Tom Nicholls

25

Shellharbour City Unit

"Joined SES at Shellharbour City Unit in 2013 when I was 18 and haven't looked back since!"

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role within NSW SES?

Outside of NSW SES I am a keen guitarist, manage my own business and work in the Information Technology industry as a network engineer for private health and aged care providers.

My current role in NSW SES has gone through an evolution from boots-on-ground volunteer to more of an operations type role as the Operations and Community Engagement Coordinator for Shellharbour City Unit in the Illawarra South Coast Region. My duties include looking after the operations section of our unit with direction from the Deputy Local Controller of Operations. In short, I assist with maintaining the unit at a level of operational readiness so we are strategically positioned to aid the community as best as possible in times of emergency. I still enjoy going out on callouts from time to time and also on land searches to keep things interesting.

On a typical Monday training night, I can be found in the operations room looking after the computers and printers and preparing for upcoming community engagement events. Outside of a Monday training night I will spend a few hours each week doing 'business development' activities like talking with our local at-risk community groups about flood risk, maintaining our electronic systems that manage our records for our local facilities and flood hotspots which are susceptible to flooding and also preparing to train upcoming courses for new volunteers.

Why did you join NSW SES? Anything that was deciding factor for you?

I actually joined SES to escape from being stuck in the house between leaving high school and waiting for my TAFE course to start. There were about 4 months between finishing high school and my TAFE course so I decided I would work towards building up some general life experience and after going to an SES recruitment information night, I couldn't have imagined going down any other road now. I have been fortunate enough to have some great mentors across all levels of SES who have granted me their time and taught me a few things here and there to give me a leg up in my role. I definitely attribute me staying in the SES because I have been supported along the way by others.

What is your favourite part about being a member of the NSW State Emergency Service?

The people you work with and watching others grow in confidence and experience around you when you go to larger emergency weather incidents. The experience you get by being a volunteer is truly second to none. The people at all levels of the organisation make NSW SES the great organisation that it is - from the volunteers all the way through to the paid staff. Training new recruits is a reward in itself and watching them start from new recruits to become fully engaged volunteers, is hands down, one of the best things I have been able to witness as time goes on.

What are the various skills you have learnt along the way?

Working under pressure and time management has been an ongoing experience throughout my time in NSW SES, especially as I am working in the operations section more and more now in larger weather events. There are some awesome benefits that NSW SES has given me in terms of my professional career (in the Information Technology industry) and I definitely think that a lot of the safety side of what we focus on at callouts and other activities is constantly being applied in my every day life. First Aid training has been a great asset to me - I have been in emergency situations where nobody else was available or confident enough to assist, so having First Aid training certification enabled me to practice what I have learnt which was highly rewarding.

What advice would you give to others that are thinking to join?

There is definitely something for everyone of all ages, cultures, professional experience and general background to gain from being an NSW SES volunteer. I think it's important to set some goals when you join so that you can play to your strengths. Consider your own limitations when setting 'SES career goals' as a new volunteer recruit and try to push yourself outside your comfort zone because that is where you will develop the most.

Take any and all opportunities that you believe you are capable of giving a go. I have found that there are two worlds to SES; what we see in the media (jumping onto roofs to help repair storm damage) and then what happens behind the scenes (community engagement, working in operations centers) and it feels awesome to be able to work in either world because like many other volunteers and paid staff, I know at the end of the day I am definitely making a difference in my community.


Thinking about becoming a member like Tom but not sure what you'd like to do? Find out more about our various volunteering roles

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