Making a positive difference through urban planning

Originally from Mexico, Guillermo graduated with a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Melbourne in 2017 before going on to work in local government across Melbourne.

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How would you describe your overall experience studying the Master of Urban Planning?

I really enjoyed studying the Master of Urban Planning at Melbourne University. The program is very flexible and allows students to specialise in different topics like social, sustainable or transport planning.

I liked the structure of the course in that there’s one year of “core” subjects to gain an overall understanding of Urban Planning and then you have the opportunity to choose “elective subjects” in the second year.

It was also an excellent opportunity to make great friends and to learn from students with different career backgrounds about how to create more sustainable and inclusive cities.

I was also part of the MSD Graduate Ambassador Program, which helped me to further develop some skills like public speaking and how to prepare for job interviews.

You received an Endeavour Scholarship to help with your studies. Can you tell us a little about this?

I applied for the Department of Education and Training’sEndeavour Scholarship while I was in Mexico. I heard about this scholarship because a friend of mine received it around 2013, and thought it was a good opportunity for me to study my Masters degree in a different country.

When I received the news about the scholarship, I decided to move to Melbourne with my partner and to study at Melbourne University. I’m really grateful because this scholarship allowed me to study full time without the need of finding a job, which helped me to focus on my studies.

What made you want to study and work in urban planning?

I studied Environmental Engineering in Mexico and had the opportunity to work for five years in both local and state governments in the design and implementation of environmental management policies and projects.

While working at Jalisco’s state Government, I became aware of the challenges that my home city was facing in relation to air pollution and became interested in air quality management policies. During this time, I also realised that the main causes of the problem were related to the lack of integration between land use and transport planning.

For these reasons, I decided to study the Master of Urban Planning with a particular focus on transport planning.

What’s the most useful skill you learned that carried over from your studies to your current work?

I think the Masters’ helped me to develop different skills, including academic writing, conducting research, data analysis and the importance of looking for best practice to guide policies.

The subjects of Public Transport Network Planning, Healthy Communities and the Transport Studio, helped me to understand best practice of how to integrate transport and land use planning, which is something that I’ve been able to put in practice in my latest roles.

Statutory Planning was also a great subject that allowed me to understand how the planning system works in Victoria. Also, the skills from the subject GIS for Planning have been really useful in understanding how to conduct complex data analysis and visualisation for planning purposes.

Can you tell us a little about the transition from studying into working life?

During my studies, I was able to build strong relationships with tutors, lecturers and other students, which allowed me to find transport planning job opportunities.

After finishing my Masters’,  I had the opportunity to collaborate on different projects, one of them involved using my GIS skills to help the City of Melbourne conduct an analysis to identify how the road space is currently allocated to different modes of transport across the municipality.

This helped me to gain some work experience and helped me to get my previous role as Transport Policy Advisor for the State Member of Prahran.

How did your job at Glen Eira Council come about?While working as Transport Policy Advisor, a friend of mine shared the advertisement of the Transport Planner position at Glen Eira.

This was a new role created to implement Council’s Transport Strategy with a strong focus on active transport and I decided to apply.

The learnings and knowledge gained during the Masters’ and my previous work experience contributed to being selected for this position.

In the last two years, I’ve been working at Glen Eira, which has been a great opportunity to increase my knowledge in the implementation of sustainable transport projects, in particular around cycling infrastructure.

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