity-based learning. Then a bit of self-motivated learning and then you also start working on an actual patent, which is really fun, and as you learn more in the Training Academy, you can apply what you learn to your life case and with your designated coach, and your cohort, you can slowly get through it and really recognise how much you've learned in feels like quite a short amount of time so, that's quite rewarding. I think that's about it from me for now, I'm happy to take questions later. I'll pass on to Austin, who is one of the coaches in the Training Academy, to have a few words.

 

Austin Smith:

Yeah, hello everyone, my name is Austin Smith, I'm currently elected community leader within the Community Academy, which means that my role is to facilitate and lead some of the face-to-face learning that Sophina mentioned in conjunction with the coaches, who have a much more focused contribution to the learning of our new recruits and our new trainees. I've been in IP Australia for just over seven years, and came through as part of... Into the chemical sections, my background simply was that I went through my bachelor's degree I wanted to do the whole PhD thing, got to my honours year, hated being in a laboratory and went to find something else that worked for me.

 

Austin Smith:

And what was appealing about IP Australia was that I was still able to pursue my interest in science and in chemistry and my interest in new ideas and innovations without having to be one actually sitting at the lab bench doing the experiments. In my experience of IP Australia as well, there was a lot of value that I found in being able to find and develop my own niche as I learned both the skills of patent application, sorry, of patent examination, I should say, just learning how to apply tests like novelty, inventive step, which I've learned through the training process but also once I received my delegation to be able to assess an application and was working in section I was also able to develop my own interests and niches within that section.

 

Austin Smith:

So, the learning and development that is available at IP Australia doesn't just stop with the Training Academy, once you're in section, there's lots of opportunities to be exposed to new technologies, new ideas, different types of things you never would have thought you would have examined or would have looked at in great detail. Insofar as what to expect in the training process, I think Nic and Sophina really sums it up well. It's a very interactive, very collaborative space, we really want to make sure that everybody is learning together and in our intakes, even though we will ultimately subdivide out your... you're going into a section, either into the chemical section or a mechanical or an electrical section in the long run, in the early stages of training, those groups are all mixed together, so, as trainees, you're learning from people with very different background and experiences.

 

Austin Smith:

You might have come in as a pharmaceutical chemist, but you're discussing these principles of examination with someone who's come out of aerospace or is in computing and you can learn both these ideas but different technologies but also than how they can apply to what we do as Patent Examiners, which is this interesting blend of legal analysis, of communications. It's a very fascinating job, it's something that I'm very glad that I found and has been something that I've really enjoyed, so I would highly recommend that if any of this appeals to you, that you consider working for us. But I might leave it there and of course, if there are any questions, throw them out.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Thank you, Austin, good afternoon, my name is Lisa Cohen, I'm the Director for Recruitment here at IP Australia. I'm delighted to be here today, one of the things that really energises me is hearing from our core business units and people who work there and clearly, they love what they do. Unfortunately, I'm neither a scientist nor an engineer, so a career as a Patent Examiner completely escapes my capabilities. What I can talk to you about today though, is about our organisation and about our culture and what we stand for and what we do. And building on George's introduction, I'd really like to talk a little bit about the rich legacy that IP Australia holds in Australia.

 

Lisa Cohen:

As an agency that's more than a hundred years old, we have records dating back to very early last century where this patent applications were submitted to the old patents' office, which your parents, slash grandparents slash great-grandparents may have heard of. One of the things that comes with that legacy is a really intimate knowledge of Australian industry, and our place in the government's agenda to pursue jobs and growth for our economy as we're moving forward, is something that we absolutely contribute to. So, I encourage you to follow us on LinkedIn and have a look at all the posts that are on there about our history. We've put a little bit up there over the last couple of days, particularly around some old patents applications that you might find interesting.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Working at IP Australia, I think today we've done nothing if not verified that we are a very flexible organisation, we have people straight over five locations today in this one webinar. Our wonderful comms team here that made sure that we can all get onto the webinar, technology can be a challenge. We also have a fantastic IT Team that are absolutely leading edge, they're working with contemporary best practice and making sure that we are enabled to do our job, no matter where we are. And if COVID-19 has done nothing but underline our capability in working flexibly.

 

Lisa Cohen:

So, flexibility is probably one of the greatest benefits of working at IP Australia, of course, we are part of the mighty APS, the Australian Public Service, with that comes a number of other benefits and I encourage you to hop onto our website and have a look. One of them is a very nice superannuation amount of 15.4% which is higher than private enterprise, but with the APS also comes a degree of mobility. You become part of an organisation that is making life better for Australians, you can look at a career path within IP Australia, and we hope you'll be with us for a good period of time. There's also opportunities to move around within IP Australia and within the Australian Public Service.

 

Lisa Cohen:

When we went to our employees and asked them, "Why do you work here? What is it that you love?" We have a fantastic average tenure of employees, 10 years, which is very high, the people said, "We just love working here, we take great pride in the work that we do." I think hearing from Nic and Austin today and Sophina and Kevin, you can feel the passion and the love they have for the work that they do. And being able to utilise their technical capability or discipline, and their original qualification and also combine that with new learning and skills in legal reasoning and how to deal with patent attorneys and, I don't envy you for that, just by the way. The professionalism of what we do and our audience, our customers, our stakeholders who we work with, that's another element that people love about the work that we do. So, that's one of our other benefits. We also play on the world stage, George did allude to the fact that we work with other international organisations, we're part of the World IP Organization, WIPO, in...

 

Liam Reynell:

Switzerland.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Thank you, and we do a lot of work pro-bono work with some of the Southeast Asian and Pacific Island nations to help them develop a great IP system as well. We aspire to be the leading IP provider in our region, I think we're well along the way to doing that. The final benefit suggest working here, is our people have a great sense of belonging. People come to work, they make... People who have been through the academy constantly tell me they've made great friends, lifelong friends whether they work here or leave, I can see Nic nodding, he's probably had the same experience and Austin, and people come to work and they feel that they aim to be their authentic selves and their genuine selves and that's really incredibly important. We have a great inspire team that looks after our females, Women in STEM, we have a great drive team that looks after our rainbow colleagues, we have a lot of working groups to make sure that can have the most inclusive workplace that you can come and work for.

 

Lisa Cohen:

So, I hope that you have a look on our website and look at all of the benefits there with a little bit more detail, and also follow us on LinkedIn to hear what it's like to work here, we've got a lot of employees who have agreed to validate and advocate for us, which I think is fantastic. So, I'm going to stop talking now, because I can get right on a roll, so I'll stop talking. I'd like to introduce you to my Recruitment Manager, Dyonne Campbell, and Dyonne's going to talk to you today about the physical way of applying for the job on our website or via our app post, and then after that, I think we're going to talk about the way that you can apply, what we're looking for in the applications, which is probably one of the main reasons most of you joined. So I'll hand you over to Dyonne, thank you.

 

Dyonne Campbell:

Thanks Lisa, so with most of our advertising we have encouraged you to come to our website where you can apply for the job through your new recruitment system. The application process itself should be relatively easy, just putting in some basic information for us. There are a couple of questions that we've asked you to respond to, and that's just to give the panel who'll be looking at your applications an insight to who you are and what your skills are. So if you could spend some time working on that, and formulating a great response, that would be wonderful. If you do have any questions about the actual process for lodging your application, you can send those inquiries through to our recruitment inbox, and we'll come back to you as soon as possible. Other than that I don't think that there's a great deal I need to cover up on. So, I'm happy to hand over back to George?

 

Lisa Cohen:

I think we're going back to George, you can take the baton.

 

George Vuckovic:

Thanks, thanks everyone. So it's clearly obvious to me and everyone that's here that this is an absolutely fantastic place to work and it makes a great contribution to Australia and the Australian people. Before we move on to questions, and we're starting to get a few questions coming in on Sli.do, I might just do the rounds of the panelists, if there's any advice or tips and tricks or things that they've seen in previous applications that people shouldn't do. It's important to emphasise that the Public Service has its own unique way of recruitment. It's distinct from the recruitment process that is utilised by the private sector, and so it's important to hit those marks if you want your application to stand out and be considered for interview and perhaps for employment with us. So, perhaps what I might do is ask for Kevin, are there any suggestions you can make to prospective applicants?

 

Kevin Restrick:

Yeah, thanks, George, I've lost count of how many thousands of applications I've seen, but I'm sure there's some learnings there. I think, probably the number one is, tailor the application to the role. Where possible, don't submit a generic application, take a look at the job documentation that Dyonne mentioned, take a look at the capabilities, think about the things that we've spoken about here, the ability to learn new technology, the ability to apply conventional judgment, to think in that grey area. So, really think about the role, and the capabilities that you need and then tailor your application specifically to them.

 

George Vuckovic:

Thanks, Kevin. Sophina, any advice?

 

Sophina Calanni:

So, I'll just reiterate what Kevin said in terms of make sure you read the job documentation. If we don't answer your questions here today, there are contact offices that you can contact, I would encourage you to make that phone call and ask those questions, so that you can do that tailoring that Kevin mentioned. And in terms of Public Service applications, it shouldn't all be about statements about yourself. Back up your statements with examples of what you did in a particular situation, so, our questions are around describing some achievements that you've had, so don't just talk about the achievement, talk about the challenges that you faced and how you approached that to get that achievement in the end.

 

Kevin Restrick:

And if I could add, it's really beneficial to tie those achievements or tie that explanation back to the job. So, if part of the achievement was working in a team, put it out, make a big deal of that and say, "Well, look, this is directly applicable to the job." If your achievement was delivering a project and you had to read some standards and design an aircraft wing to those standards, tell us that, and say, "Well, reading standards is similar to assessing patent applications." So, make it specific and tell us the how.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Yeah, and if I could add to that, Kevin, this is our opportunity to learn about you, no one of us is going to bang your drum or blow your trumpet, you have to do it in your application. So don't be frightened to tell us that you think you've got great experience in something, and this is the reason why. So, with every statement that you write, just think, "Well, so what? Why have I said that? Why have I told them that I'm good at that and what is my evidence for proving that I'm good at that and how does that relate to what they're looking for in the job?" Because what we're looking for is, we want to be able to read the application and get a good sense of who you are, what your experience or qualifications or both, how they would contribute to the productivity and the capability of our workforce and whether you're going to be able to fit in, whether it will fit with what we're looking for. So, don't be frightened to talk about yourself, it's really important.

 

Dyonne Campbell:

And I think just to emphasise, it's Dyonne here again, so the two questions that we specifically asked are, "In 500 words or less, describe to us how you meet the job specific capabilities, detailed in the Patent Examiner position profile?" So that position profile and you'll hear my colleagues calling it job documentation, is attached to the ad, and within that, there is a section that is called, Job Specific Capabilities, so you'll want to have a look at that detail in there and make sure your answer addresses that. The second question is, "Provide a further explanation in a total of 500 words..." so you don't have to go to 500 words, it can be less, so just keep that in mind, we're not saying it has to be that 500, you can say something short, sweet be succinct and answer the question in 200 words, that's fantastic.

 

Dyonne Campbell:

And so, that second question is about two activities that show how your technical skills, knowledge and experience will be relevant to the position that you're applying for. A couple of other things, just to mention, we've asked for you to include a CV, so if you can make sure that your CV you attach is up to date and shows the relevant skills within that as well, that would be great and we've also asked you to provide a copy of your academic transcript and your degree. So there's a section in the application form where you can attach those documents for us. That's it from me.

 

George Vuckovic:

Fantastic, now, any other panelist want to add anything to that? Nic, or others?

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

I can just add in quickly, that I pretty much, it was a while ago now, but I pretty much tailored everything to that job description, or the profile that was online. I really made an effort to make a fully customised one that sort of harped on. I also have to agree that although it's awkward sometimes, writing about yourself in such a positive light, because it's not a common thing to do, I highly recommend doing it, I think the people assessing them are not going to think poorly of you for doing that, because they understand it's part of the process. So really go for that. And I think that's pretty much it. I made sure to keep my CV quite succinct, because there's already a lot of other information provided and with the amount of applications you just want something that really stands out as opposed to drowning... It's more quality over quantity is how I approached it and I think that might help.

 

Austin Smith:

Yeah, Austin here again, to add to that, I definitely agree, tailor, tailor, tailor. And in writing answers to the questions or if you're writing a cover letter, I would also encourage you to try to view your answers with genuine enthusiasm. What appeals to you about the job and see if you can find ways to convey that in the way that you answer. The things that you draw from your own experiences, so to highlight, what is exciting from your background? And excites about being able to apply to moving forward into this role, should you be a successful applicant. But definitely, look to emphasise your experiences, your skills, and how they would potentially fit in and, yeah, I think everyone has summarised it really well and I'm just going to rambling now if I go on.

 

Lisa Cohen:

If you struggle to do that for yourself, because you think, "Oh, I really can't talk about myself like that." Imagine you're someone else, and you're selling, so pretend I'm writing Austin's application, what am I going to say about him? What's great about him that's relevant to that job? So just stand aside from yourself and imagine you're talking about yourself as a third party. It'll make it a little bit easier for you.

 

George Vuckovic:

And if you can just finish of the advice giving session is, that if you don't understand something in the job adverts, if you have some questions and we'll get to some of those in a moment, and so that'll sign of that, but if there are things that you are confused about, our process or how your qualifications fit into the jobs that you're applying for, please contact us. Have a chat with the contact officer or contact HR, and talk through those issues, so that you're really well-informed so that you can put your best possible foot forward when you put your application in. So, I think I'll bring that advice giving session to a close and we might address some of the questions. Thank you everyone for flooding Sli.do with questions, I think what we might do is just start with probably a general question and I guess this is to the Patent Examiners in the room, "What's the most rewarding and challenging part of being a Patent Examiner?"

 

Austin Smith:

I think for me, the most rewarding elements have been the excitement getting to look at new ideas to discover new fields of technology. My experience personally was that I came into this job as a bit of a generalist. I hadn't done a PhD, I hadn't had industry experience. I was very much a blank slate, which meant that I was able to, once I was in section, really start carving out a niche, it was like, "What kind of technology am I really interested in and learning more about on the job as I develop those skills." And that, for me, was really rewarding in being able to, to some degree choose my own adventure and find what appeals to me in this job.

 

Austin Smith:

I think another element that has been particularly rewarding has just been, aside from the technology, the atmosphere at IP Australia is a really rewarding place to work. I feel very comfortable in the flexibility that the job offers with the atmosphere of colleagues and the space, so if you’re in Canberra, I very much enjoy working in this building. But the atmosphere of IP Australia and the expectations that are placed on you are very flexible and enthusiastic, and that's been incredibly rewarding. Challenge-wise, it certainly does have its challenges. It can be arduous at times when bickering, quote unquote, with an attorney about and objection that you've raised that you are adamant applies to this application and they just keep coming back and you're at loggerheads. There can be some frustration that arises in that, but there is again a rewarding element of the challenge of figuring out how to overcome that, how to communicate your position better. How to take all the information that they're providing you and learning, growing yourself. So, I feel like the challenges that I come across at IP Australia are ones that aren't just challenges, they're challenges that lead me into a reward.

 

Lisa Cohen:

And you have good support, don't you, Austin?

 

Austin Smith:

Definitely.

 

Lisa Cohen:

It's not like you're going to be thrust into the role and then you've got to manage the negotiations with the patent attorney. You've got a lot of support and you've got your learning coordinators you've got your team leads, you've got escalation, you can stroll into George's office when he's sitting in there and ask him and he'll give you advice. So it's a very egalitarian environment, it's not highly bureaucratic though, I think, so we've got quite a shallow hierarchy, so I think there's an enormous lot of information available in your colleagues and you can always tap into that, would you agree with that Nic?

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

Yes, so obviously I'm still a trainee examiner, and I've still got my training wheels on but I definitely agree that the rewarding part is that you're changing what you're working on quite frequently and so you come across a lot of interesting science and it's not like, let's say, my previous life doing a PhD or research work, where you might work on the same problem for, God knows how long, and then it still doesn't work, sort of thing. And so this is really enjoyable how it's just constantly changing and it keeps things a bit fresher.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

Challenging, at least for me as a trainee, is switching my brain from an academic pure scientist to a more examiner role, the hats you wear are a little bit different and the way you approach things are a little bit different, you're looking at things from a slightly different angle, and just sort of getting up to speed as a trainee on all the legislative stuff, and all the objections and all that and trying to figure out which is the right path to take. But fortunately, you have your coach, you have your cohort, your other people in the learning community, like people like Austin that you just bounce ideas off.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

We have multiple chats on our internal chat thing called Jabber where it's all different trainees for different sections and you can just literally put up your hand and say, "What's the go with this? I don't know what I'm doing." And then you'll get inundated with responses and help so, you don't need to worry too much if you don't know something, which is great.

 

George Vuckovic:

Kevin or Sophina, any views?

 

Kevin Restrick:

I think the most rewarding thing and the biggest buzz is working with an Australian applicant who doesn't have much money but has got an amazing idea and you're working with them and granting a patent is essentially making their dream business come true. And then walking into someone like Bunnings or the Automart and seeing that product on the shelf and knowing that you were part of that success. It's the best feeling ever, really.

 

George Vuckovic:

Sophina, any contribution? Anything you'd like to add?

 

Sophina Calanni:

I can see the questions that are coming in here, there's a bit about career progression and so on, so for me, I think the most rewarding thing for me, is the opportunities that have opened up along the way and the opportunity to work with people that bring so much enthusiasm to the job. Which has been a great thing that's happened to me recently, taking on the role of the Training Academy. So you're with a whole bunch of people who are really keen to learn and that's a fantastic reward and I know that's a bit down the track for some people, but it's good to know that it's out there in the end as well.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, thank you. Now there are a couple of questions coming through around various levels of people's experience, so not everyone who's joining us today is a graduate, and there's also some quite specific questions in relation to discipline around the subjects that we are looking for, so I might deal with those collectively. We, here at IP Australia and particularly with E-Patent Examination recruitment are looking for people with wide and varied experience. So everyone from graduates right through to people with PhDs and industry experience.

 

George Vuckovic:

In many respects it's quite a broad church and so we're not just looking for graduates, we're looking for people who can make a contribution and help us to achieve our corporate goals. So, experience is good, PhDs are good, someone who's straight out of Uni, also, everyone is competitive in the process. With respect to particular subject studied, that's why we asked for a transcript, because we are looking for specific things. And rather than going into that level of detail here today, what I would ask you to do if you have some concerns around the subjects that you have studied, is perhaps contact the contact officers in the advertisement and have a discussion with them about the subjects you've done in your degree and your suitability for the role. So, I'll move on to the next question, "Is examination more of an individual job or a team job?" I might give that to Sophina.

 

Sophina Calanni:

It's a bit of both really. So, yes, you do ultimately write a report that has your name at the bottom of it, but the process of getting there is very much, especially when you're a trainee, it's very much a collaboration between you and your coach. And then also, within your section there are various activities that you do to help other people progress their examination or research that they're conducting. So you really do a bit of both and some of the best positives about IP Australia, which I think that you've heard about already, is the fact of the team that you work within. So, yeah, it's both.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent. All right, Kevin, a question for you. "How many positions are available in each section?"

 

Kevin Restrick:

So, the needs in each section vary quite significantly. We are looking for quite a few people in the medical devices area, and in the chemical engineering areas. Across the rest of the disciplines, it's two, three positions, around that number. Ultimately, some of it will come down to how good the quality of the applicants are. If we have lots of amazing applicants then we can balance them out, so we might decide to take more in mechanical engineering and less in chemical engineering, so there is some degree of flexibility but we are looking for pretty much at least two right across the board. I think the only difference might be with the plant breeder rights position, which I think it might just be the one.

 

George Vuckovic:

Yes, that's right.

 

Dyonne Campbell:

And then probably the other thing to add is if we end up with a wonderful pool of applicants and we have more successful applicants than we actually have positions for right now, is we do have the opportunity there to be able to create a merit pool and potentially pick people up for the next course, so the round we're currently recruiting for is for our February intake, there will be another intake at some point next year, so we may, if you are deemed suitable, and you're not offered on this particular course, you may then get an offer for a subsequent course.

 

George Vuckovic:

The next question is, "How much of IP Australia laws and regulations does a candidate need to know before applying for a Patent Examiner position?" Sophina?

 

Sophina Calanni:

Pretty much, nothing. We will teach you all of that. You just have to know that you're pretty much interested in innovation and the innovation system, really, it's about it.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Doesn't hurt to go on the website have a look though and see what is the latest legislation and what are the rules that surround it and then, that would be for a higher quality application, I think, if understand that, but you don't have to know everything.

 

Sophina Calanni:

And don't let all that information that's on the website necessarily scare you because, as Nic has said, we will support you in getting to know all that.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

Yeah, if I can just quickly jump in, I pretty much knew nothing except for a few undergraduate sessions which was a while ago for me when I was applying and then a few other seminars I attended about IP but normally from the patent attorney side of things. And then before applying I literally just looked on the IP Australia website, which is a really good resource, by the way, has a lot of information and that's all I knew going into the job in terms of the actual legislation and the Patents Act and now I would say, four months in, I'm a pseudo expert, for now. So, they do get you up to speed pretty quick.

 

George Vuckovic:

So, next question, "What is the average interview to offer ratio for applications in each section?" So perhaps more broadly, Kevin, what... Or perhaps, no, I might direct this to Lisa or Dyonne.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Well, I have to say, there's no hard and fast rule on that. With our last round we had 400 applications we had, I think 13 or 14 roles, we have a series of assessment steps that we go through, so you send your application and the first round of assessment is the panel, reading your applications. Then we determine the shortlist from that, the shortlist has tended to be, and I think Kevin or Sophina can probably back me up on this, but I think it's about, probably 3 in 10 we shortlist and then there's a series of... A psychometric assessment that you do online and then we do a round of interviews as well and then there's a scenario that we ask of you to complete. So, it's the third, the three assessment steps, when it comes to the actual interview ratio, would 2 in 10, do you think Kevin, Sophina, do you think that's about right?

 

Kevin Restrick:

I think it varies a lot, it varies a lot, Lisa. There's been years when, during the mining boom everybody who applied for the mechanical engineering team got an interview, quite a lot of them then got jobs. But then there's been other times where the job market has been highly, highly competitive, we've had hundreds of applications. Yeah, it's definitely probably 2 in 10 would be a safe number to say are interviewed. I think this round in the mechanical space, we're looking for quite a few people in total, so it's going to be a big round, yeah. It will be a big round. Some of the science areas are a lot more niche, and so I think, do check in with the contact officer to make sure that your skills and capabilities do align with that particular science area, and then that just makes sure that you've got the best chance of [inaudible]

 

Lisa Cohen:

We'd encourage you to apply irrespective of those numbers, to be honest. I mean if the organisation is attractive to you, as an employer, if the work is attractive to you as an employer, it's a go. Apply, have a look and just see what happens, because you just don't know and we do have other jobs also, sorry patent people, but also outside of the patent examination roles, there are very exciting roles within IP Australia that might be attractive to you or to your colleagues, friends, partners, parents, children who might be interested. So, we do have a lovely broad set and diverse range or roles but with this one, if you don't have a go, you'll never know.

 

Kevin Restrick:

And I must stress that we don't have recruitment ratios, so we don't have a ratio, absolutely not, we do not have that. We won't offer jobs if the quality of the candidates are not there so, we're not being forced to do anything. I must stress that when we quote numbers, they're just example, we don't have a ratio.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Exactly.

 

George Vuckovic:

So, "What's the career trajectory of a Patent Examiner?" Who wants to tackle that one? Shall I kick off? I'll kick off, Lisa sort of covered this in her remarks, I mean basically it's an entry into the Public Service, for those of you who don't know, the Public Service consists of around 150,000 people and so, there's a large number of government departments doing a whole variety of things. Depending on your skillsets, the world is your oyster.

 

George Vuckovic:

We would obviously like to have you spend a fair bit of time or a fair bit of your career with us, but we recognise that good people will always move on and look for other challenges. And so, really it's where you get to in the Public Service is really up to you. I mean, we have a commitment in IP Australia on ongoing development, you don't get through your training and then just basically stop learning, it will be a lifelong, career long dedication to learning and improvement and so, it's really where you want to go. There are other parts of the organisation that deal with policies, I mentioned before, we've got an analytics area that looks at trends and tries to inform the Australian public and the intellectual property fraternity on trends in that particular space. So, there's any number of things you can do as an entry level Patent Examiner.

 

Lisa Cohen:

And, George, I'd like to add to that, that the critical skills that you learn as a Patent Examiner are unparalleled if you took another direction. So, Austin was referring to, you went into the laboratory you're not going to learn how to apply these legal skills, you're not going develop the same professional judgment from an assessment perspective, so there are skills that you will learn as a Patent Examiner that will stand you in good stead irrespective or where you go with your career, should you choose to leave examination. There is also a career path within the examination group within the IP Rights Division, we've had examples of where some of our patents people have moved over into management roles in our trade marks division, we've had people move up into our policy division. If economics is your bag, we've got opportunities for secondments in some other areas, so all of these opportunities are available to you, once you've completed your training and you really had some great experience as an examiner.

 

Lisa Cohen:

There's also opportunities to work with those Southeast Asian nations that mentioned earlier, as part of what we call our APEC program, which could give you the opportunity to be a patent or an IP rights leader in the regions. So there's lots and lots of opportunities and management isn't for everyone, so there are lots of opportunities to do other things that will feed your intellectual soul and give you real rewards that aren't necessarily managing people.

 

George Vuckovic:

So, we have a question here about citizenship, and the requirements for this position. The question is, "Is there any chance of permanent residence with qualification by having a look in?" Unfortunately in this recruitment round we are only recruiting Australian citizens.

 

Lisa Cohen:

If people have applied for citizenship, George, if they have applied and they might have a date for their citizenship ceremony, we'd be delighted to accept your application. It would be great if that ceremony was prior to the 1 January start date, we can't actually start you until you are a citizen, for those roles. We also have an entry level security clearance, that's one of the reasons we require citizenship. So, just bear that in mind, if you do have any questions about the citizenship, please reach out to the recruitment team and we'll be able to help you with that. So, just to distinguish between the recruitment team and the contact officers, the contact officers are the real technical experts in the roles, they can talk to you about immunology, nano technology, bio technology, chemical technology, mechanical technology all of that stuff, the recruitment team can talk to you about what would your eligibility and any concerns with the application. So, if you just remember that there's a little bit of a differentiation there.

 

George Vuckovic:

Yup. The next question is a potential candidate who doesn't have an academic transcript for their post graduate work, and that's because it's currently under examination. And they ask if there's any alternative documentation that they should provide. I think we would probably be interested in your undergraduate degree as well. So that's something that can be provided and also, I would suggest that if you have some concerns around the applicability of your post-graduate work, then please contact the relevant contact officer or HR.

 

Lisa Cohen:

I wonder if it's important to note here George, that a PhD is not necessary for this job. So, if you have an undergraduate degree but no master's, no PhD, that's okay, so your transcript from your bachelor's degree, we've got some fantastic people with us, like Austin, who have their undergraduate and didn’t go on to study further and that's fine. So, a couple of things, you're eligible with an undergraduate degree or even if you're a mature worker and you've had 30 years working in a particular field, please present that as your experience. We do have people that don't have a degree that work in our electrical area in particular, so, don't let that put you off. If you've got a diploma or a trade certificate from 30 years ago and you've got fantastic experience, that's important too. So, just make sure to address that in your remarks and in your achievements et cetera because we want everyone, we want a really diverse workforce so that we have all the different perspectives. It's a much stronger fabric if we have a whole lot of different people in there.

 

George Vuckovic:

Absolutely. So, Kevin, if someone's got a set of skills that go beyond one stream of engineering, how would you recommend that they work on their application?

 

Kevin Restrick:

So, I think if it's one stream of mechanical, chemical or medical devices, then if you submit one application, and it's apparent that you could work in a different section, or a different team than the panel will take note of that, and we'll handle it internally. So, you don't need to worry about that. If you think that you could fit across sections, just, I suppose, pitch it as strongly as you can, explain that you can work across sections and then the panel will take that into account.

 

Kevin Restrick:

If it's quite different, you want to apply for the bio tech and the mechanical engineering because that's how you roll, then give some thought to putting in a second application, essentially applying twice and this ensures that both panels will actually see your application and won't overlook you. All of the panels during the assessment process do talk to one another, but if it is something very, very separate, bio tech and mechanical engineering, I'll probably give some thought to applying twice, you can probably submit the same documentation, but apply twice. If it's close technology, then the panels will pick it up, so you don't need to worry about that.

 

George Vuckovic:

Thanks Kevin. I've got one question here for Austin, and it's an easy one, "So what are some of the top skills that a Patent Examiner should have?"

 

Austin Smith:

Communication, right of the top. You cannot do this job if you are not a good communicator. That involves being able to write well and convey your perspectives clearly. As you are, basically, your job as a Patent Examiner will boil down to being able to write to the applicant or the attorney representing the applicant and say, "These are where your application does not comply with the law." And what needs to be there to be able to be granted a patent. So you're going to need to substantiate your opinions, substantiate your decisions that you've come to based on your legal understanding.

 

Austin Smith:

You'll definitely need a strong sense of critical thinking, and being able to analyse and asses the applications, understand and assess the law and understand how to put those two things together in drawing up those objections in the first place. I would also say, that you do need a degree of technical skills and technical understanding of the science or the engineering or whatever your background is, but I would put an asterisk on it, there is room to grow and expand your understandings of different fields of technology on the job, which is certainly been my experience. I think those are probably, really the two big ones, that immediately jump out to me.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Resilience.

 

Austin Smith:

Resilience, yeah, you do need to be able to take some knocks and be willing to be told you're wrong and to accept that and sometimes go, "Yeah, I was wrong." In that negotiating that will happen once you issue your first report. In the patent examination job, it's not like you write this single opinion and say, "That's it, that's my final decision." There is a back and forth that will happen as the attorney or the applicant comes back with additional thoughts, rebuttals, concessions and then it'll be a conversation going back and forth. So you do need to be resilient, willing to take on that feedback, change your opinion, there does need to be a flexibility that you have in the way that you view your own willingness to learn and come to conclusions. Does anyone else have anything else they want to throw in?

 

Lisa Cohen:

I think a good sense of humour is always important.

 

Austin Smith:

Yeah, I think so. You do need to be willing and able to work as a team. As Sophina mentioned before, your report that does go out will have your name on it, you'll be responsible for that single piece of work, but that does not mean that you are sitting in a cave doing your work on your own with no collaboration. So, being able to, and willing to, communicate with your colleagues to bounce ideas off each other to... If you come across a really great way of approaching a particular area of examination, being willing to share that with your colleagues is a really vital part of the job that we do.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, there's a question here about the email details of the contact officer, so they're available on, certainly the contact details for the contact offices, that's a strange thing to say, are available on the website and are part of the job documentation, so go onto IP Australia's website-

 

Dyonne Campbell:

Sorry to interrupt, we popped their phone numbers there because the contact officers were keen to talk to people, so if they haven't been able to catch someone on the phone and they've tried, just send an email through to the recruitment inbox of which contact officer that you're trying to reach and then we'll forward your email on to them.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, thank you. Now, I'm intrigued by the fact that we have a specific question for Nic. And that is that the person's interested in knowing, having come from an academic field, what was it like to transition to becoming an IP officer and what were the challenges.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

It's a good question, it was a lot smoother than I thought it would be, to be honest. I'm not going to lie, there's the very rare day that I miss doing the actual lab work and being on what you'd call the front line, but I think a lot of the skills are really transferable. So, throughout my PhD and a bit of my post-grad work post-doc work, I should say, I learnt a lot of communication working in a bunch of teams, collaboration's a big deal in academia and that translates a lot to what I do in the Training Academy but also what I think I'll be doing when I go eventually into section and doing the Patent Examiner work, the more traditional role as opposed to a trainee role.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

I think the biggest challenge though, is really taking of your scientist hat, which I think is generally overly critical and comes from a point of being sceptical of what someone's presenting you because you always have to question everything, which you still do as an examiner, but you also, as an examiner have to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt and a sense of trust in what you're reading because it's a mutually beneficial agreement. They want to give us everything so that we give them the monopoly as well and so, I found it really important to perhaps take a step back and not judge everything too quickly, and really examine it properly and give it the due process it deserves.

 

Nicolas Alcaraz:

So, you might not have that issue, but I was very sceptical when I started and way too harsh on when I was assessing my first life case and doing my assignments through the trainee school, and now I've realised I can be a bit more lenient, I think you still, obviously have to give your objections and give detailed thoughts and what you're thinking but it's just a different way of thinking and approaching it, but their Training Academy definitely helps you sort that out, for sure.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, thank you. Now, I'm mindful of time and we probably need to wrap this up, soon. So maybe if we just cover two more questions and what we will do with anything that's leftover is that we'll collate those questions and answer them and then we'll put them up on the website. Is that possible guys?

 

Dyonne Campbell:

Yes.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, I'm getting thumbs up. Okay, so someone's trying to be a bit crafty and they've actually asked a specific question about in step three the written assessment of the recruitment process, "What do you intend to test actually?" Kevin? Kevin, without disclosing any information?

 

Kevin Restrick:

So, the purpose of the written assessment is to assess your written communication skills. Simple as that. Now, we're not the grammar police, I'm not going to be checking split infinitives but what we want to see is you be able to write a sentence, a few paragraphs using correct and plain English. Yup, so it's simply a written test to test your writing capability.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, and just a follow on question from that, someone also wants to know can you give them an example of the activity that you might include in question two.

 

Kevin Restrick:

That's a good question, we see lots of different people writing lots of different activities. Typically, if you are at university you're about to finish university, you're a recent undergrad, then you've probably been in a project team, you've worked in a team environment, you've delivered a team project. That activity's perfect. If you've been in industry or you've been in post-graduate work, again, you've probably worked on a project, you've delivered something like you built an airbus and you've delivered that, so that's your activity. So tell us about your role in that project team. What did you do? How did it go? What's your achievement, again, try to pull out the skills that we're looking for.

 

Kevin Restrick:

Some people will provide extracurricular type activities, so if you are the chairman of the local football club, and you ran a really successful football carnival, that could be something that you talk about and that's equally valid as anything else because you got your communication skills, you've got teamwork, you've got your working with others. So, think about a couple of things that you've done in the last couple of years, that can be work-related, study-related or even personal, provided that they demonstrate your skills for the role, then it's pretty much complete flexibility. What we don't want to see is, "My activity is, I worked on this project team." Just a one-liner, we want to see what was your position? What did you do? Did you have a leadership role? Where you responsible for anything? What challenges did you face? And how did you overcome them?

 

George Vuckovic:

Thanks Kevin. Before we wrap up, I'll just deal with two very quick questions around qualifications. One is, "From a transcript point of view, what level do you require, undergrad, masters or PhD?" Shorter answer is provide us with everything that you've got because we want to have a look at your higher academic background. And there's also a question here around overseas qualifications and whether those are acceptable, they certainly are, but obviously, the same requirements apply, we need to see your transcript and we're particularly interested in the subjects that you studied. Yeah, go ahead, Kevin, sorry.

 

Kevin Restrick:

Just with the overseas qualifications, just for the audience, I'm from the UK, it's really, really useful if you've got overseas qualifications to get them, I think the word is confirmed or approved by - verified, yeah, by an Australian professional body. So, if you're an engineer, you've got an overseas engineering degree, get it verified by Engineers Australia and the same goes for the scientists.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, thanks, Kevin. All right, look, I think I might draw this to a close. Thank you everyone for participating. Thank you to the panelists, Austin, Nic, Kevin and Sophina. Lisa and Dyonne thank you also to the silent pair in the back of the room who are our technical experts, Liam and Jade for making this miracle happen without any sort of incident, so, that was great. As I've said before, what we will do is we will collate the remaining questions and then put them up on our website and of course, if you have any further questions, please contact the contact officers or HR and I sincerely hope that this has been a useful experience for everybody and that all of you are inspired to submit applications to work at IP Australia.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Hey, George, can I just mention about the... We just put a poll onto Sli.do, this is the first time we've done this webinar for our patents round, so we'd love to hear from you. If you could have a look at the poll on Sli.do and answer those questions for us we'd be really grateful to see if you've enjoyed it, if it's been worthwhile. What we could improve for you and if you think we should do it again.

 

George Vuckovic:

Yup, and I think there's probably a question on how wonderful the compare has been as well, so please-

 

Lisa Cohen:

Oh, no doubt, there's no doubt.

 

George Vuckovic:

Please be honest and tell that's...

 

Dyonne Campbell:

And probably what I'd just like to highlight is if there is someone online listening to this now, and you've already submitted your application and after having participated in this, you think, "Oh, I actually might want to tweak something." Reach out to us, we can have a chat with you and I can potentially roll your application back so that you can make any amendments and then re-submit it, so there's still two and a half weeks before the closing date, so please give me a call if that's something that you'd like to do or send me an email and I can call you and we can talk about it.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Perfect.

 

George Vuckovic:

Excellent, all right, well with that, thank you very much again everyone. And enjoy the rest of your day.

 

Lisa Cohen:

Thanks George.

 

George Vuckovic:

Bye

 

Lisa Cohen:

Cheerio.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, October 6, 2020