Where are they now - Matt Pickering
author: Lorrie Liston
The College reconnects with former boarder Matt Pickering (SPC 1977), pictured with his wife Reshma on vacation at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India. Matt came to St Pat’s from an Ouyen wheat farm and ended up working in the automotive industry in South Africa.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
After completing my Higher School Certificate at St Patrick’s in 1977, I then did an Applied Science degree at RMIT with extra-curricular studies in the ways of city living, and becoming street wise – these latter studies particularly relevant for a young undergraduate from an Ouyen wheat farm.
I then joined Ford Australia’s Graduate Program at Broadmeadow’s Assembly Plant in Melbourne where I have enjoyed 25 years in automotive manufacturing; launching and assembling Falcon, Territory, Ute and Capri. Alas it is with great sadness that this plant has recently ceased operation. Early in my career I also had brief stints at Sydney (Laser) and Brisbane (Louisville Truck, Fairlane and LTD) Assembly Plants.
In 2009 I accepted an assignment at Ford Southern Africa, the time was right for change - this Ranger Body Construction role was great and allowed me to understand something of life and culture in South Africa, and to also meet my future wife Reshma. South Africa is now a country very dear to me, and I am torn when the Springboks meet the Wallabies.
In 2014 I relocated to Gujarat, India for another assignment – this was developing and launching high volume, highly automated Body Construction Plants at Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. I have now retired from Ford after 32 wonderful years, and have relocated to Johannesburg with Reshma. I have commenced working with Design South Africa, a highly successful engineering and automation supplier to OEM’s. I am privileged to have now contributed to automotive manufacturing in three countries and two regions; ie: Asia Pacific and Europe. Whilst in Melbourne I also contributed to the Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering curriculum at Swinburne UT.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
I had 1977 only at St Patrick’s - to complete my Higher School Certificate in maths/science subjects; in this brief time the tremendous spirit, camaraderie and inclusiveness of the College left me with lasting impressions. Some of my favourite memories of life at St Pat’s must include Brother O’Brien timing the lawn mowing just before it was to rain, jam toast and milo at 9.30pm after 3 hours of study, house visiting for Maths tuition, the Head of the Lake war cry, mid-winter snow fights, listening to Gold and Black winning the Melbourne Cup during exam study (Go Tigers…), Friday afternoons down Sturt St, Saturday night movies and dancing classes with the Mary’s Mount girls… I still occasionally think of the good times spent at McCann House: the weekend deep and meaningfuls, the family updates, the hopes and aspirations of the Boarders. Of more recent times, in 2008 I rowed for Richmond RC at the Barwon regatta, in the next lane was a crew from SPC pushing us…this 48 year old had goose bumps all the way to the finish line.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
I enjoyed the teaching of Brother Parton for Maths, Brother O’Halloran for Physics (lol, I recall that energy was green liquid in a bottle), but perhaps my favourite was Brother Noonan for English. Brother Noonan had a way of communicating his thoughts on a novel that even a maths/science student could grasp. He also ran a lively house as Master. Whilst he did not teach me, Brother O’Brien was a favourite House Master – his old fashioned, disciplined ways having more impact on the Boarders than we thought.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
My final year at St Patrick’s impressed upon me the value of team work and spirit, inclusiveness, involvement, and the need to care for and develop students, undergraduates and engineers. During my career I have had the opportunity to develop many young professionals and am sure this habit started with learnings from St Pat’s. In this age of tablets, cloud computing, self-help modules and independent study; you still cannot match 1:1 tuition and spending time to coach and mentor when you are asked for help or can see an opportunity.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
Boarding was a great experience for me and helped with sharing, listening to others, queueing, understanding other’s family issues, relying on each other for support and help (in football parlance - the need to go when it’s your turn), cricket practice, choir practice (lol), patience, perseverance and to be humble. Boarding at St Pat’s also helped tremendously for the next few years with University and City living. Everything needed to nurture and develop your personal values and family life was always evident at St Pat’s, you just needed to become involved in the College activities and culture.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
If you are fortunate enough to spend time as part of the St Pat’s community, lasting memories will include the spirit and teamwork evident in everyday life, the sense of caring demonstrated by the teaching staff, and the “can do” attitude. My one message is that the glass is always half full, you need to become involved in the educational, cultural and sporting activities of the College to develop and reach your potential. Stretch yourselves - you are always capable of more than you think... Ecka Dora!